When one has first begun the endeavour of a library there are certain guidelines it is helpful to follow. This list of suggestions are ones you might not expect. A pristine library is not as valuable, you see, as a beloved library. If you truly want to reap the rewards of a library it is not necessarily about the amount of books you have or the way in which you’ve kept each book free of tea stains and bent pages. It is actually about the collection and the way in which you engage with your books.
For the most ideal library keep a wide selection. Read Hemingway, but also read St Augustine. Read Austen, but also read some pop fiction. Don’t be afraid to buy children’s literature, for as Madeleine L’Engle says, “if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” Let your books be full of characters that are not like one another, that make you ask questions about not only their lives but also your own. Let the books make you angry, make you weep, make you laugh. Don’t only read books that keep you nodding your head in agreement.
When it comes to how you read the books in your library, learn what works for you. Don’t be so concerned of keeping your books in perfection condition. Books were made to be worn down with your notes and coffee stains---a tangible tell of your journey with each book. Be sure to approach each book with a mindset of curiosity. Seek to understand each character and point-of-view. If you never get to a place of understanding, that’s okay. At least you have tried.
Take your book with you wherever you go---read it on the bus, in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, as you fall asleep. If appearance concerns you deeply go ahead and rip off the front cover. Trust me, you’ll be doing yourself a favor. Then you will be okay when other parts of the book find themselves worn and used because it wasn’t perfect to begin with. If you are too concerned with how the book looks you may find it hard to become so engrossed with the book that you bend the pages as you lie on your back in bed, you may be too concerned about spilling coffee that you don’t react as strongly when an overwhelming scene happens.
An important part of your library: share. Lend the book you couldn’t put down to a friend. Discuss the topics with your colleague. Pose questions you have at the dinner table. Books were not made to be read and put away.
For I believe books are like friendships. They were not made for looking at. They were not made to be admired from a distance, reflecting on how perfect everything appears. They were made to be held. They were meant to give us their presence as we give them ours. They were meant to be safe places for discussions, disagreements, and questions. As we approach books with respect and curiosity, we should also approach people like this. There will be proof of days where you find it hard to keep going. You’re a few chapters in and you’ve grown bored or confused. You disagree too much or their point of view makes you frustrated. The beauty is when you find it in you to continue on, to approach with fresh curiosity and a desire to understand. For friendships, like libraries, are not about how pristine everything appears. The true value comes in how beloved the friendship is.