Kathy Johnson is an avid but unorganized reader, frequently reading at whim and amassing huge piles of books to be read at some future, less busy date. She is a freelance writer based in central Florida, and blogs about books and other happy topics at Catching Happiness.
(You know the drill--click on photos to enlarge for a closer look).
1. Describe your library/bookshelves. Are they randomly placed or do you have them organized in a special way? Are they confined to one area or are they spread out over your house?
My husband and I are both avid readers, so our books are scattered through most of our house. The main rooms in which our books live are my office, his office, our bedroom and the family room. The books are loosely organized, and I pretty much know where everything is. In the family room, we use the books as decorative elements. We have my collection of Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen novels, Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization, some poetry, some decorating/coffee table books, and a few favorite books of various genres (The Poisonwood Bible, A Walk in the Woods, and my childhood copies of Little Women, Little Men and Treasure Island). The books here are generally attractive in and of themselves or they’re books we think our guests might enjoy flipping through.
My husband’s office, which was our formal living room up until a couple of months ago, has a set of shelves we had built partly to house our ever-growing collection of books. My husband’s collection of Tom Clancy, Leon Uris, and John Grisham books live here, as well as my collections of Dorothy L. Sayers and Josephine Tey. Other authors to be found here include: Bill Bryson, Dave Barry, James Thurber, and Stephen King. I have some poetry collections in here, and two textbooks from a college literature class that I haven’t been able to part with. (And I am going to read from them again someday.) My husband also keeps his stock trading and finance books here.
We turned the closet space in my office, which was originally a bedroom, into shelves and cabinets to house office supplies, books, and so on. I’ve organized the books basically by category: dogs and horses, gardening and household management, memoir/biography, essays, travel, self-help/spirituality, art, women’s/mothers’ issues, and writing reference. I also have my collection of Nancy Drew mysteries, my Little House on the Prairie books, and a few other childhood treasures stashed in here.
Our last and largest bookshelf is in our master bedroom closet. It houses the bulk of our lightest and most fun reading, including all of my Agatha Christie mysteries (I think I have them all, but I’m not absolutely positive), the Anne of Green Gables series, books by Sarah Graves, P.G. Wodehouse, Mary Stewart, Patricia Wentworth, and many, many more. This is where my guilty little secret resides: my enormous and terrifying stash of to be read books.
2. Do you like to weed and recycle as you read or do you prefer to hold on to all your books?
I weed and recycle as I read, believe it or not, only keeping books that are special to me or that I believe I’ll read again. I periodically weed through those I’ve kept and get rid of ones I’ve not returned to. (In fact, it’s time to do that again.) To dispose of them, I post them on Paperback Swap, take them to a local used bookstore for trade or donate them to my library’s bookstore.
3. How long has your oldest unread book sat on your shelves?
My oldest unread book I’ve had for an astonishing 12 years! It’s called Creating Your Life Collage, and I purchased it at a Mothers & More convention, where I met the author and had her sign it. I loved the idea of a life “collage” as a metaphor for building a life balanced with work and family. Too bad I never took the time to read the book. I still plan to at least skim it!
4. What is your most treasured book?
I actually have three books that I consider my most treasured books. They are children’s books written by Richard Scarry given to me by my parents. The reason they are most treasured is that I once gave them away, and they came back to me. When I was in my 20s, I worked in an office with many women who became close friends. It nearly broke my heart to leave them when my husband and I moved to Florida. After we moved, one of my friends was going to have a baby, and the other girls planned a shower for her. I sent her my three Richard Scarry books for her to read to her new baby. I forgot all about that gift as time marched on. Eventually, it was my turn to have a baby, and my friend who by this time had moved herself and had another baby, sent me back my Richard Scarry books, because she felt that I should have them to read to my baby. I was thrilled to have them back, and I have them still.
5. If you could pick one "lost in the stacks/on your bookshelves" book to rediscover and share with other readers, which would it be?
I don’t have very many books that would qualify for "lost in the stacks," but I’ll take this opportunity to put in a plug for the aforementioned Patricia Wentworth. Patricia Wentworth was a British crime writer, who wrote 32 cozy mysteries featuring Miss Maud Silver, a retired governess turned private detective. Miss Silver is fond of quoting Tennyson, and frequently works with Inspector Frank Abbott of Scotland Yard (who I have a little literary crush on). Miss Wentworth also wrote more than 30 other mystery/detective novels as well as a few historical novels and romances. Her last book, The Girl in the Cellar, was printed during the year of her death (1961). She was 81. I still have many of Miss Wentworth’s books to look forward to, but one of my favorites so far has been The Chinese Shawl, printed in 1943.
I think I need to go straight to my mystery novel stash and pull out my copies of Patricia Wentworth's books--I am sure I have the first one. I do love a "crush-able" character (and have a few of my own favorites, too).
Many thanks to Kathy for sharing photos of her bookshelves and piles with us. Check back next Friday for a peek into another reader's library.