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January 17, 2014


Possibly another activity to increase the time it takes you to sort - Bookmash as Stan Carey invented: http://stancarey.wordpress.com/tag/bookmash/

I couldnt agree more as far as good company is concerned.


I was an only child….and my Dad taught me very early on-----if you have a good book, you'll never be lonely or alone. (smart man!)

Sympathise with you about the books. We have about fifty boxes of our own books (boxed up for a building project which began three and a half years ago), plus numerous boxes of my late mother-in-law's books (mostly art history, she was an art historian), slowly being joined with another 3,000 or so books from another elderly relative (a retired English lecturer). Need major sift, not putting in loft, and a reliable second-hand bookseller

I hope you enjoy sorting the books. I love it...we had great fun 'culling' our books and other stuff when we came down to Cambridge to live. I buy LOTS of books which are from the beginning designed for being passéd on, otherwise I"d be overwhelmed. So my piles do move...
As for solitude, I would HATE IT! I have the radio or music on all the time when I'm alone. DO not like silence one little bit. It comes from being at boarding school perhaps....but Sara Maitland's cottage would have me climbing the walls in 10 minutes.

I sympathise! Despite taking many loads of books to the Oxfam bookshop over the years we still have ever-growing piles of books that are too precious or useful to re-home. If it's any help Lakeland sell 44litre weatherproof storage boxes ("The Ultimate Box") which we have been testing for garage storage. They aren't cheap but there's no trace of damp yet so maybe they will be our solution.

A very interesting article; and how intriguing that you're talking about this on the feast of St. Anthony of the desert, one of the early hermits. :D

I always enjoy myself poking around at home on days off without feeling the need to be going here and there, but that isn't the same as what Ms. Maitland is talking about. I know I wouldn't do well entirely on my own. I am blessed, though, to know a real hermit who now lives in Luxembourg. The whole subject is fascinating.

I've always loved being on my own. But that's wholly to do with having books for company, I'm sure. And I'm glad I'm not the only one who's eyeing the kids' bookshelves, now that they're at university, with a view to possible takeover.

You would be in good company in our family! I have to work hard to keep my 94-year-old mother in books, as reading is absolutely her favorite activity bar none. This puzzles the conscientious young woman who cleans twice a month; she piles the books up in stacks that at this point are literally taller than Mom is (granted, she is only 4'10"). It's getting to be a safety hazard! Not to mention that vertical stacking is not the optimal configuration for retrieval. I asked Mom if she wanted to be buried with them, and she just gave me a look.

Jane, Lovely post.
Am reading Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood at the moment and I keep thinking of you. I am sure you will have read it. But it is the mention of the quilts and the different patterns and I wondered if you had any thoughts on the possible symbolism of the ones she uses?

Must admit to only recycling paperbacks..... I find it really hard to part with anything printed really. I do like my own company, and can sit for hours happily reading, sewing, etc. As a teacher, I spend many hours a day talking to people, so I enjoy the peace and quiet at hime,

How funny! I'm doing exactly the same thing at the moment. My solution to the problem is to do away with the free standing bookcases and get a carpenter in to construct built-in floor to ceiling bookshelves. Am I mad?

And a room lined with bookcases, as we have, also provides insulation! I love piles of books, have a favourite secondhand bookshop close by which I had intended to visit later today (it's only open a couple of days a week now) to look at her latest piles, leaning against each other like drunken young men on a night out. As for solitude, love it.

A few months back you were questioning whether to keep this blog going. I am so grateful you chose in our favour - articles like this gladden my heart. How can a home be a home without books.

I read this post greedily, I admit it!! Happy alone and in the quiet, I will read with abandon pretty much anything and everything, and always have. Even dictionaries…
My book collection would have overwhelmed the whole family if I hadn't learnt to edit. Sadly, I have to say, as I would happily have kept everything and can't really understand households without books (very common in Switzerland!). But needs must and as I no longer have a room solely for my books (a bliss I enjoyed for 3 yrs at one point!) they are once again spread around wherever I can fit any form of bookcase in. Like you, I go back to them regularly, reread, peruse, consult and descend into all kinds of interesting things.
What a wonderful piece of art up there! I'd never seen it before.
There is an exhibition on Charlemagne in Zurich at the moment, which I have seen 3 times, now, to really absorb it. Some of the featured stonework made me think of quilts and therefore you - what wonderful inspiration it could be! Also the tooled covers of the amazing 7-10th century books, and wishing I had Latin to decipher the closely lettered pages!

With you all the way there! I have books and books and more books. Just rescued some absolutely vital books on Friday from the library book sale. My books are double stacked on the bookshelves and are - to me anyway - in a sort of order. I always have a book with me even if I never open it since I know all will be well when I do. Like a good cup of tea if you like. I also have knitting on the go as a reassuring comfort nearby. My latest prize is a wonderful book about Dame Laura Knight courtesy of the people in the library who no longer seem to require it. Fabulous pictures of glorious sunny days spent basking around on top of the cliffs in Cornwall gazing out at azure seas. More wondrous images of circuses and clowns and many portraits of the Romany people who seem to have been blessed with lustrous long wavy hair. Quite happy to be on my own too. Now where is that book about books about books. Could it be Italo Calvino? Best as ever. Lydia

It seems to me that there is a HUGE difference between "solitude" and "loneliness."

We were told in a genetics class I just took online that human beings evolved in cooperative groups, and that we crave company and collaboration. That we are miserable when lonely, and that our immune systems do not function properly when we are lonely, leaving us open to a wide variety of problems. We were told that only smoking is detrimental to health and well-being as loneliness.

I heard all of this with a good deal of bemusement.

I decided that it must be the way people react to being alone that makes the difference. Count me amongst those who enjoy solitude (quiet, peace, silence). When alone, I essentially never perceive myself as deprived of anything I want or need. I prefer working alone to incessant collaboration.

I have friends and family with whom I love interacting, but I am not lonely when alone.

I wouldn't want to live where Maitland lives -- I like being able to walk to the library, to the bakery, to the greengrocer, to restaurants.... But I would love to visit. Last spring I had the opportunity to spend some time in a place where all I could hear was wind and birdsong. Heaven..........

I had to smile at your comment about getting slowed down in your sorting by stopping to dip into old favorites. I'm a librarian and I've spent this morning sorting through the picture book section for books that need to be weeded, with too many pauses to check out old favorites. It can be very tough to let something go even if it has been read so many times the pages are falling out, especially if it is old enough to be out of print. I just keep reminding myself that the next thing on my To Do list is to order new books so that I can look forward to making new friends even if the old ones need to go.

If I had a TARDIS I'd never weed anything that still held together well enough to be read.

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