The story of my personal library

posted Oct 29, 2011, 2:08 PM by jj pionke
I've always had books.  Since I was an infant, there have been books in my life. I am sure that as an infant I probably tasted my books more than anything else, but that is besides the point.  Still, growing up, my mother took my brother and I to the local public library and we were allowed to get up to 10 books at a time.  I pretty much always got 10.  I loved reading and as I continued to grow up, reading was the one thing that kept me sane and not so lonely.  Once I started having my own money, I started buying books.  Star Trek was an early favorite as was Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books (yes, I know she is controversial now, but I still love that series intensely).  Eventually, I gave the Star Trek books to a friend of the family's oldest child.  By that time I had a lot, but on some level, I realized that I wouldn't read many of them again and that he would love them, and he did.  Once I entered college, it was all over.  I kept almost every textbook.  I picked up books that were recommended to me by friends and professors.  In the early days of my book acquisition in college, I did read everything I bought.

College was in many ways "Before the dark times -before the empire" a wonderful period in my book collecting career because I was able to read everything that was recommended and required.  I was an English and History major and I took classes that interested me which meant that I often took reading intensive classes that might have 10 books on the reading list for the semester and I loved it.  We all have to graduate, or at least move on, at some point and I did graduate, first with a BA and then with an MA and still, my personal library kept growing.  When I moved home from grad school (the first time), my parents had this thought that everything I owned was going to fit into my room and it mostly did. A couple boxes of kitchen ware went into the basement, but the books were another issue completely.  There was no way they were going to fit into my room.  My parents were gracious enough to designate another room in the house for my library and that room became known as the library.  It was a bunch of different shelving units and it was ugly as sin but at least the collection was together.  Two years ago, my mother said enough was enough and gave me money to go to IKEA to get stronger and more uniform bookshelves, which look fantastic.  

After I came home from Japan (JET Programme), I started adjuncting and I lived at home with my parents.  I was and are very grateful to them for letting me stay, rent free, in the house.  Doing so allowed me to not only work, but to do so without the constant worry of how to pay bills.  I paid of credit cards and when my car died, I was able to buy a new one.  Living at home also allowed me to go to conferences and to buy books.  But now, I bought books because I found them interesting and wanted to read them.....but then never read them.

I decided early on that books that stayed on a bookcase in my room were books that I had not read and that these unread books couldn't go into the library until they had actually been read.  Because of my heavy work load as an adjunct, I read perhaps 3 books a year for pleasure.  More often than not, the last thing I wanted to do was read after grading 100 papers or doing the readings for the next class.  In some ways, I circumvented this time crunch by building books that I wanted to read, but hadn't, into my syllabi.  For example, I have always loved the graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  I realized as I was thinking about syllabi development that I had never read the books that contributed characters to that graphic novel so an entire course landed up revolving around Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Alan Quartermain, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Invisible Man, and Sherlock Holmes.  These are all classic books in literature and I had never read almost any of them.  I had read Holmes of course, but all the others?  They were never taught in the classes I took in college and now I didn't have time to read them.  The class was wonderful and reading the books was delightful.  

By the time I got to the University of Michigan, the shelves on the to read bookcase were drastically overloaded and sagging like you wouldn't believe.  The Summer before coming here, I was terribly underemployed and I was determined to thoroughly dust the library but also to read at least 10 books from the to read bookcase.  I think I landed up reading closer to 20.  Once I was able to get back into a groove of reading for pleasure, I found the reading went fast and was a lot of fun.  For instance, I picked up a copy of Titus Andronicus by Shakespeare probably 6 years ago and finally got around to reading it now.  I read it in a single afternoon and it was a gory good time.  I rather affectionately refer to TA as Shakespeare's slasher play.  Why hadn't I read it before if it only took me like 2-3 hours to read it?  Sincerely, I just didn't have the time and/or the mental acuity.  Grading and lesson planning 6-8 courses a semester is an exercise in mental and physical exhaustion and I taught this load for 7 years.

My personal library reflects all the weird stuff that I have always wanted to read.  There are large sections of classic literature, science fiction and fantasy, graphic novels, and GLBTQ works.  I also have plays, biographies, mysteries, children's books, young adult books, reference works, and a very small quarter shelf of books that I am published in.  My library is always in need of a good dusting, but has been made with love.  There are very very few books of monetary value in it, but it doesn't matter because I love the books that I have.

Ironically, now that I am a library student, I will be better able to take care of my own personal collection which is something I am really looking forward to.