There’s something about books. I don’t mean the digital ones downloaded from the Kindle store. I mean paperback, glossy cover, ‘smell the newness’ printed books.
My relationship with books started early on. I used to get a small amount of pocket money from the age of about five. If I wanted a new toy or a comic, it came out of my savings or that weeks allowance.
But books were different. Books were exempt.
How do you start to build a book collection? What elements should it include?
Books appeared under a grant system. I later discerned that this had been a ploy by my parents (successfully) to nurture a love of the printed word. I’ve always had books and I’ve always read books.
In the last few years, something changed. I’ve gone from a book reader to a book collector. I love having a bookshelf in my home to display to myself and my children the value that I have placed on books, both for learning and entertainment.
Recently I stopped reading magazines and put that time into books. I’m never looking back.
But what if I were doing this from scratch? How do you start to build a book collection and what elements should it include?
Books on Philosophy and Religion Show a Learned and Open Mind
A lot of Dads I know sleep walk through life. They never open their eyes or their minds to the world and the different faiths around them. Their knowledge of the arts, of culture and of philosophy is lacking. There is only one way to learn this stuff and that is to read.
Look at the top two shelves in this picture and what do you see? Theology, philosophy, books on religion and the odd biography in there for good measure. I’ve taken years to assemble these and I haven’t read them all through (and probably never will). But each one has been used.
When I studied Theology (yes, that happened), I read voraciously on topics such as ethics, morality, modern and alternative theologies, world religions. My horizons were broadened as a result.
And the great thing is, these types of books are fairly easy to come by. Just go down to your local charity or thrift store and see what’s available in the ‘Religion and Morals’ section. You may come across some real gems.
Many of my religious books I got at a discount or at book fairs or from people I knew who were clearing out. Yes I collected some junk which got recycled, but I kept the good stuff.
Add Classical Literature to Your Book Collection and to your Vocabulary
Not many people read classics anymore. There’s too much literature that reads like movies (thanks Tom Clancy) and a modern audience don’t want dull conversation. But avoiding classics is a big mistake if you’re pursuing self-improvement.
It took me nine months to finish reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace
You hear a lot of people talking about War and Peace. Your boss says ‘Write me that report, but I don’t want War and Peace’. But the majority of people who refer to it have never read it. And in some ways, I don’t blame them.
I used to commute two hours on the train every day. I read War and Peace on that train journey and it took me nine months (with a couple of breaks). It’s a true epic but so well written and even laugh-out-loud funny in places.
It’s also a snapshot of life as much of War and Peace is autobiographical from Tolstoy’s youth and beyond.
Staying in the Russian theme, Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is one of the greatest books ever written and contains some cutting philosophy and truths about life, family and love.
Add in some Thomas Hardy, Buchan, Louis Stevenson and even James Fennimore Cooper (Last of the Mohicans) and you’ve got a head start on most Dads your age.
Include Some Books You’ll Enjoy Passing on to Your Kids
You’ll see from my book shelves that it’s not all theology and classics. I have a guilty pleasure in historical fiction. I love the mix of entertainment and education. I’ve been to battlefields and places I never dreamed of. From the age of fourteen I’ve lapped up everything Bernard Cornwell has written.
And I’ve kept most of them because I now have a son who likes books and when he’s older, I hope he’ll like my books, just as I read my own fathers books (Joseph Conrad in particular). Maybe he’ll even read his grandfathers books.
Don’t be Afraid to Flaunt your Love of Books – You Should be Respected for It
One of the things I don’t like about a Kindle is that no one can see what you’re reading. Although this was an advantage for when I read the first Hunger Games novel (don’t knock it until you try it), it sucks that no-one say me reading Homer’s The Iliad.
That’s one of the reasons why I love my bookshelf. It’s a part of me. Almost every one of those books has shaped me in some way and when I have friends or family round, those shelves tell them my story.
With books, I’ve laughed and cried. I’ve learned about my body and how to push it and motivate myself to improve my fitness. These things can come from within but reading has been a big influence on me.
So build your collection, buy a decent shelf and look out for great deals. Make time to read and make sure your kids see you do it. They’re much more likely to grow up valuing the written and printed word and benefit for being better educated and broader minded individuals.
P.S. If you like words, you’ll love my emails. They have words (but not too many) and come out about twice a month.