what your shelves say about you

A man is known by the books he reads.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love Emerson but sometimes imagine him so smarmy with all that pithy wisdom of his.  I even surmise at times he’s the reason Thoreau sought out that cabin in the woods.  Can’t you just see them gathered around a stone hearth in sturdy straight-backed chairs, puffing on their pipes and Emerson blowing insufferable smoke rings around Thoreau.  The both of them there some quiet Sunday afternoon in a busy race to see who can compose the best commencement speech lines while Mrs. Emerson hovers about the stove.  Thoreau with a distant look stiffens a fist in the air and says, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours” to which Emerson quickly replies, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”  Thoreau barely rolls his eyes and sighs deeply to a rumble in his belly before Emerson fires off another: “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air!”  Grrr, Thoreau stews and thinks to himself, I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.  Off he goes.

bookbedroomSure old Ralph Waldo is full of pomp and cool reason, but he gets it right just about every time, don’t you think?  A man is known by the books he reads.  Isn’t this so true?  Can’t you walk into a home and learn a lot about its owner from the bookshelves, or lack thereof?  Admit it.  You’re guilty of checking the spines and formulating opinions about your hosts based on the books they read.  You have walked into a room and checked them out, you have!  But where’s the harm?  I don’t feel guilty at all.  Sometimes, it seems to me the best companions are those whose books would find a happy home on our own shelves.


Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.  ~ Thoreau

Books, books, books. It was not that I read so much. I read and re-read the same ones. But all of them were necessary to me. Their presence, their smell, the letters of their titles, and the texture of their leather bindings.  ~ Colette

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