Your face my lord, is like a book,
wherein men may read strange matters
These words spoken by Lady Macbeth to her husband, if I recollect from my slowly fading schoolgirl memory, can well be applied to a man’s bookshelf for what he reads is what generally appeals to him. A bookshelf, therefore, is like an MRI – an image of one’s thought process.
The bookshelf in our home is not so much a library as a repository of all reading material that ever came into this house. It all began almost a 100 years ago when my grandfather-in-law became a lawyer or was a student of law. I can’t exactly pin point at what point he bought the tomes that grace our shelves because his son, my own father-in-law is in his late eighties and can’t remember and my husband never knew his grandfather. But it would be safe to assume that those books were bought in the early 1900’s. Way back in the 60’s when the family home at Akola was still visited by family, different members of the family picked up what they considered “treasures” and took them back to their modern homes. What was left for my part of the family was several tomes of Ivan Turgenev, some red leather bound classics by famous authors such as R.L.Stevenson, a few volumes of Mahratta History by James Grant Duff and some year books of statistics of the Indian Empire, which are fascinating for sheer information.
The next collection of books was my own parents’ in laws- she had novels by Neville Shute while he had books on war, military history and famous generals and battles, reflecting his passion for the Army to which he belonged. Then came the collection of my husband’s and mine – his mainly books on management and business heroes, sports, biographies and philosophy; mine largely contemporary fiction and books won as prizes at school and University, self help books, cookbooks. The last collection to join these shelves belonged to my girls and reflected the ideas of young women in the 80’s and 90’s.
So our hodge-podge bookshelf is also like going back into a time warp.
Books like medicines have a shelf life too and authors and genres come and go. When I look at titles by Louis L’Amour, James Hadley Chase, Ian Fleming, James Herriot, Arthur Conan Doyle, P.G Wodehouse, Arthur Hailey, Robert Ludlum, Leon Uris,Salman Rushdie, James Michener……….ooh I can just go on and on about all those authors whose works I had devoured all those years ago. The authors seem to have been lost in antiquity.
As for genres – I no longer find Erma Bombeck funny and actually wonder how I ever read her books. Similarly, seeing the hundreds of books on self help, meditation,yoga and spiritualism, I wonder whether they were of any help at all?
So today I am going to do a purge – get rid of all the books that have been just lying there. Indeed their shelf life is over!