Friday, 27 July 2012

How to find an easy happiness and fill your house with books

(OK, so maybe the happiness part doesn't work for everyone, but I had to make up a title for this post, you see?)

Have you by any chance seen Neil Gaiman's library?
Neil Gaiman's quickly become one of my favourite authors, and favourite person(alitie)s. For things like his blog, full of links to interesting things I'd otherwise never learn about, The Graveyard Book, keeping bees (which I've never done, and probably never will, but totally consider a normal thing to do that most people unfortunately don't do anymore) and liking G.K. Chesterton. And his library.
When I first saw the photos of his library, I thought "wow" and "how did he achieve that?"
Then I looked at my room and thought: "He's just older than me. When I'm as old as him, I might need a library like that."

Not all of these books are mine (some of the dictionaries are family-owned), but most of them are. They don't fit in. This is only one of three bookcases/shelves I currently occupy. The books still do not fit in. The detective stories are cheerfully overflowing their alotted space (and I only limit myself to five writers!). The collection of Czech classics is inexplicably growing. The interview books and historical novels squeezed between the dictionaries are just that: squeezed. My books by Finnish authors are forced to democratically (but not always equally) share space with my comic books. The sewing and crafty books groan under the weight of Russian and British history (but Russian history is much heavier). One more Gaiman and I'm done for...

I'm slightly envious of my sister's new tidy bookcases. But it's only thanks to them that my books do not threaten to kill me anymore.

See? Tidy and pretty. I can't keep mine that way. I just can't help it. Books keep entering my possession.

For one thing, the local library keeps selling off old books, duplicates, for 1 CZK a piece. THAT, my dear readers, is not a bargain. I don't think there even is a word for THAT.

And they started another project: people can bring their duplicate or otherwise unwanted books there. They either keep them in the library, or put them into a bookcase outside the library, where people can pick them for free. How cool is that?

As a result of having a fantastic local library (which I have every intention of supporting; how many small town libraries keep lots of Baltic literature?), my own library is growing.

With pieces like these:

 I don't think you have to speak Czech to recognise this.

 Anne of Green Gables and her Czech counterparts Gabra and Málinka

Rupert was new to me, but apparently he is quite big in the English speaking world. About half a year ago, I saw a reprint in the English section of a large Prague bookshop. So yes, they are worn and tatty, but they're the original from 1950s and I am so lucky to have them.

This 1983 Slovakian book on embroidery has one of the most "unappetising" covers I've ever seen. (A book on embroidery and the largest part of the cover is filled with a lamp?! Not to mention the awful composition of the text in the image...)
Inside, it's droolworthy.

It even shows the wrong side of the embroidery techniques!

Last time I visited (Tuesday), I bought Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie, four books of the Truth and Justice pentalogy by Anton Hansen Tammsaare (sadly, one was missing) and one more book by him. I'm well on my way to needing Neil Gaiman's library.


  1. Lovely collection!

    I sort of had to limit my collection out of necessity--my room cannot fit another bookshelf. So I have it double-stacked so I can't even see half of my collection, and ended up getting rid of the majority of my classics--the major exceptions being my illustrated Little Women that an aunt gave me for Christmas when I was 8 or something, and all of my Jane Austen books--once I was gifted a Kindle for my birthday the year before last, since I could put them all on as free e-books. (Side note: I resisted the Kindle for years, because I still love paper books and would hate to see them go away completely. But it's proven rather convenient for travel, since I only need to bring one slim device instead of 5 books that take up my entire carry-on. And if I ever do read something super-thick like War & Peace, it'll be nice to not have to carry that in my purse. But I still do buy some "real" books, and you'll have to pry my paperback Tolkien books out of my cold, dead hands. ;)

    I have to admit, one thing I am really looking forward to about getting married is having more space to let my book collection spread out! Since he has a townhouse and I have one room right now.

    1. I can see how an e-book reader would come in useful when travelling... but as I tend to read mostly 20th century books, there would only be more trouble waiting. :P

      I sort of should already limit my collection, but I just can't. I'd rather throw away other things... if only I knew what! :D

  2. Oh drool! What fun!

    I think you are my lost Czech sister. Or there is a Hana/Leimomi in every country, and I am me/you for here and you are you/me for there!

    I do not rescue my books from libraries, but I pick up every old book I see at op shops. My bookcases are also in a constant state of untidy happiness: overloaded with multiple copies of L.M. Montgomery books and Little Women and Jane Austen, because I can't pass the old ones up.

    Rupert is new to me though.

    And I just bought Smoke and Mirrors at my favourite 2ndhand bookstore for airplane reading on my upcoming trip :-)

    1. Hm, maybe there really is at least one Hana/Leimomi/somebody in every country. I like to think there are more, though. ;-)

      I must say I liked the Neil Gaiman novels and longer works I've read so far more than most of the short stories in Smoke and Mirrors... I think I like it more when his weird and so very real ideas are fitted into a larger world than having them spring at me in a short story, where they are pretty much self-contained. They always leave some things open at the end (I love that), but I like being drawn to that larger world with so many possibilities. The Graveyard Book, though, is great in that it's both short stories and a whole novel (short novel), combining the best features of both.

      Rupert is awesomefully politically incorrect the way many old children's books are, and totally English.
      It's something between a comics and a storybook; picture panels with rhymed captions underneath and a story. Several stories in each book, and some crafts and rebuses and such in between.
      Some of the stories are very fantastical and some are more or less based in the real world, and there's that funny non-distinction between anthropomorphic animals (like Rupert) and their human friends, contrasted to the fact there still are pets in the world, too. So, overall, totally illogical and totally awesome.