Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste

Monday mornings for me signal the end of my work week, which usually means a few cozy hours on the couch catching up with the news over coffee and breakfast while the sun comes up. Delish. Yesterday's Sunday Times was full of craptastic articles that alternately made me nod/smile/vomit/curl up in dismay. But before we get to the one about Ivy League virgins with major psycho-sexual baggage, let's hit the lighter one first:

"It's Not You, It's Your Books"

So this trifling little essay appeared in the Sunday Book Review, all about the way we judge people based on the books they carry and keep on their shelves. You can sit here and run your mouth about how frivolous and shallow and pretentious this is, and I will agree with you, but at the same time - damn! Tell me you don't judge people [quietly, surreptitiously] by the books they surround themselves with? I mean, I kept one boyfriend around long past his expiration date solely because he had both bell hooks AND Susan Faludi on his well-manicured shelves.

Maybe it's just me, bookish future-librarian-with-12-cats that I have been predicted to become someday, but I'll tell you the truth: bookshelves are the first thing I look at when I walk into a new friend's or gentleman caller's place. It's like I have a homing device in my chest beeping louder the closer it gets to the bookshelves. I know it's just this little collection of bindings, most of which probably haven't even been read, but I feel immediately close to the friend who's got Ruether or Wharton or Palahniuk on her shelves, and infinitely revolted by the date who's packed his with Tuesdays With Morrie or the Left Behind series. Dealbreakers, for sure. Along with cheesy pop-psych self-help books like Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus or similar tripe. And on the flip side, what a turn-on when I find Sartre or Bourdieu or Zora Neale Hurston or something else fabulously dark or esoteric or earthy.

Anyway, point being, yes, I am a superficial bitch who will turn and run if I find Mars/Venus on your bookshelf. And yes, you will be my immediate soulmate if you still have the weathered full set of anything by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Books, especially the most loved ones with pages falling out and bindings creased into illegibility, are windows into the things that matter to us, the ideas that feed us, the feelings that challenge us, and a few stolen moments perusing a bookcase or three are like a little entryway into someone's psyche. A DVD collection just doesn't do the same thing.*

It's Not You, It's Your Books (NYT)

*Don't even get me started on what happens if there AREN'T any bookshelves to begin with.


allen mez said…
Good stuff here on Raw Rach. I think judging someone by the books they own is the opposite of superficial. They're a fairly accurate glimpse of a person's inner life.

Other deal breakers: Harry Potter or anything written by a popular comedian.

I can't help it.

A well worn copy of a hard cover Webster's dictionary can absolve a few sins though.
Anonymous said…
Although I definitely agree with the thought that glancing through someone's bookshelves is very telling, if you were to look through mine, I'd be among those who would fail the test.

I gift the books that move me most, and tend to end up with an eclectic, yet mediocre mix of, "wow. Wally Lamb... you shouldn't have" bindings and Barnes and Noble "unabridged classics" to adorn my rickety shelves. That, or I'll plow through an Ayn Rand or similar, specifically because it makes my blood boil and my skin crawl, and I'll keep the copy to remind me that I'm in the minority.

In my defense, however, I have no intention of getting nostalgic over the re-release of "Sweet Valley High" and have a collection of library cards from nearly every city I've stayed in for more than a week.

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