My love affair with books began at age three. My mother says I drove her “completely nuts” asking her to read to me all the time, so she decided that the only way to get me off her back was to have me read to myself. This led to me winning a spelling bee in third grade and a reading contest in the fourth grade. Then the obsession started.
I discovered that I not only like reading books, but collecting them, and I’ve been doing so since I was a child. Yes, I still have all of my old Nancy Drew books. And my copy of The Borrowers that I won from that fourth grade reading contest. By the time I was twelve, I realized that a book was a precious object, not to be treated lightly.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and now you have a woman with hundreds of books of her own who meets and marries a man with hundreds of his own books. Throw in a new mother-in-law who is a retired librarian and it can only mean trouble.
My mother-in-law introduced me to the library world. She gave me a discarded school card catalogue case and taught me how to protect dust jackets in mylar covers, then taught me how to catalogue and shelve books. My next lesson was in minor book repair. My father-in-law has also taught me the basics of bookbinding.
I married into a very biblio-centric family!
Well, our little family grew. First it was one cat, then two, now we have five critters: Caesar, Claudia, Octavian, Livia, and our most recent addition: Marcus. And the books kept coming, which necessitated putting an addition on the house to hold them all. Well, I suppose we could have given some books away, but that’s just crazy talk.
I collected pictures of bookcases and libraries from various architectural magazines for months, created a binder of them with notes about room requirements and what I liked about the various pictures I had torn out. I didn’t realize that a requirement for space to expand our collection to 8,000 (hey, you’ve gotta think ahead), would result in such a large room.
We had a contractor build the shell of the library and paint the interior, and my husband has done all of the finishing work. Anything you see that’s wood, my husband constructed. He installed the patterned wood flooring, built the bookcases, made the trim around the windows and doors, and designed the circular staircase and catwalk railings. After reading an article about an old outdoor shed that historian David McCullough writes in, my husband turned a 3×5 space of the library into what we call The Writing Hut, and it’s where I do all of my writing.
The man is simply amazing with wood and a table saw. Hence why, in my third book, BY THE KING’S DESIGN, the hero is a cabinetmaker.
Confession time: I actually don’t like public libraries. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they exist. My problem is that it’s impossible for me to simply borrow a book. I must own it. Anytime I check a book out of the library, I run to the Internet and buy it, sort of negating the “free” aspect of things. I spend more time in the library sale room than I ever do browsing the shelves.
Some of my favorite book and library quotes:
“Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.”
Henry Ward Beecher
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“The closest we will ever come to an orderly universe is a good library.”
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“No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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“A house without books is like a room without windows.”
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“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”
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And my all-time favorite quote, which simply sums it all up:
“I cannot live without books.”
Thomas Jefferson writing to John Adams in 1815
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The Writing Hut (one of my kitties usually naps in the cat bed while I write)
One wing of the catwalk. I wore the Marie Antoinette costume to promote my debut novel, The Queen’s Dollmaker.
One of five “book nooks” in our library.
My husband engineered and hand-built the circular staircase.
A view of the seating area from the catwalk.