10 02 2008

I was one of the fortunate ones in my street. Our house was full of books. I think this was the fault of my maternal Grandmother. Her house was not full of books. In fact the only book I ever remember seeing there was the Holy Bible. But I believe she may have been the first generation of her Irish Catholic family who had the luxury of free full education. The first generation from where she came from in County Cork to fully read and write. And she raised my mother to have a reverence for books and for the education possessed within them. Books=education=escape from poverty.

Without much money growing up mum spent a lot of time in the library. Of the books she acquired early in life I would guess many were either secondhand or much longed for gifts. When she met my father they discovered a shared love of Science Fiction. I can vividly remember our family bookcase at home. Full of the bright yellow spines of the genre. I can’t recall the name of the publisher. Authors like Asimov and Arthur C Clarke.

I remember too the characters on the spines of books bought for me as a child. The ladybird and later the penguin. Our family motto still looming large. Books=education=escape from poverty.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I began to realise that there are many homes where books are not treasured. A lone dictionary perhaps, or an extravagant leather bound set “for show”. Never read. In wealthy peoples homes too. It still perplexes me.

Now that I am grown and have children of my own, my own love of books is still strong. When I met and married my husband we reluctantly culled our collection for want of space. It was a torturous process, trying to decide which we could part with. Shipped off to the charity shop. In the end though we parted with many we still had to build more shelves to accommodate this shared love of reading. And I’m proud that my own children are carrying this torch, each of them, a corner of their bedroom devoted to the shrine of the written word.

My favourite friends all have large bookcases. Many joyful, wine filled nights discussing plots and characters and turns of phrase. Friendships bonded as tightly as the paper bound tomes we enjoy. Books swapped, borrowed and lent out again and again.

My bookcase holds more than just a history of what I have read. In a very personal way it is as much a history of who I am.




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