You were probably just lamenting to yourself the fact that I have not yet gotten around to initiating you into the rest of the secrets of my den of books. (How do I know these things?) When last we entered the book cave of wonders, I showed you what is probably the prettiest bookcase in my house. Today we’ll move on to its companion bookcase, which I think of as my collection of books about traveling the world. Here it is in full:
As before, that top shelf is the only one able to accommodate taller books, so it’s a bit of a mish-mash. Fortunately, most of my art books, like most art books, just happen to be over-sized. So there’s a little bit of serendipitous organization there. Also included are the binders that our mothers made with all our mission photos and letters, and a gorgeous Strega Nona pop-up book that my sister-in-law sent us for Christmas one year.
Next shelf over is my Arabic shelf. Here you’ll find my trusty Hans Wehr Arabic dictionary from college, as well as various other text books, my free Qur’an from the Saudi Arabian Embassy (because I was told to keep it on the top shelf and only touch it with freshly washed hands; what a lovely way of respecting the Word of God), and some miscellaneous Arabic literature, and a couple of atlases that got stuck up here on the top shelf because they were so tall.
Next we pass to the Italian shelf, which holds all our ambitious attempts at learning Italian, none of which were as successful as immersion in Italy. Big surprise there. Also Dante and Macchiavelli in the original Italian, some of my more triumphant thrift store finds, along with various other examples of Italian literature. I put most of my Latin books on this shelf too, since geographically the ancient Romans were also Italian.
Next we switch abruptly to music. Books about music, that is. The piano and guitar sheet music lives over in a gigantic IKEA basket by the piano. One of the most interesting books on this shelf is Music and Song in Persia, written by one of my favorite professors at the university. He was living in Iran just before the Revolution and running a television program on Iranian music. He smuggled out hundreds of videotapes of traditional Iranian music performances that would have otherwise been consigned to the flames. Also on this shelf, because they didn’t fit on the Arabic one, are some social science-type books on the Muslim Middle East.
And now the French shelf. Ah, the French shelf. Several years ago, Tony and I conceived the romantic idea of buying an old French chateau, fixing it up, and turning it into a bed-and-breakfast (because nobody has ever had that clever idea before). That daydream has not yet come to fruition. For that matter, neither has our more practical daydream of fluency in French. We still laugh over the time we decided to read the Book of Mormon out loud together in French. We chose a verse at random, and got completely hung up on the pronunciation of the word meurtre, which for some reason occurred an inordinate number of times in the verse we chose. In Tunisia, even the Arabic sounds Frenchified, so that helped me a bit with the heretofore mysterious pronunciation of French. Due to various attempts at study combined with my acquaintance with Latin and other Romance languages, now I am not half bad at deciphering written French, but I still can’t speak it.
Next up: the Mormon shelf. We have Bibles and Books of Mormon in several different languages, as well as hymnbooks in Italian, Spanish and Arabic. Notice the interesting leather-bound book near the end on the right. It’s a hand-made embossed leather cover for Tony’s Tagalog scriptures, made by a member in the Philippines.
I had to put the biographies somewhere. I am not a big biography collector, but I have a few: Henry Adams, Benvenuto Cellini, Michael Collins, Ronald Reagan; it’s all pretty eclectic. This shelf also eclectically holds the Dumas overflow from the French shelf and random books for languages I really haven’t studied much (sign language, German, Hebrew).
And now the history shelf, also quite random, even though it’s in more or less historical order. Also some Spanish books, including La Perestroika Cristiana: la politización del Evangelio, which was given to me by the author when I was on my mission in Chile.
Religion shelf #2. Here we have all those Teachings of the Living Prophets books that they come out with every year, as well as a few other random LDS Church-published books. Luther and Tyndale are here too, as are a couple of fascinating 19th century histories of the Valdese, Tony’s Italian Protestant ancestors. And several extra Books of Mormon, because they’re always giving them out at church so we can give them away to friends, and I always seem to be behind on the giving them away to friends part. So if you’d like your own bona fide copy of the Book of Mormon, let me know, and I’ll happily mail it off to you.
One of my favorite shelves on this bookcase is the travel guide shelf. Some of these are the normal Lonely Planet type guides, but I also have a dozen or so travel memoirs, going all the way back to Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad. So fascinating. There is nothing I love more than good travel writing, whether it’s about places I’ve been, places I’d like to go, or places I would never have dreamed of going otherwise.
We’ve reached the bottom shelf now. These are my self-help books, ranging from The Attachment Parenting Book to 7 Habits to Alkalize or Die! Some of these, whose names will remain unmentioned, I am getting ready to toss (I have to psych myself up to get rid of a book, no matter how bad), but others are awesome and I would highly recommend them, such as Taking Charge of Your Fertility or The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Parenting.
And finally, the biology shelf. When I decided to homeschool my children, I knew I had to get a little more well-rounded, and this shelf is part of my effort. Bird guides, tropical fish, Lewis Thomas, and herbcraft. It still has a decidedly literary bent, but there’s some hard science going on here too.
I hope you enjoyed this extended tour of my living room/library. Next we’ll probably pass into the homeschool room, and see the books that get used on a more regular basis.