Geeking Out About Books

Evergreen Geek Culture
My library/dining room: Food for the body, food for the mind. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

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Since this week is Speak Out With Your Geek Out, I thought it’d be nice to talk about one of my favorite subjects.

I have a ton of books. No, really: I mean that quite literally. I have somewhere over 2,000 pounds of books.

I know this because this summer when we moved from Kansas to Oregon, I discovered that I couldn’t get any movers to actually come to my tiny town to do an on-site estimate, so I was relying on a lot of spreadsheets and estimated weight charts. As far as I remember, none of them actually had anything about books on them. Whenever I called a mover to get a quote, the conversation would go something like this:

Mover: Do you have any large items?

Me: Well, I’ve got all the regular appliances, plus a chest freezer and a piano. Oh, and I should mention I have a lot of books.

Mover: Ok, appliances … chest freezer … piano … Do you have any large armoires? Sofa beds? Anything like that?

Me: No, nothing like that, but I do have a lot of bookshelves and lots of books.

Mover: Ok, let me ask you about access: stairs? How wide are the streets?

Me: You did note that I said a lot of books, right?

Most of the spreadsheets just had things like “medium carton” along with various types of furniture, but I didn’t think that was gonna cut it. I ended up boxing up a bunch of my books (using Waldenbooks boxes collected when I worked there a decade ago) and then weighing several of them to get an average. Then I was able to figure the number of book boxes I’d have, and came up with somewhere around 1,700 pounds.

Oh, but all the kids’ books are upstairs. Forgot about those. That’s another 30 shelf-feet worth or so.

In the end, I know I got well above 2,000 pounds just in books, not even including the bookshelves.

I love our bookshelves, too: they’re Libra pine shelving that we started buying when we first saw them at Organized Living years and years ago, when we were poor just-out-of-college kids, and we could only afford to buy a couple shelves. A few years later we’d saved up enough to buy another set, and then another. Organized Living vanished for a while, then resurfaced as a single store rather than a chain. Last summer we decided we needed some more shelves, and discovered that they’d been discontinued — but I managed to buy some of their remaining stock from their warehouse. They’re easy to disassemble and rearrange (and move), and our bookshelves are easily the most expensive furniture in our home.

I’m a bit compulsive about organizing books. As you can see from the photo above, I’ve got them sorted by type, alpha by author. My comics I actually have sorted out: the lower shelf is stuff that I’ve approved for my kids to read on their own, and the rest is off-limits until they’re older. (It pains me that I can’t keep the kids’ comics in alphabetical order because they get read and re-shelved so often, but I love the fact that my kids are reading them so much.) We have some room left on these shelves, plus another set held in reserve, because we know that we’ll be adding to our collection.

All of this is to say: we love our books.

Sure, my wife has a Kindle (and loves it) and I sometimes read books on my iPad, but I love the feel and the texture and the diversity of shapes and sizes and colors and thicknesses of a ton of books sitting on shelves. At our new house, because of the layout of the rooms and windows, the only big walls large enough for all our shelves was in the dining room, so that’s where we put them. It makes it feel like we’re eating in a library, but that’s fine with us. Most of the time there are a couple books on the dining table anyway.

One of the things I always loved about Portland when we lived here before was that it’s a city that reads. Everywhere you go you see people with books. I love going into Powell’s and just wandering the aisles. I love that the library system here is consistently ranked at the top in annual circulation.

In a couple of weeks, Portland will be host to the Wordstock Festival, which is like a giant book club where a bunch of readers and writers get together to celebrate books. It started up the last time I lived here, and we attended a few times, but now I’ve got kids who are old enough to read and I’m excited to share the experience with them. We’ll get to go hear from a bunch of really cool writers (and illustrators) about picture books, comic books, science fiction, literary fiction, nonfiction, and just about anything else you can think of.

So that’s my ode to books. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again, and I’ll keep telling you about all the cool books that I’ve read that I think you’ll really enjoy.

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