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A Place to Read and Grow

Have you ever heard that "a place to read is a place to grow?"

Before we bought our house and were touring the property, the sitting room contained one piece of furniture: a baby grand piano. It took up most of the space and the only other decor was a pottery urn on the piano lid. It read: Ashes of Dead Spouses. (Pretty strange, right? The previous owner was a marriage counselor who kept a huge piranha tank next to the requisite couch in his dreary office.)

Today the sitting room is a library, a cozy refuge where we can dream and read to our hearts’ content.

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

One of the ways I am dealing with stress and the current world situation is to immerse myself into fantasy, the literary kind.

My bibliotherapy began last month when I created the Writelighters Book Club on Goodreads and I’m very excited about that. But I also joined another club for fun. Litwit Lounge is much different than the Writelighters Book Club because you aren’t assigned any particular book or genre to read. I anticipated the joy these clubs would bring to my life and I was feeling quite brilliant.

Yet as I surveyed the five bookcases in our sitting room/library, I heard the rusty gears in my tired brain screech to a sudden stop and I panicked.

How on earth am I going to decide on which book to read first?!

This shouldn’t have been a major problem because we own two stories of thousands of books, of which I have yet to read a quarter of them. Nevertheless, it was obvious I had no "shelf control" because everything was "higgledy-piggledy." And it wasn’t like I could just blow a whistle ala Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music and watch all my disciplined book "children" fall in line for inspection.

So now I had to tackle a HUGE organizational project before I would allow myself to read one more book. And I was already in the weeds.

How Overgrown is My Library

In the classic book, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the garden symbolizes the growth and healing of its owner, which is exactly what I hoped to cultivate in my own book "garden."

I dedicated three bookcases to Fiction and two to Nonfiction. After reviewing the new "Home Library" board I had created on Pinterest, I decided not to organize our books by color or alphabetically. No, the simplest plan would be to categorize by genre.

Weeding proved to be the most difficult step. Pulling out and discarding the unwanted was agonizing because I understood the hard work each and every one of the authors had endured to write and be published, so I felt guilty each time I tossed a book into a "Donations" box. These titles pleaded to be read, insisting they had value and would change my life forever if only I would open their covers and take a peek.

The first genre to be weeded was the children’s book section. As a publisher, I used to attend book fairs where I’d collect a hefty stack of gorgeous picture books, many signed by the authors. Honestly, this project would have been finished much sooner had I not wandered off to explore the secrets of Wonderland, The Shire, and Oz. In the end, I kept my treasured Nancy Drew and Harry Potter books, along with dozens of other titles, like The Night Before Christmas and Gee Whiz! It’s All About Pee.

I reserved one shelf for "the classics," which I planned to "devour" for Litwits. As with the children's books, I leisurely browsed and reminisced, reading aloud the first lines from every first chapter:

Marley was dead, to begin with.There is no doubt whatever about that.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

Call me Ishmael.

Everything's Coming Up Roses

It took me two weeks to reorganize, but now there is a designated place for all our favorites, including Nick's Dragonlance series and John LeCarre books, and my beloved Jane Austen classics and Rosamunde Pilcher.

I am sitting in one of the two overstuffed chairs next to the window, sipping a cup of organic Tulsi Sweet Rose tea, confident the hard work is done. My bookshelves are bursting with two rows of books, assorted plants, crystals, seashells, family photos, candles, and artwork. For Litwits this month, I am reading Jane Austen's book, Emma, and all is well in my secret book garden.

Someday I intend to reorganize the books in my home office, our master bedroom, and living room. Someday, but not today. I have so much to read!


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