Do Your Books Define You?

What’s on your bookshelf? If a stranger came in your house and read the titles of the books you have lying around, would the titles define you?

In my case, the stranger would have to spend a long time reading those titles because books fill an entire floor-to-ceiling wall of one room, take up a tall bookcase in another room, and are lined up, stacked, and spilled on every table and chest in the house. As I write this, I remember a sprawl of books on a couch in my little library and another on a chaise in the living room. The genres are all over the place too. Biographies, histories, memoirs, novels, poetry, short stories, mysteries, fantasy, plays, Greek classics, humor, psychology, health, gardening, cooking, you name it, I’ve got it. If my choice of books defines me, then I’m a multiple personality. I doubt that I’m unique in that. I think people who love books have broad tastes. I like that about us.

Most recently, I read Per Petterson’s I Curse The River of Time. Petterson is a Norwegian author whose stories seem to be about one thing on the surface but are really about something else. The writing is so dense that half the time I don’t know what’s going on but at the same time I do without knowing how I do. The stories loop in time without giving any clues as to when a scene is taking place, or who the characters in the scene are, but somehow when the books end you have absorbed a sequential story spanning generations and places even though the words haven’t been there. That book will be added to the wall of books that absolutely are not to be loaned to anybody or given away, and I will return to it again and again.

But don’t define me by that book. Before it, I read Mockingjay, the final book in ‚Ä®Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. And before that a Tess Gerritsen paperback, The Surgeon. And before that Bob Morris’ latest, Baja Florida. I loved them all. I am them all.

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