50 Books

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That super-fine personal library with bookcases rising to the ceiling and crammed with volumes promising endless reading pleasure we’d love to have? Carol Studier says it turns out she already has one. In fact, we all do.

Occasionally, flipping through a magazine, I’ll see a photo of a luxurious home library. It usually has wood bookcases rising to the ceiling, sometimes a rolling ladder to access top shelves. Cozy lighting or big windows shine on a comfy reading chair. I drool. I mentally scan every room in my house to see where I might recreate such a scrumptious setting. Then my practical side kicks in. Who’s going to dust all those books? If I move, how many pounds of books would that be? Where would the sofa go?

Thankfully, I have an obsession with the public library. Not only is everything free, but it also has become easy to access books without leaving my sofa. I can request books through an online portal and download ebooks and audio books with an app. Even so, I found new reason to enter the physical library after hearing a guy confide that he practically plunders the library, roaming the aisles and taking out 40 books at once. At home, in his small bookstore, he peruses items at leisure. He holds onto real gems with repeated renewals.

With this in mind, I entered the library with new verve. I scanned the selections. Learn about beekeeping? Why not? Bread making? Sure! Librarians assured me that the 50-item limit is set to encourage, so I filled my tote with travel guides, glossy art books, cookbooks, how-to manuals, and poetry. I added magazines, DVD yoga classes, and movies. Exploration guided me, rather than arriving with a goal to pick up a certain book. I was exposed to new topics and resources. I delved deeper into subjects that had once been mild curiosities.

Could buying 40 items compare? Done regularly, it would reduce my house to narrow mazes. My bank account would dwindle. All that dusting. The library provides all the joy with none of the cost and clutter. I still want that gorgeous home library for my most beloved selections, but even then, the public library would still enchant.


With a Perspective, I’m Carol Studier.

Carol Studier is a former education researcher and writer. She lives in the East Bay.