Sunday, November 30, 2008

Basement Bookshelves

I love basement bookshelves. They tend to contain books that people have but don't particularly care about. For that reason, they are usually unpretentious and eclectic.

I remember the books my family had down in the basement—in a closet in the basement, actually. I found a copy of Roots down there when I was in seventh grade. It was yellowed and battered, and it didn't have a back cover. I read the whole thing and loved it. There was a copy of Gone With the Wind, which I started but didn't get very far in. There was a whole series of John Jakes books, which I looked at but didn't even try to read. There was a copy of James Clavell's Shogun and Leon Uris's Trinity. I think these were all popular books that my mom read in the seventies, before she had kids. There was even a Norton critical edition of Moby-Dick from my dad's college years. 

In my wife's old basement, there was also a shelf of books that I loved to look through every time I was down there. Some were clearly from her parents' youthful reading days, some from her sister, some her own. One time, between the ceremony and reception of a wedding, we went back to her house and I pulled out a copy of Philip Roth's Goodbye, Columbus from that shelf. It was a pink mass-market paperback with a glossy cover, and I read "Defender of the Faith," a great short story in it.

Ever since our basement renovation was finished, we've had a basement shelf of our own (pictured above), which gives me pleasure every time I look at it.


Kate in Chicago said...

I loved going to our basement in general to look at old books and whatever other old things I could find. Mom had a great scrapbook of magazine clippings from Kennedy's presidency. I also started reading Gone With the Wind and never finished it. I'll have to take a look at your basement bookshelf after Christmas.

meyermeyer said...

You know what's f-ed up? My mom had the exact same books, except hers were on a shelf tucked away in her bedroom next to a rooltop desk. They were creased and yellowed, as you say, but I never had the impulse to read them. Something about the name "Uris" put me off, I suppose.