08 December 2012

Phantoms on the Bookshelves

As some of you know, I have trouble walking in to a public library to return something and then leaving with...nothing. It hardly ever happens. It is one of the hardest things in life that I have to do. As is becoming a habit with me, since I now work in a library (where I don't get fines) I try to limit my public library use (where I do get fines). It's hard for me to remember that even though I am reading every night and racing like a mad thing to get the book finished, the public library frankly doesn't care and if they can't renew it (even if there isn't a hold on it for ANYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD) will not renew it for me. No matter how much I beg. It's even gotten to the point where I will no longer ask for a renewal for my inter-library loan books but rather, call the lending library directly to ask for more time. Oddly enough, they renew the book without any trouble. Who knew. Well, I do. Now.
Anyway, I was either returning something or picking something up and this book caught my eye: Phantoms on the Bookshelves. The first praise on the back says "Bibliomaniac Jacques Bonnet welcomes us...into a delightful, idiosyncratic world created by his 'monstrous' obsession with books." (Peter Stothard, Daily Beast) With a boast like that, how could I refuse? I think I picked it up, glanced at it, put it down and turned away...only to turn back round and snag it off the shelves. It is a thin volume, 9 chapters and only 123 pages with an almost 10 page bibliography in the back. I am so glad I turned back for this book. It made me think of something Lewis says about friendship. We realize it in the instant we say to someone, "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” (A quote from Mere Christianity...I think? Google wasn't very forthcoming with information and I haven't my book in front of me...anyway. Forgive the lack of source, Jack. I still think you are the man.)
Maybe it is a book lover thing. Maybe it is a book owner thing. Whatever it is, I think M. Bonnet and I are made from the same stuff. Some of what he writes, even in translation, is hilariously funny. Some of it, you've known all your life but find comforting to see in print. Like the fact that he too keeps lists: "lists of books to read or re-read, or of the few indispensable books I would take to a desert island." (67)
M. Bonnet begins a chapter entitled "Organizing the Bookshelves" like this: "Any person who owns several tens of thousands of books its faced with an inescapable problem: their classification." (32) Ah. A man after my own heart. He presents many ways of classifying books but ultimately ends with the solution: "combine several of these orders, allowing some latitude to one's own rules. A principle you could extend, of course, to life in general." (40)
Seriously, I want to buy this man a coffee and just sit and listen to him talk. My lack of French doesn't bother me. I'm more concerned about looking the fool, as I haven't heard of half of the books he mentions. 
If I could, I would buy a copy of this book for all of my book loving friends. In fact, the month is still young...I just might do that... 

What book would you, if you could, buy and share with all of your friends? 

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