10th November, 2022

Bookish Stuff: "Bookshelf Tourism"

Do you know the situation? You're at another person's house, may it be a friend or merely an aquaintance, your eye falls on their bookshelf and immediately you can feel your neck making that characteristic turn to the side that enables you to read the titles on the spines. It could just be something that automatically happens without you meaning to, and sometimes that can be a bit embarassing, especially when you don't know the person well and you can see in their eyes that they are beginning to wonder about your sanity. In those case, however, you'll know that you don't have a true book lover in front of you, because - let's be honest - anyone who's a booknerd would totally understand and recognize that motion from experience.

Sometimes you very deliberately visit people to have a look at their bookshelves. Some of the people I've met through bookish social media sites (mainly Bookstagram and Litsy) and who I've then met in real life have at some point suggested something like "Why don't we have breakfast at my place? Then you can have a browse through my shelves." One of these friends was actually also the one who introduced me to the term "bookshelf tourism", and I think that phrase perfectly describes this phenomenon: visiting a fellow bookworm to check out their shelves. 

It is something very personal to give someone access to your library. They are going to witness a part of your own history, books that have had an impact on your life at a certain point in time and of course they might handle some of your precious literary treasures. My friend (the one I mentioned above) and I have in common that we are very particular about who gets to borrow books from us. Call me finicky but I hate it when people just brutally grab my books off the shelves. Maybe even with greasy fingers because they've been eating the snacks I put on the table. I hate it when they open them randomly - maybe even breaking the spine (The horror, the horror!!) - and then shove them back with that slightly raised eyebrow. Yes, I'm aware of the fact that others might find my reaction weird, but I think the true booklover will understand.

So what my friend and I share is that we handle our books lovingly, like we would an infant baby, that we admire them for works of art and that we take care of them. With her I can trust that my books are in good hands and that I won't get them back with ear-marked pages, coffee stains or tattered covers. And yes, all of that has happened with other people I lent books to in the past. So yes, call me strange but I will only let you borrow my books when I know you'll handle them like I would. That's just the way things are in this house and even my son already understands the value of books. To finish off with the wise words of an 8yo: "Books are precious because they make you think awesome stories in your head. And they are pretty so that you must carry them carefully." There? It's that easy. :-)

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