(here’s a sample of my growing pile of books on my bedroom floor. is this art?)
When I wake up every morning, my glance almost always goes to the pile of books on the floor of my room or next to me on my nightstand. I’ve got them divided into piles of “read” and “not read”, and I’m extremely careful to not let a single book spill into another pile. When I was in school, my growing pile of books were always on the windowsill, and I could always time my roommate’s sighs whenever I came back from the bookstore. My books during my college years were always spilling into different piles. If I looked at my book organization habits on a deeper level, I’m sure it would be really easy to come up with an answer to why books played such a pivotal role in how I perceive the world around me, and how they have become symbols of various points in my life.
My earliest memories revolve around books; my parents read to me as part of my nightly routine; I would sit on my mother’s bed surrounded by a huge wicker basket of my favorite books, and they would take turns reading the same books over and over to me, night after night. I loved going to the library to look at a huge book with Big Bird on the cover; I asked to go to the library often because it was a reference book and I was pretty disappointed to learn I couldn’t check it out!
Reading became a vital part of my identity during school especially in those years when I thought I had none. I would literally walk into walls during class change and my teachers’ pronunciation of my name began to sound like “Taaaaaaaaylor” because my nose would always be buried in books. I took comfort in reading books because they became a source of escapism during the awkwardness of middle school, and the later angst of high school. My first kiss with my high school crush was in a Books-A-Million.
When I started college, I stopped reading. Partly because I was so busy, but I think it was because I was pretty lost. When you get to college it’s common to try to cultivate an identity for yourself and later realize some elements of it don’t really add up with who you really are. There was a point in time when I got so wrapped up in trying to “live in the moment” and become part of someone else’s reality that I forgot what it felt like to have my own identity. Of course living your life and undergoing a period of discovery is vital to growing up, but it can also mean growing apart from elements of life which you hold dear, and make you who you are as a person. It also does not help when you know that the person you were with never read the books you bought as gifts.
Half read books with bookmarks jammed in the middle of their pages became a symbol of my dissatisfaction and the inability to have control over my life. When I finally realized I needed to make a full lifestyle change in the fall of last year, I realized I began to finish books again. I started to track my progress by how organized my book pile was. The aforementioned pile of books on my windowsill might’ve been only a symbol of my inability to be organized, but I think my roommate could definitely tell by the growing pile that something was up; if the books started to fall, she would always make fun of me, but not before having a reassuring life-talk.
My inability to keep books on a shelf might be an irritant to a future roommate or spouse, but I am really excited about my growing collection. The “read” and “unread” piles are a source of excitement and a symbol of the progressing “organized chaos” in which I live my life. They are a reminder that life and circumstances always change, but there are always pieces of comfort around and reminders of your sense of self. My grandfather likes to jokingly ask me if I’ve read War and Peace yet- I always like to respond with some warble about my “war and peace”- my bookshelf.