As a life-long reader I was interested in a recent article in a major, national newspaper that focused on how nine contemporary authors arranged some of their bookshelves. I looked at the photographs and read some of the text. But I became disinterested because I had never even heard of any of the writers much less read any of their books. I pasted a copy of the article to my four sons and two never responded and the other two laughed at (with?) me. So, I placed all the communication about the article in my trash folder and forgot about it until this morning.
My modest library holds a vast range of books that are arranged by topic. The religion shelves hold books by Thomas Merton, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Elaine Pagels, C.S. Lewis, and other examiners of our spiritual selves. The western section is loaded with Wallace Stegner with many other lovers of that land such as Terry Tempest Williams. The shelves dedicated for Black studies have books by Gloria Naylor, Langston Hughes. Ernest Gaines, and other writers who are brave enough to investigate race in America. The four-tiered lawyer’s bookcase holds prized first editions and some are signed such as the treasured copy of W.S. Merwin’s last book, Garden Time. Next to that collection is a closed cabinet with English writers. Some loved first editions of Thomas Hardy’s poetry sit on the top shelf beside a modest collection of J. L. Carr. There is shelf space for nature books and political ones and biographies. It is a small, personal library, but I am pleased with it and continue to add to its growth.
So what’s the rub concerning those nine writers and their libraries?
While I did enjoy reading some of their explanations for how a particular shelf was arranged it still rankled me that I had never heard of any of them, so I went to Google and read of their successes and awards. It should be an humbling experience not to recognize the name of a best-selling author, but I felt none of that. In fact, I felt no negative sense for not ever having heard of any of the nine. I began to wonder if I am illiterate concerning current, popular authors. Am I a snob in by reading choices?
None of us, I suspect, want to be illiterate about anything and never to be accused of snobbery. But what does this self-examination of my reading choices say about me? Discerning. That fits! We all are given gifts by our Maker and discernment is one of those gifts. So, while I may not know of or have read any of the nine authors in the article, that fact says nothing about them and their writing, but it reveals that I am a discerning reader who unlike other readers does not choose to “try anything” to read. But then, there is still the chance that sometime in the future I will pick up a book by one of them and bring it home, read it, and find it one to keep and place it on a shelf in my modest library.