Thursday, December 10, 2015

Ryan W. Bradley’s Library: Sharing the Space

Reader:  Ryan W. Bradley
Location:  Southern Oregon
Collection Size:  I’m worried it may be a number mathematicians have yet to discover.
The one book I’d run back into a burning building to rescue:  Well, lucky for me most of the books that have been the most important to me are fairly slim, so I’d cheat and grab more than one: The Old Man and The Sea, Benjamin Tammuz’s Minotaur, The Journey of Ibn Fattouma by Naguib Mahfouz, Wanting Only to Be Heard by Jack Driscoll, and The Captain’s Verses by Neruda.
Favorite book from childhood:  In some sort of chronology ending in high school: Where the Wild Things Are, the My Father’s Dragon trilogy, the Redwall series, T. A. Barron’s books, Hemingway, the poetry of Langston Hughes, High Fidelity, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and House of Leaves.
Guilty pleasure book:  I’ve been trying to parse what a guilty pleasure book would be. I’m very picky (some would say snobby), but when you only have so much time to read you should try to hone in on what you’re most likely to enjoy. I have a lot of fun reading the Lemony Snicket books with my younger son, so much so that I think I would continue reading them on my own if he ever gets over them, so maybe that’s the closest.

We’re lucky to live in a house with amazing built-in bookshelves in the living room. I could easily fill them with my own collection of books, but having kids and a wife I share. Somewhat begrudgingly. I take up 12 of the 18 shelves. 11 of those are filled with books (1-1/2 of which are “to-read”), the 12th with my vinyl collection. I use more shelf space in the house than my wife and two kids combined. I do feel a bit bad about this, but on the other hand: Books! I have, over the years, learned to share books with my wife, though I think it still makes her nervous, especially since when I read I do my very best not to bend the spines. People have often told me it looks like books I own haven’t been read.

A lot of people associate obsessive-compulsive disorder with a few well-trodden stereotypes. Excessive hand washing, checking locks or light switches, or hyper-organization. But OCD behaviors can really come in any stripe. My OCD presents itself in many ways (including lock-checking and organizational issues), but also stranger things like intense unease with writing in books, folding pages, cracking spines, and more. My excessive organization is selective, though, which is where the stereotype really derails. While the majority of my books are organized alphabetically by author and broken into prose and poetry (formerly, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry), I also have so much spillover that there are shelves that are just mishmashes of books that don’t, for one reason or another, go on my main shelves.

I am a collector, though not in a fancy, first edition Faulkner way, and not to the point of hoarding, but not far off when it comes to books, CDs, or movies. I have gotten better at culling my collections, but probably only because space is limited. Used books (library included) make me uncomfortable and I find review copies disappointing (I want the real thing!), so when I can I buy my books new.

I rarely think about my books in a quantitative way, but when I set out to take these pictures I was forced to realize fully how many books I own and how they’ve spread to every place I can shelve or stack them without having them destroyed by my 7 year old or our dog, and without annoying my wife to a breaking point. My closet is filled with oversized books, art books, graphic novels and comics, and a whole shelf of Artistically Declined Press overstock. A shelf in my “office” is filled with miscellany; chapbooks, review copies, books I’ve saved to read with my younger son when he’s a little older, books I’ve designed, and the odd extra copies of my own books, not to mention a few autographed audiobooks that have been a perk of my day job. Over on my desk which is really a glorified shelving unit itself, is a stack of books I bought for research on a gestating novel I hope to write one day when I figure out how to stop saying yes to other projects or just manage my time better. (Do I really need to re-watch West Wing for the third time in 2.5 years? Why yes, yes I do.)

I’ve always wanted a house with a library (and a hidden passage through a bookshelf). Maybe one day when my kids are grown and there are empty rooms in our house I can install floor to ceiling shelves on every wall and create little mini libraries. And then I could cut a hole in the wall between the rooms and create a bookshelf door at least? Dare to dream.

Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing But the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.

My Library is an intimate look at personal book collections.  Readers are encouraged to send high-resolution photos of their home libraries or bookshelves, along with a description of particular shelving challenges, quirks in sorting (alphabetically? by color?), number of books in the collection, and particular titles which are in the To-Be-Read pile.  Email for more information.

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