What Kind of Library Are You Building?

March 16, 2016

Early in our marriage, I received counsel. “You can skimp on most things, but don’t skimp on tools and good books.”

We have since built a library for the boys. We made sure they had how-to books, history books, biographies, inspirational books, and classics. We tried to include adventure, and those that challenged boys to become men. We have commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, counseling books, textbooks. See what the books the boys consistently liked to read.

Some books were acquired when someone else moved and couldn’t take them. Some never read.

It’s hard to guess what one boy will relish and another will ignore. One of our boys couldn’t be forced to read a fiction book. He would listen as we read, but wouldn’t waste his own effort on one. But give him a manual on how a car runs and he would devour it.

Another read manuals on how to get better milk production.

Another devoured books like Knowing God.

So much for preparing our library…how was I to know?

My husband likes the classics and history, rereading books from cover to cover, including the copyright page.

Now that the boys are leaving, and I’m scaling down, I wonder how to part with all these books?

I stand in our library (now serving as a bedroom, school room, guest room, and multipurpose storage room) and feel the loss, before any books leave my shelves.

What books have become best friends? Worth re-reading?

Over the years, my tastes have changed. When I was in high school, my mom provided us with book after book of Danny Orlis. He was a teenager who grew up in the wilderness of Minnesota and became a missionary in South America. Now when I read the book to the boys, I wonder how I could have liked them.

When my husband was deployed, I read a book in a night, escaping to another place with different problems that could be solved in one night’s time. The day would come and my problems would still be there, yet not so much, for my problems seemed little when I learned of another’s in another time. Mine seemed bearable now because of someone who lived before me.

Now with the “knowledge of how books should be written,” I’m more critical of the books I read. This one has a passive verb. That one didn’t have enough dialogue. This one had too much description and not enough action. How did I enjoy these books of the past with so many flaws by today’s standards?

Or I would read book after book to the boys, where we learned how a young boy grew to be a man. The boys would beg for another chapter. Afternoons where time stood still as we shivered in a cold land in the middle of our hot summer. We struggled together, somehow feeling like we had lived through it together.

Some of the boys’ books were good for just a time in their life. There was only so many Hardy Boy books that I could read back to back before I requested something else for a change. But others like Little Britches gave surprises and unexpected adventure.

Best friends…teachers...but my boys have moved on.

I removed some books; they left no pang in my heart, for they had only took up space on the shelf, but did not hold a place in our hearts. But those books that I picked up and remembered the lives lived during the reading…those were the friends that would be kept, at least for now. Those books which spoke to my heart, caused me to change, to think, to grow…I kept those.

When I have been asked to review books, I give five-star rating only to those which I would be willing to purchase (not borrow), and reread. When I evaluate why I would keep them, I realize that the Bible’s standard still holds sway: “whatsoever things are true, just, of good report, if they be of any virtue, any praise, think on these things.”

The article that I re-printed “The Case for Good Taste in Children's Fiction” still helps to be a standard. Guess that’s why many of the classics still stand on my shelf. They do not conform to today’s fast pace writing, they describe a setting too much, but they also tell of real life, how good still conquers evil, hope still reigns, and God still wins making life worth living.

My library has some empty spaces on its shelves now, but when I go to the shelves, my heart still stirs for I know that hope is waiting for me.

It’s like coming home.

Displaying 1 comment

We borrowed almost every book our kids read, but as you say, there are certain ones that touch the heart. Both of our boys have the whole Little Britches series because of how much it meant to them. (Books are great Christmas and birthday gifts.) Reading out loud really brings a book to life, and as you said, the younger play on the floor and listen too. It's such a great bonding for a family.
When I moved the hardest thing to give away were my books. Had to tell myself that the worthwhile ones needed to be read by others and if I'm not going to read them again, they must go. So they did. Thanks as always, Sonya, for your ideas.

I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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