Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Miscellaneous: Bookshelves and Manifest Destiny (May 22, 2012)

Reading--once infected with it, there's no real cure. At least the symptoms are pleasant: Reading is a happy virus. Reading and acquiring books don't always go hand in hand--we have libraries--but I like to own the books I read, even if I sell them, trade them, or give them away once finished. I never know when I'll get around to the many books that interest me, but I like always to have something ready to go. It's a luxury, perhaps, to be able to walk into a room with bookshelves full of choices when it comes time to start something new, but it's a luxury I allow myself. It seems, however, that there's never enough space. Bookshelves fill quickly. Then books get slipped sideways into the gaps between the shelves and the tops of books below (the crack fillers). Books begin to pile up on the floor....

I decided recently the time had come to build a wall-mounted bookshelf behind the desk in my office/studio. I've been working on the project for about a week with the help of my brother, who is much better at these things than I am. It was he who suggested using European birch plywood rather than the pine I had had in mind. Pine, it turns out, tends to be poorly seasoned these days. It's usually young and wet and therefore lacking in dimensional stability. So I designed a simple bookcase seven feet wide and two feet deep, with a shelf in the middle, providing room for two long rows of books, the middle shelf supported by a divider. In the end, I decided I liked it better with only one divider (in the bottom), so I will fill the slot we made in the upper side of the middle shelf where an upper divider was to have gone.

Now that the bookcase is mostly built, I've begun to mentally fill it with the books that already need a home. I can see most of the new space disappearing almost immediately--as soon as the paint's dry. What's left of the empty space will call to me as the land of the American West called to settlers looking for living space in the 19th century. Manifest destiny.

It will be only a matter of time--and not much time--before all the new space has been filled. The crack fillers will begin to appear again. Then little stacks of books will rise here and there on furniture and on the floor, and very little will have changed.

Of course, the cat has been helping. He said something about inspecting the drop cloth....

[Update: Go here for a shot of the finished project.]


  1. I enjoyed this, Colin.

    I keep lots of books in my office now, but have no idea what I'll do when I retire. Are ebooks the solution?

  2. No, build a bookcase. Very satisfying--although, as predicted, mine's already completely full. lol


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