Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Home Libraries: Diversity in the Collection

From my Home Library Mission Statement:

Item #2: My home library is a safe space, where I can relax in private, with books enriching, entertaining and utilitarian
. My library will be home to a variety of genres and forms, including literary and functional works such as cookbooks, craft books and blank books for inspiration and my own writing. Done.

Well, not really done, just, you know, in progress.

There are definitely a few things missing from my supposedly well-rounded collection. For one thing, I don't have a Bible. I should probably get one, along with a book on Catholic catechism for the reference section.

My poetry collection is hopelessly out of date because I don't really read contemporary poetry anymore. I'm probably not going to do anything about that.

As for a variety of genres, I read what I read- mostly literary fiction. Once a year I go to a science fiction convention and pick up a book or two to broaden myself a little but I'm happy leaving it at that.

I read very little nonfiction these days, almost none. I have a handful of newish nonfiction books, biographies and memoirs mainly, but I don't really seek them out. As I showed you last week, I've assembled a small collection of Jewish nonfiction as well.

Most of my nonfiction collection lives outside of my living room, in the kitchen and the spare room, which is really my craft room. I divide utilitarian books into two categories in my mind- basic books and special-topic books.

In the kitchen, basic books include things like the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, which is one of those old-school catch-all cookbooks with recipes for everything from cookies to sauces to stews. It'll tell you how long to roast a chicken and how to make elaborate meals from scratch. I never learned to cook from my family so it's the kind of book I need, and I've referred to it many times. A special-topic book would be something like Fran├žois Payard's Chocolate Epiphany, a book of challenging chocolate recipes.

On the crafting side, I have a couple of key reference books- The Encyclopedia of Needlework, Heirloom Machine Quilting and Your First Quilt Book (or it should be!) plus a solid collection of other quilting and embroidery books on special topics like miniatures or paper piecing.

What's to do here? Not much. My nonfiction collection meets my needs in terms of breadth and depth, for the most part, though there are a few gaps left to fill. Do you see gaps in your collection? Where?


J.C. Montgomery said...

I think the most glaring hole in my diversity is poetry.

Besides what I may have in my Norton Anthologies, all I have is Sylvia Plath. (I made a point to get a copy of Ariel after reading the Bell Jar).

Thing is, I know so little of it, I would feel lost trying to build up a section. Yet, I don't feel it would hurt to at least at some Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Frost, etc. as classic poetry is pretty much what I feel most comfortable with.

bermudaonion said...

I have no blank books and no poetry. I do have a variety of genres and some non-fiction.

Zibilee said...

I think it's so neat that you are going full force to get your library where you want it to be. Do you have a lot of space for books? I know that one of the things that keeps my library from being organized is the sheer volume of books that I have. I live in a fairly small space, and have books crowding in every room. The kids have their own shelves and stacks, and my husband and I take over the rest of the space with our books. I do wish I lived in a bigger space!

Sorry, that was off topic!

I don't have very many reference books or non-fiction, so I guess that's where my hole would be!

Anonymous said...

I don't feel I have a hole in my book collection, as it is filled with the genres I want, and the authors I want.

Nice post, Marie.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I have very little diversity as far as genre, mostly literary fiction, mysteries and memoirs. Those are my 3 favorites. I have a few history books, art books, cookbooks and other non fiction but I don't buy a lot of that anymore.

My "library" right now consists of a lot of piles.

Vasilly said...

When it comes to my collection, I think I need more diversity. I don't have enough books by writers of color, non-Americans, or translations. I would love more books by small presses.

When it comes to the poetry part of my collection, there are a few books I would like to add. I really would rather sit down to read what I already have instead of buying more right now!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I would have thought you grew up cooking, with all the wonderful treats you post about baking! Apparently the cookbooks (and technique books) serve you well!

I have a fairly diverse collection of what I enjoy reading (lit fiction, personal memoir, social history), but have definite holes when it comes to poetry, military history, science fiction ... we could use an updated dictionary and other reference books, too.

Alayne said...

All I see in this post is a picture of books followed by a picture of melting chocolate. YUM! :)

Alayne - The Crowded Leaf

Anonymous said...

one of these times my book budget will catch up to my "want to own" list. Ideally I would like to fill in more of my NW authors, and though I read graphic novels/comics more and more, I own relatively few.