Shelfing with Granny!


Before I get into My Big Day, let me drop a note here about myself.  I hate housework.  I do it.  I’m a mom, and a wife, and an adult, which all means that I can’t avoid housework.  (Hey, I’m a feminist, I’m not saying that wives have to do the housework.  My hubby and I split the work.  I’m just saying, being married means that you’re counted on to do at least your fair share, right?)  It’s inevitable.  I just hate it even while I’m doing it.

What I do love, that some might find tedious, is organizing bookshelves!  When I’m feeling Zen, I tear my own apart, analyze my need to keep them, then reorganize them and take pictures.  I’m sure many of you bookworms out there are the same way, but in my real world I stand alone in my quirk.  That means that when my family or friends need books reshelved they call me.

Today, on My Big Day, I went shelfing at Grandma’s house!   Or Granny as my daughter calls her.

I thought about including a before picture, but you wouldn’t have been able to see the disarray.  The World War II books were mixed with Fiction.  Depression Era books were mixed among Mysteries.  WWI books among her massive amount of Holiday cookbooks/novellas/anecdote books.  Oddly enough my mother, who initially helped her load the shelf, managed to get all the knitting books together.  It’s actually not odd at all.  It’s just like my mother!  She’s not a bookworm, she’s a knitter/sewer (one who sews).


Anyway, as we sat together and sorted them it was nice to hear all her stories about how she got each one, or why it held a special meaning for her.  Some of them had little newspaper clippings taped or stuck inside them, and a lot of them had handwritten notes inside the front flap from family members who we’ve lost.  Most of them were older books, and  I couldn’t resist snapping a couple pictures of some of the vintage covers.

While I’m a stickler for sizing, Grandma was more interested in making sure all her subjects were together so there was a lot of organizing, but eventually it was just how she likes it on her shelf.  The whole thing took us a couple hours, and after we went out to lunch.  (We share a love of Pad Thai and wine.  Grandma with wine, me with water.)

I love spending time with my Grandma, and I think we had a lot of fun.  Now I can’t help but wonder if someday my grandchildren will be sitting around my bookshelf, helping me, and looking at all my novels.  Do I have an interesting history with any of my books, outside of just how much I love them.  I don’t actually have many books that were given to me as a gift, and I don’t think I have any with clippings or handwritten notes inside them.   (Not true, I have one.  From my Grandma.)

Is it possible that even though we all love our books, have we lost the intimacy of sharing a copy of beloved books with our family and friends?  It makes me want to rush out and buy books for people.  It makes me want to gift someone a book with a cherished message inside, because sitting with my Grandma today made me realize that it’s a really wonderful way to hold onto those we love even after they’re gone.

Granny’s Finished Shelf

Do any of you have special books? Have you gifted a book to a loved one? Did you inherit your love of books from someone? And if so, have you ever sat and talked with them about their literary memories?

About Birdie

Don’t look for her in any bar, club, crazy raging party, or anywhere there may be a large gathering of strangers. She’s more likely to be found tucked into the corner of the couch watching one of her favorite shows, or preferably under a comforter with her current novel.

10 Responses

  1. This is such a beautiful post! Having recently lost my grandfather, I wish now I had taken the time to talk to him more and really get to know him.

    I love the idea of passing down books through the generations and writing notes in books given as gifts. We did this for my niece at my sister’s baby shower – all the guests wrote a note to the baby, and now my sister has this beautiful keepsake that she can share with her daughter in the future!


  2. tcriggs

    What a lovely post! And how neat! Isn’t it awesome to find those little extras written in old books or stuck between the pages? As far as where I get my love of books? My parents were casual readers, but still considered books to be important, and we were taken to the library often growing up – and both read to us when we were little.

    They didn’t ‘collect’ books, or purchase a lot of them, but we had a fairly large (considering how much we moved around, it was a lot to pack up… lol) collection of books like encyclopedias, old text books, etc. that both had inherited throughout the years from other family members. So, I don’t know where I got the desire to rescue old books from obscurity. hmm…


  3. This is lovely! I have to say I hate housework too but organising bookshelves doesnt count as housework in my head, it’s more like an extention of a hobby. I’m sure people who collect ornaments dont mind dusting them. The question of intimacy with books is a good one. Part of me wants to do things like write in books to make them my own but I’m worried about damaging them and then having to buy new copies or that if I plan to give it away in a charity shop or something, I’d doubt anyone who goes in to buy a book would want one full of notes.


  4. It’s so great that you and your gram can bond over this! My mom was always the reader in my family. My Nana and I bonded over baking. I spent an afternoon with her some years ago and she gave me her original recipe cards that she’s had for years. And I’ve mastered her molasses cookies recipe! My Grammie and I always bonded over cards. She used to teach me card games that my Grampie learned when he was in the Navy.


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