The “Private” Library

Reading has been slow these last few weeks.  So my apologies, dear readers.  More reviews are in the works – promise.

I’ve been thinking a lot about personal libraries of late, and not just my own (though I do have design drawings for bookshelves I’m planning for the living room).  It started with Phantoms on the Bookshelves, which made me reconsider the value of a working over a collector’s library.  Now a friend is renovating a beach house and plans to dedicate an entire room to books.  Doesn’t that sound brilliant?  She loves to entertain, travels a lot and has friends from all over the world who will be coming to enjoy the ocean.  My solution?  A library built almost entirely of paperbacks that can be taken back and forth from the beach – with an emphasis on international and translated authors. Nothing to cerebral or precious.  Here’s a version of the perfect beach house library –

  • complete works of John le Carre & Ian Fleming,
  • rows of New Directions and Open Letter paperbacks
  • Philippe Claudel
  • Cesar Aira
  • Haruki Murakami
  • Roberto Bolano
  • Umberto Eco
  • some nonfiction books on World War 2 (because, for some unexplainable reason, even people who aren’t interested in history will read about WWII).
  • a copy of HhHH by Laurent Binet, perhaps?
  • back-issues of The Paris Review
  • every Calvin & Hobbes paperback collection ever published.
  • Alain Mabanckou
  • anything written by or about a Mitford sister
  • Moby Dick

The library may just exist in my imagination, but I’m working on a personalized bookplate (with a note on where to return lost books) as a surprise housewarming gift.

If Dan Simmon’s Drood is to be believed, and I can’t imagine why not, Charles Dickens would leave specially chosen books on the bedside tables of overnight guests.

Continuing on with the theme – on my journeys through the internet I discovered THE PRIVATE LIBRARY and Jumel Terrace Books.  Kurt Thometz curates and develops libraries for the rich and famous in NYC, with a client list that includes Diana Vreeland, Calvin Klein, Fran Lebowitz and Diane Sawyer.  His blog, though not updated as much as I’d like (pot meet kettle!), is filled with fascinating insights on books, book collecting and the inexhaustible topic of cataloging and organization.  Any bibliophile worthy of the name should have this page bookmarked.  As for Jumel Terrace – it’s a bookshop in Harlem that specializes in local history (by which I think they mean Harlem), African and African-American subjects/literature.  It’s also a Bed & Breakfast that shares an entrance with the bookshop.

The guestroom at our house has a fully stocked bookcase.  I’m in trouble if someone ever starts a book and then *shudder* wants to take it home to finish.

I know it’s an oddball topic.  Still.  Have you ever stayed at a hotel, inn, b&b or just a friend’s house that had an amazing library?

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4 thoughts on “The “Private” Library

  1. This is my chance to brag… 🙂

    I had dreamed of bookshelves in my home, especially after having small built0in bookshelves in my old apartment. I have 12-foot ceilings, so my dining room was perfect for a library. It was finished last March, and I love it. I want some crown molding still, but it’s a fantastic space. Rich color, comfy chairs, Oriental rug, and books books books.

    I love looking at libraries and thinking about them.


  2. I haven’t stayed in many places with particularly amazing libraries (sidenote: the inclusion of Philippe Claudel = awesome), but I’m embarrassed to admit that I did once borrow twelve or so books from an old family friend. It took me almost five years to return the last of the books. I have learned since then that I am clearly not to be trusted with other people’s books…


    1. I try not to borrow books, for just that reason. I’m als0 hesitant to lend them out. I once lent a beautiful hardcover book to my old boss and when he returned it, it looked like he’d left it in the bathroom while someone was showering!!


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