The bookshelf

I was forced to leave some of my belongings behind when we moved from Telemark to Nordland county in 2012, and I had to give up the rest when we moved back to my hometown Haugesund in Rogaland county two lears later. The moving truck would have cost $ 5000 and that just wasn’t an option. So while I was packing the car and our small trailer I had to accept the inevitable. Everything but my clothes had to stay behind.

I had to leave everything I had accumulated, which included Heimskringla (the Norse kings’ sagas) and Cosmos by Carl Sagan. I requested those as  Christmas gifts when I was about 14, because it would never have occured to my parents to buy that for a teenager. I also lost the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes, Jack London, Henrik Ibsen, Shakespeare and a collection of early science fiction short stories. I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to books, so I had a lot of books I had read once and wasn’t going to read again. I also had some books I had read three times, but probably wouldn’t read again ever, and I had books I had read at least a dozen times and I would probably read them another dozen times. My favourite group may have been books I didn’t read that often, but used when there was specific information I needed. These are the possessions I really miss. If I had only myself to concider clothes wouldn’t even be on my list of priorities. I would bring only books.

I am going to rebuild my library and I hope to be more selective this time. Space is also a major issue in our present apartment, so I have to think hard about what kind of books I really want. I can’t afford to have a show room. I have a feeling that many use the bookshelves in the sitting room to display the books they want people to see. Most Norwegian homes had a vast conversational lexicon prominently displayed when I was growing up. We had one too, and it had no less than 18 volumes. The point wasn’t to use it, but to give people the impression that knowledge interested you. Many people today like reading Danielle Steele, Fifty Shades of Grey, or some hopeless crime novel, but that’s not what they show people. Those books are probably hidden in the bedroom.

I recently read The House at Riverton, about five years after the first time I read it. This is one of those books I enjoyed well enough, but probably won’t read again. I’m glad those books are available in the public library, but I don’t need to own a copy myself. I suspect many feel the same way about some of the biggest successes today, such as The Hunger Games or one of the series about vampires. I am excited about British literature and authors like Eduard Morgan Forster, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Arthur Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells will definitely be in my new library. I think it’s also worth owning modern authors like J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as well as a handful of the Norwegian classics.

brain made of books
Books are the magic that makes us special. There’s a lot of magic in my mind. Pixtawan via

I am thinking about what books I want to add to my collection when I read. I recently read The Sensitive Mind by the Danish psychologist Susan Hart. It started out very promising, and the first six chapters are an introduction to how the brain is built up. The author refers to research in the rest of the book too, but that part is highly speculative. She is writing about attachment between child and caregiver, mostly the mother. She doesn’t say it directly, but sometimes she seems to indicate that autism and ADHD is nothing more than incompetent mothers. A former Norwegian minister in the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion actually made that claim in a book she wrote. Susan Hart isn’t that blunt, but she has a tendency, in my opinion, to draw hasty conclusions based on studies that remain inconclusive. Psychology is a lot of speculations, and I think that’s what Susan Hart is doing when she doesn’t distinguish between knowledge and speculation. It is nevertheless an interesting book, but it probably won’t make it to my library.

I am currently reading another, more fascinating book on the brain. Our amazing brain is not a textbook, but the authors made it clear in the preface that it’s a book that will give ordinary people the opportunity to gain a little insight into the brain’s mysteries. This book, or a similar one, will probably move into my library.

cover of analog june 2016
The June issue of my favourite magazine.

I am also looking forward to collecting science fiction again. I am reading the pulp fiction magazine Analog, which inspired great authors like Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. We have a rather diminishing term in Norwegian called “kiosk literature.” These are the kinds of books you find in petrol stations and convenient stores, although you also find books from the bestseller-list there today. Some of the titles you find hardly deserve to be called a book, but if you put authors like Isaac Asimov, H.G. Wells, Ursula Le Guin, and Philip Dick in the same category you really don’t get the philosophy and social issues side of science fiction.


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