A recommendation: Surround yourself with books

I live in a bookcase challenged house. There’s never enough space on the bookshelves for all the books. Books lie in piles on bedside tables and line up in neat rows on bedroom floors. If I read a book a week and two on Sundays, I might get through them all in this lifetime. That’s a funny thought—that I might never have time to read all the books in my own house. I’ll think about that on my way to the library to check out a book to read.

But I can’t bear to part with all these books I’ve never read. They’re still old friends, holding their places on the bookshelves, tempting me with possibilities, and gathering dust.

Something about books—they attract dust faster than bare skin attracts mosquitoes. If you want to clean the rest of your house, just pile a few books in the middle of a room. The dust will flock to the books and leave the rest of the room spotless. That’s assuming, of course, that you have a room that doesn’t have any books in it already. Not in this house.

This brings up an important question. How is it that the books in the public library remain dust-free? Have you ever pulled a book off the library shelves and felt the need to dust it off before browsing through it? I wonder if they have a full-time employee whose job description reads, “Dust the books—no other duties will be assigned.” I’ve never seen anyone wandering the aisles with a feather duster, though. Or maybe the library has a special air circulating system that sucks up all the dust and recycles it into bookmarks or something. I wonder if I could get one of those for my house . . .

So every now and then (more then than now, really) I take all the books off the shelves and dust each one individually. That’s when I observe a peculiar characteristic of books. They take up more space on the floor than they do on the bookshelves. Have you ever noticed this phenomenon? Remember Parkinson’s Law, that adage which states that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion? I’d like to propose Barnhill’s Law: Books expand when removed from the bookcase.

For example, an average bookcase can hold approximately thirty books per shelf, more if they’re paperbacks, and way more if they’re children’s books. (Yeah, I just went and counted. It’s called “research.”) If your bookcase has five shelves, that’s one hundred and fifty books right there. Those one hundred and fifty books don’t take up much space at all on the wall. But take them out and dust them, and they’ll fill up your entire floor. It must be some kind of mob mentality or something. In the bookcase the books are carefully controlled, kept in rigid order and taken out one at a time only. But let them all loose on the floor at once, and they go wild. They spread out to take over every available space, teetering in piles and waiting to trip you up. You think your entire life is filled with nothing but books. Then they slip into their places again, miraculously fitting back into that small space, and you’ve got your old friends back again.

Occasionally this dusting ritual does lead to culling a few books from the inventory. One time I resolved to decimate the bookshelves, getting rid of one book for every ten that I owned. What was I thinking? That plan soon morphed to getting rid of one book per shelf—still too hard. I settled for identifying ten books that I could part with. I still look for those books from time to time—not to read them necessarily, but to refer to them, to look at a picture or something. I miss them.

I know I’m not alone in my passion for books. My friend’s recent e-mail says it all: “I did thin out my books recently as there were a few I knew I would never reread, so now I have room for new books.”

She’s got the right idea.


Thanks for attending fundraiser at the Goldtown

On behalf of Congregation Sukkat Shalom, I would like to thank all those who attended the Fiddler on the Roof singalong at the Goldtown Nickelodeon on Dec. 25. We raised close to $700 which we donated to the American Civil Liberties Union, whose mission is to protect the personal liberties we all cherish and defend freedom every day all across America in every state.

Read more

Recognition: Vandor makes Northern Arizona University Dean’s List

Kathryn Vandor, daughter of Karl and Gale Vandor, received notice from Paul Jagodzinski, Dean of the Northern Arizona University (NAU) College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences, that she has been placed on the Dean’s List.

Read more

Thanks to Juneau laywer Ben Brown for his exceptional volunteerism

I write to thank Juneau lawyer Ben Brown for his service to the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. In recognition, we have named Ben our ANDVSA volunteer attorney of the month.

Read more

Lutheran Church seeks handbell choir members

Tired of pumping iron? How about pumping bronze?

Read more


  • Switchboard: 907-586-3740
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-586-3740
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Business Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-523-2230
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback