The Mysteries We Unlock on our Bookcases

Evolution has created many discussions about how we’ve become the species we are today. The amazing thing is that we all evolve. We evolve physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It shouldn’t be a surprise that we can do our own archeological digs in our own homes. The dig is no further than your bookcase(s).

I was listening to Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. She was interviewing a British author, Penelope Lively, a woman in her eighties and the author of Dancing Fish and Ammonites. The author shared that she had over three thousand books in her library. Gross asked her if she was accustomed to reading books a second time and that was the reason for keeping all these books.

Lively, an academic explained that she often referred back to books for research and would occasionally reread a book she loved. Gross could have just accepted that explanation, but she knew there was something deeper about keeping all those books. Lively went on to explain that her bookcase was like a timeline of her life. She could peruse the bookcases and see the evolution of her interests over time. As her interests changed so did the books she bought. Looking at her bookcase is like seeing a retrospective her life.

We’re used to seeing artists have retrospectives of the work they created. Having a retrospective of your life based on your purchases, interests, and collections are like having your own personal time capsule.

After hearing the interview with Lively I went and began to explore my own bookcases. I have books in my closet from graduate school about psychotherapy and human development. Over time I collected books on geriatrics when I was doing geriatric care management and began a PhD program in psychology focusing on geropsychology. My interests and beliefs changed and my book collection shifts to books on religion and spirituality. Then I had another shift, from traditional quilting to art quilting and the books reflect an awakening to my own creative potential.

As I continued on my journey I found a graduate school that would allow me to combine my interests in human development, spirituality, health and healing, and of course art. Eventually all of this led to my dissertation in Medical/Visual Anthropology researching Artists and Illness and the impact of their narrative on their art and autobiography. It has been amazing to explore my own evolution personally and professionally.

What does your bookcase say about your interests, your careers, or your beliefs? I’d love to hear what you have learned about yourself.

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