For a long time, I’ve avoided collecting too much stuff. I buy Kindle versions of books whenever possible, but there is a small shelf for the few books I have carried around with me over the years. My son, who is not quite two years old, will sometimes rummage through my books and leave them in a heap once he realizes there are no pictures, but it made me remember what my own father’s bookshelf was like for me.
I’m pretty sure I found Calvin and Hobbes on his bookshelf, and I ended up reading it countless times as I grew up. I found The Hobbit, which led to The Lord of the Rings, and then whatever other high fantasy I could get my hands on. I found The Royal Road to Card Magic, and my interest in card magic ended up being a pretty big part of my life after that. I didn’t read Gödel, Escher, Bach, but I recognized it from that bookshelf when I was introduced to it many years later.
A bookshelf creates serendipity. I encountered those books early, before anybody would have thought, “Ah, I know just the book that would interest this young man.” And discovering something of my dad’s and taking it for myself was much more exciting than being told, “Hey come look at this thing I liked when I was your age.”
So, since I’m the father now, I went and bought a big bookshelf for myself. I want to go through my parents’ storage to reclaim my favorite books, and I’ll slowly fill out my own bookshelf with books I think are worth keeping around – just in reach for my kids to discover on their own.