Skip to content

Where to keep the books?

This is my dilemma. I have an office with ample shelf space where I could easily house the large part of my library, thus having it with me every day during the work week. This would also have the advantage of having my books on-hand while doing editorial work. However, I have this deep-seated fear of not having my books at home, close at hand in my place of living. However my room can’t take any more books. Hence the conundrum.

Now, obviously these questions are of the utmost importance. Though it may seem trivial to some, the location of one’s library is actually a thing of massive significance that cannot be settled on lightly. So, with that in mind, what are folks’ different philosophies about where to locate your books? Home or office? Or home office, I suppose. Regardless, I pose the question to you all. Where should one’s books reside?


  1. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    I have a sweet home office where I keep pretty much all of my books. I have like 12 books on the shelf at my office at work, which is at a university. The silly thing is that I don’t spend much time working in either office. In the end I do most of my reading and writing at coffee shops.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 10:18 am | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    You are SO a hipster.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink
  3. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    It is all about image, man.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 10:53 am | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    It’s the only way to achieve our true goal. Getting really, really fucking rich.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 10:55 am | Permalink
  5. kim fabricius wrote:

    I work out of my study – there is no “office” at my church – so all my books are here. Like R.O, I too do some reading at a coffee shop in town (which I try to pop into for an hour or so most days, and where, as a regular, they always give me an extra shot), and the rest in the living room while my wife is watching reality TV shows (background noise – … okay, sometimes I peek). I do some writing at the coffee shop – I don’t have a laptop, so they keep me supplied with paper napkins – but most of it in the study at the PC.

    My big probem is that the shelves in my study are well over-full, and the floor-stacking now constitutes a health hazzard (all you guys are to blame with your great references and recommendations, while amazon is laughing), so I have begun to discard books. Which raises an interesting, if off-thread, question: if you had to start ditching books, which would be the first to go? I started with Don Cupitt …

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink
  6. Nick Norelli wrote:

    In your home. If ever you’re on vacation from work you’ll be away from your books. If ever you’re home sick you’ll be away from your books. If ever you get another job you’ll have to move all of your books again. But if home is where the heart is, then it’s where the books should be too.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink
  7. I keep my “professional” library (philosophy, theology, social science) in my office library and sort of rotate a small working collection of that in my home office. But I keep all my novels and poetry at home. For me, this is also about trying to create some boundaries between “work” and “home.”

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  8. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Kim, I wish you were one of the regulars at the coffee shop I frequent. I’m convinced that it is one of the greatest places on earth (and I think you’d agree). As much as the theoblogosphere helps me to think through stuff, I have to say some of my favorite interlocutors are the other regulars at the coffee shop, many of whom have become lifelong dear friends. This is why I do my writing and studying there (and the fact that my office is connected to my 2 year old son’s bedroom!)

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 12:29 pm | Permalink
  9. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    I should also say that my office at work is one made special for new adjunct faculty, which basically means I get a corner of someone else’s office.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  10. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Which is precisely why I drive a Volvo with headlight wipers. I’m simply anticipating my proper telos.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  11. Nathan Smith wrote:

    I literally work in a closet. :-)

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  12. Halden wrote:

    This is also one of the things I’m weighing.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Permalink
  13. Doug Harink wrote:

    I buy two copies of everything. No choices are necessary.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Permalink
  14. Halden wrote:

    Well, that’s one option…that I can’t yet afford.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  15. Hill wrote:

    I remember when I was a child, I intuited that the presence of headlight wipers on the car of your parents was the dividing line between the haves and the have-nots.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Permalink
  16. roger flyer wrote:

    Ahem…R.O., you have not made mention of THE new greatest coffee-shop on earth. (Please, ashameless plug right NOW!)


    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 6:06 pm | Permalink
  17. roger flyer wrote:

    wait, i think i just saw the shadow of jack lewis move through MY NEW coffee-shop…

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 6:07 pm | Permalink
  18. Ben Myers wrote:

    My set-up is exactly the same as Jamie Smith’s.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 6:35 pm | Permalink
  19. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Yup, I’m sure Kim would love the Burly man.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 7:27 pm | Permalink
  20. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Yeah, well, for Doug teaching theology is kind of a part-time gig, right? Remember, he does live in Alberta. I guess I just assumed that meant he spent most of his time working the oil rigs and bringing huge cash.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 7:31 pm | Permalink
  21. CCW wrote:

    I’m the same as Jamie and Ben. I used to have all of my books at home, in a spacious room filled with light. But with two kids, who now use my former office as a playroom, and the desperate need to make a clear distinction between home and work, I made the move a couple of years ago. Now, if I want to get work done at home, I have to work hard at it, which means there has to be a deadline or something of that sort. I find this helps keep my wife and I sane. Though, Ry’s coffee shop sounds pretty sweet!

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 8:45 pm | Permalink
  22. Halden wrote:

    Don’t even joke about that stuff, Roger.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Permalink
  23. Mike W wrote:

    When my books are in my study, I’m working on them. When the books are in the house, they are working on me. I like the second one

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 10:40 pm | Permalink
  24. Nate Kerr wrote:

    It sounds as if my set-up is the same as that of Jamie, Ben, and CCW. Though I have to admit I’m not very good at maintaining boundaries between “home” and “work,” and since most of my writing is done from my home office, the rotation is such that I generally have as many books at home as at school. This system of rotation only works, however, insofar as I am regularly going into the office. There are many a nights in my home office that I find myself needing to resource a book that is on my shelf at school, in which I would be at a loss were I not going into the office the following day or soon thereafter. This has led me to start buying duplicate copies of certain texts I find myself going back to most often, to be kept in both offices. Though it is doubtful I’ll ever get to the point of purchasing two copies of everything as Doug does, I do let myself imagine duplicate libraries at home and office, on occasion.

    Like Jamie, all of my fiction, biographies, poetry, history, etc. are at home, too.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 1:07 am | Permalink
  25. kim fabricius wrote:

    I am puzzled not by the boundary between the domestic and the professional, but by its elision with a boundary between poetry and theology…

    Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 2:56 am | Permalink
  26. I can see the point of Kim’s worry–this could feel like a kind of Rortyan distinction between the public and private. For me, it’s simply functional (and slightly pathological): I *wish* the poetry and literature I had at home *was* my “profession.” I can remember when I was only happy reading philosophy and theology, and thus my “recreational” reading was also professional reading. Now, I have to confess, most of the time I read philosophy and theology because I “have” to–because it’s my “job.” It’s a great job and good work, and I do feel like it would be bolting to Tarshish to neglect that calling. But that doesn’t mean I don’t *want* to. And so the literature and poetry at home is aspirational.

    I sometimes dream about whether we might be able to reinvent theological genres that would blur these distinctions. I experiment with this ever so slightly in a book I just finished, “Thinking in Tongues: Outline of a Pentecostal Philosophy.” And I think Hauerwas’ new memoir is a perfectly theological vehicle–indeed, memoir might be exactly the genre Stanley’s been looking for.

    But if we could pull that off, my library system would have to be (happily) re-arranged.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 5:17 am | Permalink
  27. myles wrote:

    Hauerwas memoir? Details.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 9:08 am | Permalink
  28. Doug Harink wrote:

    By the way, I was kidding about the 2-of-each-thing…But yeah, R.O., working on the rigs 40 hrs a week helps pay for the books I do buy, and lets me buy the wine and scotch I like. It also keeps me out of trouble, theologically speaking.

    Since I do almost all of my work in my very spacious, light-filled office (with an en-suite full washroom — I’m not kidding about that!), I have almost all of my theological library there. Strangely, though, I keep most of my Schleiermacher collection at home (I have a nice three volume set of his Briefe), I guess since I don’t consult it much anymore even though he was one of the subjects of my dissertation. And I keep a very handsome set of Harnack’s Dogmengeschichte prominently displayed in my home library — previously owned by E. C. Hoskyns, including his marginalia. Maybe not faux library, but it’s definitely there to impress.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 10:11 am | Permalink
  29. Halden wrote:

    At this point I’m leaning towards bringing everything to my office that may be of some aid to editorial work (theological works likely to be cited by authors, etc.).

    Fiction, poetry, biography, cooking, and books I’m currently working on intentionally or couldn’t bear to be parted with for any length of time will remain at home.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 10:25 am | Permalink
  30. Chris Donato wrote:

    I keep my “theological” books at the office; most of my “literature” is at home. That, by the way, is an unfortunate testimony of the state of most theological writing.

    If I were single with no kids, this might be a conundrum. I try very hard not to “work” at home.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 10:35 am | Permalink
  31. Chris Donato wrote:

    Well, what’s the core, the backbone of your library? In theory, for me (keeping in mind that image is everything, as noted above), it’s ANF and NPNF and the various masterpieces of world literature.

    What is on the opposite end of that continuum? Start with those.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 10:47 am | Permalink
  32. Andrew wrote:

    I suddenly wish, very strongly, to have books in my office. Perhaps that would help subdue the self-destructive mania of being an English major working in finance. I would probably have to do the opposite of your plans, Halden, stocking an office bookshelf with escapist fiction and mixology manuals. At the very least I would be able to read about drinking at work.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  33. Ben Myers wrote:

    Doug: “previously owned by E. C. Hoskyns, including his marginalia”. Tell me more! Are the marginalia interesting? A friend in the UK is writing a book which includes a section on Hoskyns (a strange and tragic figure). Anything in your marginalia that would be of interest to his research…?

    Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Permalink
  34. chris wrote:

    “Where should one’s books reside?”
    At the public library. It took me a long time to learn that I don’t have to possess a book in order to find it and read it again. What isn’t handy, can with patience, be gotten as needed. Interlibrary loan is a wonderful thing.

    Friday, September 25, 2009 at 8:09 pm | Permalink
  35. Brad A. wrote:

    True, Chris, unless, of course, one wishes to mark up said book. Hence the value of owning, though sharing freely.

    Saturday, September 26, 2009 at 7:04 am | Permalink
  36. adamsteward wrote:

    I’m going with the boxed up in my friends’ basement method right now.

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

Switch to our mobile site