HGTV and the bibliophile

Joan Hershberger
Joan Hershberger

Something always seemed missing at the conclusion of every HGTV home makeover — something besides the lack of color in the neutral white, gray and black living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms.

The perfect furniture, flooring, walls, fixtures and appliances leave the new owners gasping in awe. I watch and always wonder, “why am I not impressed?”

Then, one day I realized: they forgot the books. No matter how closely I study the beautiful layouts, I find no books. Not a single book, let alone stacks or shelves of books. If they have children, don’t bother to look for scattered collections of children’s books in baskets and on bookshelves.

Although I see no huge tomes on laying around, I do see huge letters on the walls assuring me they do know the alphabet.

The shows end with the home owners gasping in awe at rooms barren of reading material. Perhaps the books hide in the rooms that I recently learned that the producers do not show: the rooms containing the family’s unsightly excess.

I object. To me, books are eye candy. This past year my penchant for books resulted in an overflow that vastly challenges the ideal of a clutter-free home.

Without constant attention, books quickly clutter my home - especially the living room. Last year we gave away our piano and within a week (quite unplanned) replaced it with three full bookshelves. The folks on HGTV would roll their eyes at the stacks of dusty, old books I brought home when a church emptied its 100 year old library.

I did not take all of them. Just 10 or 15 boxes I wanted to consider for keeping, reading or selling. Trying to understand the value of old books, I discovered the Facebook page Vintage, Rare and Antique Books (VRAB). It features pictures of my kind of eye candy.

VRAB makes my overflow if books look like a trickle of water in a desert. HGTV producers would have an apoplectic fit at the mass of mis-matched bookshelves in some people’s homes. The producers of Hoarders would think they had another potential show when reviewing one individual’s hundreds of first editions and rare books. Pictures online depict row after long row of high shelves with neatly arranged and categorized books. My shelves may overflow, but my fellow bibliophile’s house overflows with heavily loaded and carefully arranged bookshelves.

A member of VRAB commented, “I wish I had encountered that last week. Instead I sorted through over 900 books.” He posted a picture of 4x4x4 bins of jumbled together books. I saw similar bins when we visited thrift stores in Destin, Florida, looking for Bibles last winter. In one shop, an employee said, “After a while, they just take the bin out and throw them into the dumpster.”

Reminds me of that phrase in Ecclesiastes, “of the writing of many books there is no end.” Written centuries before the invention of the printing press enabled mass production, the truth has only multiplied.

All books cannot be saved, thus VRAB. It provides a vehicle for connecting owners and searchers of older books. Some folks, like me, have a few books we keep and cherish forever. Others want books they hope someone else found. Some simply want to show pictures of their treasures.

My treasures include the rotating hoard of children’s books I find at yard sales. At times my stash has included those so loved that they would never make it into a room on a house makeover.

My old, beloved books never will generate the same kind of wonder as a freshly redone room on HGTV, but books capture the attention of this bibliophile every time.

Joan Hershberger is a former staff writer for the El Dorado News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk and other columns from the El Dorado News-Times.”

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