“A house without books is like a room without windows”: Horace Mann

We own quite a few books but I know from LibraryThing that many people own far more. There is not enough room in our house to shelve all the books we own, so one of the things we’ve been looking for in a new house is room for our books and bookcases. It’s hard.

I’ve been surprised how few books other people own. Out of all the houses we’ve viewed there was only one that had a bookcase in the living room and books in the bedrooms. In one house there were cookery books on a shelf in the kitchen, but all the others were bookless! Everyone had a TV or two, but no books. And watching those house programmes on TV I see that very few people own books and no-one says they want room for books when describing what they are looking for in a new house.

How do people live without books?

17 thoughts on ““A house without books is like a room without windows”: Horace Mann

  1. Margaret, love the quote. You know, I totally understand what you are saying. I watch some of the house shows too and nobody seems to have books. Every bookcase I have is crammed full and I have a bunch of books stacked on a table in my computer room. A bunch being something like 200 or so. I’ve told my husband that the next house we have is going to have a library. He has agreed. Good luck with your continuing hunt!


  2. I know!!!! I felt exactly the same the last time we were house hunting (thankfully twelve years ago with NO more moving in prospect, ever, if I can avoid it). I can’t imagine how people manage in a house without books. At the very least it must be so cold. When people come around and exclaim at mine (and I don’t have SO very many), I tell them they’re there for insulation. 🙂


  3. My best friend is currently living in her grandmother’s house while it is up for sale. Granny is 90 and living in a nursing home. The house was built and added onto over fifty years by her grandfather. It is winding and haphazard, and a testament to multi-generational book loving. Almost every room and even a hallway have built in book shelves. They are full of every kind of book you could imagine. There are many sets of World Books. Her grandfather couldn’t afford them, so he signed up to sell them so his family of eight kids could have encyclopedias in the home.

    The funny thing is my friend is seriously considering buying a couple more shelves. After clearing out a few for her books, boxing the old books up, she has only just enough room for her books and her four year old daughter’s books.


  4. We chose to have a library instead of a formal dining room. It doesn’t have enough shelves and we have half our books in stacks in the other rooms but it’s at least a room dedicated to our books. If we ever move, we will probably do the same thing in the next house … we read far more than we entertain.


  5. I really don’t know how people live without books – We have just managed to move my books back into our living room with bespoke shelves (sounds good but was definately a labour of love from my husband who with limited DIY skills has suceeded in wonderful shelves that still enable a comfortable homely living room) and I am still looking for other places to squeeze more in – now he’s proved he can do it there is another place in the dining room just crying out for floor to ceiling shelves.


  6. Thanks for all your comments – it’s good to know I’m not alone with having a house full of books. I knew that fellow book bloggers would understand!

    Lilian I do the same – my friends and family all have books too.
    Kay, I would love to have a room solely for books – who knows that may happen!
    Litlove, what a good idea – books as insulation, not just for inspiration.
    Tina, I’d love to have a house like that.
    Kristen that is an excellent idea – we read more than we entertain too and I love eating surrounded by books.
    Lezlie, bookshelves are a necessity aren’t they!
    Martin, somehow I thought that would be the case.
    Margot, that’s it – a house without books is just so sad.
    Jenny, wonderful and I hope you get your dining room shelves – another labour of love for your husband!.


  7. And usually on those home shows (at least in the beginning), almost the first words out of the designer’s mouth was, “The books must go!” Personally, I’d look at the designer and reply, “No…YOU must go!”


  8. I keep fewer books for reference now, with the Internet so available. I don’t look in a print dictionary very often. Still the piles of books and papers do add character to a house.


  9. Like everyone else here, I don’t understand people who don’t have books either. I do have to say, however, even though my parents read quite a bit but they have very few books in their house. When they finish a book they tend to either pass it on to others or donate it to charity. Still, I can’t imagine not being surrounded by books.


  10. I think some readers are library users rather than book buyers – my mother-in-law was one. I only remember one book person on the property shows. She was a writer and had a huge collection of books which they needed to find space for in the new house. I think they decided to use the garage. I don’t think I could consign my books to the garage…


  11. In this blog world, I forget how others live… my housemate told me yesterday that she thinks it’s odd to own more than one book that you haven’t read. She buys one then reads it, then buys another, etc. etc. How very unlike all of us…


  12. Cathy’s right. And remember, you are looking at homes that are on the market. If UK real estate agents are anything like the ones in Toronto (who seem to get their clues from those Sell-your-home-in-twenty-minutes TV shows), Books have No Place in a house that’s being sold. They represent clutter, both physically and mentally. They imprint a sense of personality on a home, whereas many agents seem to assume buyers are incapable of seeing beyond the existing decor to the real house. Vendors are expected to scrub all life out of the house, and present something from a not-very-interesting magazine.

    Or perhaps you’re seeing houses that really ARE lived in by bookless people.


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