April 3rd 2014 Comments: 12 Topics: , ,

Thomas Jefferson famously quoted “I cannot live without books.” After visiting his famous Virginia home, Monticello, I witnessed firsthand evidence of his obsessive literary surroundings.
campodom-010Every available wall of his personal library was papered with a lifelong collection of books. He obviously required a nest feathered with reams of studious volumes.

Today, we’re blessed with such technology that allows us to carry hundreds of books in what amounts to one good sized pamphlet. Your library can literally reside on your bedside table. Why then, do we seek to litter a room with archaic books? Do we just like to dust? Most clients come to our initial meetings with a program – a list of rooms they want in their new house. More often than not, that list includes a library. I’ve found there’s a romantic notion in this request; it’s much more than a functional repository for the inevitable tomes we accumulate merely by living long enough. I feel most of the books we lug in all those oh-so-heavy boxes throughout our lives represent important touchstones. Lining a den with these seem to offer great comfort. These are bits of information, memories, entertainment and images we’ve deemed crucial enough not only to read, but to hold onto and cherish. Surrounding ourselves in a tangible collection of recollection and reference is like putting on an old coat – intimate, familiar and warm.

What is a library but a learned, informed and inquisitive mind made real? Immersed in the millions of words that have formed us over a lifetime, we find comfort and solace in a life well-read.

Once there, we kindle the hearth and sit down with a well-worn friend to fire the imagination. And it’s not with a Kindle.


Greg Tankersley for McAlpine Tankersley


  1. Christine says:

    What a lovely post to wake up to, when my children were small one of the greatest pleasures was see them reading on a swing in the shadows of a summers afternoon.

  2. Melanie says:

    I’ve never read anything that explains so well the meaning behind my love of books and the comfort, both aesthetically and emotionally, of a well used library!

  3. Ida George says:

    To echo another’s comment: just a lovely post–the rooms, the thought, and the image and simile of putting on an old coat–how perfect they all are! And you know how I feel about books!!! A kindle is fine for novels that you will never read again or want to reference or even remember–but a book cannot be surpasssed for comfort, insight, amazing knowledge, new perspectives, or for instantly reviving memories of times gone by that you would like to visit again. All this you expressed and created beautiful surroundings for both books and people.

  4. Melinda says:

    So well written, so true, I completely agree 🙂

  5. Susan says:

    Love that you would pay homage to the library! It is the most versatile space in a house and the place where our family goes for homework, private phone conversations, college application writing, checker games and much more. Something about the space encourages higher thinking and a contemplative spirit. It’s the one space where all my chairs collected over the years are dressed alike and hold court together!

  6. Joni Webb says:

    Beautiful! I love books but can’t lie – I”m addicted to my kindle.

  7. Vivienne Nichols says:

    I share a love of the library and your posting is perfectly timed! In the midst of creating a very special one, I find these images and narrative refreshing and inspiring! Thank you! I’m creating a children’s library, fueled by my love of story and children, specifically my “grands.” A lofty space of our home, formally a “wasted walk-through” is under magical transformation at the moment. My dear friend & brilliant artist is actually installing his contribution as I type! The 15 steps leading up to the loft are now being embellished with glorious first edition spines of favorite classic children’s books. They are exquisite. (My adult children chose books we once read together, then gave the risers, step by step, as gifts for Christmas, birthdays, etc…) These spines were painted off site and the canvases mounted to the risers. (If interested…You may view the first few stairs in photo I posted on twitter Vivienne NIchols @jamesblvd) The carpenter will come soon and we’ll be on our way! (Next…I have yet another idea for changing other “wasted space” into a “literary haven” and I find that your article is REALLY informing this vision!)

  8. Heath Childs says:

    So true! The book will never be eclipsed by the impersonal, emotionless electronic alternative and a beautiful place to house and enjoy them is indispensable.

  9. Rhonda Summerlin says:

    I adore the ideas here as I have always had a love affair with books. They tend to relieve the stress of the world & nothing gives me more security than a good book waiting to get started. I will never live long enough to read all the books that are awaiting my attention but that’s o.k. To me, their like money in the bank! I would feel totally at home in any one of these havens. Thankfully we have created our own little “literary haven”.

  10. I have a friend who keeps all the books that she has read so that some day her children will know what caught her attention and imagination…nice…

  11. The books on my ipad lack that “new book” smell and the library’s “old book” smell; they will never stack beautifully in my den. But, on a cold winter’s night, curled up with either the print or the digital, I love them all.

    Thanks for such a lovely post.

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