The library that is, the year that was


The row of grey Persephone books mark the end of the fiction. The two rows below that are various non-fiction books that have yet to be organized. I ran out of time.

There is so much that is overwhelming about moving back into a renovated house after eleven months away and with just five days to go until Christmas. Certainly much to be happy about but also much that is stressful and discombobulating. The holidays, work, impending appraisal and mortgage closing, aggravating punchlist items, frustrating utility providers, and the list goes on.

All of this makes it a little hard to get motivated to blog about the fun stuff, like organizing my new and improved library, and recapping my favorite reads for 2014. To aid my efforts, I have decided to use two handy crutches: photos and lists.

Top Five Yawns of 2014
Some of these titles had some redeeming qualities, but the overall impression they left was boredom, especially when viewed through the lens of a year-end recap.

Same fireplace when we first moved in and were thinking about a grey paint for the library.

After over a year of living with those color swatches on the wall, I decided just go ahead and paint the library even though it would be torn up in a year. It was also a good experiment in what turned out to be a color and color direction we really didn’t want to go in the new library. The shelves to the right of the fireplace were not replaced. I gained some additional shelf space elsewhere in the library, but I will miss this odd bit. It’s where I kept most of my TBR.

Looking the same general direction showing a bit more of the shelves. We ended up going with a much warmer grey with a little more brown and green in it.

Top Five Pleasant Surprises of 2014
All of these novels were written by authors who were new to me. Three of them were recommended to me and two (Leary and Cameron) were just ones I thought I would give a go. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed all of them quite a lot.

All of the books had already been put on the shelves, but they weren’t in any order. It took me most of a day to just get the fiction set right.

I haven’t read any of the stories in these Everyman collections, but their covers have been too darn pretty to pass up. 

The end wall shelves are deeper and will house mainly art, gardening, and coffee table books.

Early in the process. I was still on the Bs.

Five Books I Knew I Would Like
With all the upheaval in my life in 2014 it is no surprise I sought out some comforting authors to get me through it all. The Brookner was part of my re-read of all her novels while the rest are authors I have been able to rely on when I need a good, cozy read. Big surprise, all are British and all are women.

Another ‘before’ picture for comparison. I’ll admit this is looking pretty cozy.

Five Favorite Spy/Thriller/Intrigue Novels of 2014
There have been many years when I wouldn’t even have a single title that could fit this category. But this year I got a bit of a bug and a good tip off on Eric Ambler. What they all have in common is they are a bit old fashion and don’t have much, if any, violence. I unequivocally loved all of these.

One of the challenges I faced as I organized the fiction was whether or not to keep certain well-loved editions of books together or integrate them in alpha order with all of the other novels. In the end I kept the Persephones together but the NYRB and Viragos were split up.

Top Five Reads of 2014
In no particular order.

  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I picked this one up with a bunch of other new hardcover fiction to get a bit more current stuff into my TBR. In the end this was the only one I ended up liking and I really ended up liking it. It made me go out an buy all of her other books.
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A wonderful, if often tragic novel.
  • Birds of America by Mary McCarthy. Best known for her novel The Group, McCarthy has lots of other novels that are well worth reading. I took a particular shine to this one. I loved the main character and I love the fact that I picked it up by chance at a second hand book sale.
  • Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym. Not surprising a Pym makes the list. Full of Pym’s amazing character observations and witty prose but with a rather bleak outlook. Think of Brookner with a sense of humor.
  • The Human Factor by Graham Greene. Easily the best of the thriller type books I read this year and a close second to The End of the Affair which I read in 2013.

This has nothing to do with the library but everything to do with cute.

49 thoughts on “The library that is, the year that was

  1. Richard January 1, 2015 / 9:32 pm

    Thomas, I love the look of your library. Your home appears to be very cosy and welcoming, especially with Lucy on the sofa and the crackling fire in the fireplace. (Mind you, the fire would not be a welcome addition in my part of the world today, where it is 42 degrees, which is around 107 fahrenheit).


  2. vicki (skiourophile) January 1, 2015 / 10:10 pm

    Congratulations on the move and what a beautiful space – and also thanks for recommending Rogue Male and Six Days of the Condor which were absolutely great fun – I obviously must now read The Human Factor too. Happy – and obviously crazily busy – New Year.


  3. Claire (The Captive Reader) January 1, 2015 / 11:31 pm

    The library looks fantastic, Thomas. I love the grey you've used for the shelves – very calming and classic. And I really enjoy your little lists. A very nice way to summarize the reading year!


  4. Anonymous January 2, 2015 / 12:37 am

    Unbelievable that u moved in so few days ago and it is ALL so perfect! Congrats big time. I can't believe what a great job u did on getting bks on shelfs just so…nicely done. I see Lucy is tuckered out after I'm sure being a big assistance to u all. Wishing u all a most peaceful, happy homelife….thanks for all the pix and lists….quinn


  5. Susan in TX January 2, 2015 / 1:11 am

    Lucy looks just as pleased to finally be home as y'all must be. :) Love the library and the placement of the Persephones, and of course, I always enjoy the lists. Happy New Year to you all!


  6. harriet January 2, 2015 / 3:09 am

    Lovely post. And my goodness, your library is so amazing, and so are your powers of organisation. My only organising principle has ever been colour coding, which really puts a lot of peoples' backs up for some reason, but I love it. So I appreciate the shelf of Persephones, but I'd have kept the Viragos together, obviously. You must be so happy to be back in the house, and it looks gorgeous.


  7. JoAnn January 2, 2015 / 8:50 am

    I want to jump right into that photo of your new library – so, so inviting!
    Guess I need to read Adichie this year. Should I start with Americanah?


  8. Frances January 2, 2015 / 1:05 pm

    It looks absolutely beautiful! Congratulations! I envy you that experience of putting all the books on the shelves. Always lot of work but such contentment too to see it all come together. You just sent me scurrying through shelves looking for my copy of The Human Factor for a re-read. It was a favorite of my grandfather and somewhere amongst all these books I have to hardcover he purchased when it was first released. With his big, sprawling signature on the endpapers.


  9. musingsfromthesofa January 2, 2015 / 1:05 pm

    Your library looks wonderful, I'm sure you'll enjoy it! Agree re the Everyman short stories, the covers are irresistible.


  10. January 2, 2015 / 3:55 pm

    Beautiful! I hope you have many happy reading days in your lovely library.


  11. A Super Dilettante January 2, 2015 / 4:46 pm

    My dear Thomas,

    Hello. Happy New Year. Your library is too beautiful and orderly for words. Orderliness is something of a deficiency when it comes to my study! I admire the way you organise your library and the feeling of luxury one must have when one knows the exact geography or location of a book on a shelf.

    How charming to know that you have been re-reading AB's novels and finding solace in her world. Her words are the greatest gift we have in the literary world (and artistic world – I have found her art historical writings in the old Burlington Magazine as poignant and profound as her fictions). I am thinking of reading Graham Greene's early novel called “The Man Within”. I have this novel awaiting to be read on my bedside table for awhile.

    I wish you the very best for the year 2015 and I look forward to reading your future posts.

    With best wishes, ASD


  12. lyn January 2, 2015 / 8:35 pm

    Happy New Year, Thomas. Lovely photos of your library & Lucy. I hope you've had the chance to just sit in the library & read – if you can take your eyes off the beautiful shelves that is.


  13. Mystica January 3, 2015 / 9:50 am

    Your home looks so cosy, welcoming and so very inviting. Much much joy and happiness to you.


  14. Melwyk January 3, 2015 / 11:33 pm

    It must be so nice to be home again, with that lovely library to organize — you've done an inspiring job, love the colours and the wonderful shelves. Hope you had some time to relax a little and ignore the crazy logistics for even a moment over the holidays!


  15. Travellin' Penguin January 4, 2015 / 8:21 am

    All the best for the future in your new home. I am glad Lucy has settled in okay and all your books are with you again. It looks brilliant.


  16. Lu @ Regular Rumination January 4, 2015 / 8:44 pm

    Oh, the library is just gorgeous!!! I love seeing those books snug in their new home. Also thank you for the puppy picture. Happy new year!!


  17. Alex (The Sleepless Reader) January 5, 2015 / 7:05 am

    Happy New Year! Everything looks so.. cozy, which is the best compliment I can pay to a home (it was the right decision on the color :)). I'm inspired to see all your Persephones lined up to continue my collection as well as not to let them linger in the TBR (Whipples' The Priory is next!).


  18. Nan January 5, 2015 / 9:56 pm

    I could settle into that library very easily. It is so perfect. So British, methinks. What is the room called where Lucy is? I am quite an organized person but don't organize my books. Well, the mysteries are all in one place, and the garden/bird books are in another, but fiction and nonfiction are kind of in the same place. But I mostly know where everything is, and I rather enjoy the looking for a book when I don't know just where it is.


  19. Christy January 6, 2015 / 10:02 am

    Ah, the very important part of moving the library back into the house! It looks lovely. Enjoy being back in your house. :)


  20. ArchitectDesign™ January 6, 2015 / 10:59 am

    Welcome home! Your tree is beautiful as always -what renovation? Hoping you're very happy in the revamped , and new, spaces.


  21. Annabel January 6, 2015 / 1:12 pm

    That grey is so warming – the whole room is just gorgeous! You have chosen some great books as your best of the year too. I hope you are able to relax and enjoy it.


  22. Ti January 8, 2015 / 1:55 pm

    I think in the end, the warmer gray was the right choice. Love the Lucy pic! It all looks really good.


  23. Thomas at My Porch January 10, 2015 / 10:18 am

    Thanks Richard. I've been reading about the warm weather in your part of the world. I could use some of that right now.


  24. Thomas at My Porch January 10, 2015 / 10:20 am

    Thanks Claire. After many false starts on the color, I am glad we got it right by the time we paid someone to paint.


  25. Thomas at My Porch January 10, 2015 / 10:21 am

    We had to get the house ready for a bank appraisal so that made us move extra quick.


  26. Thomas at My Porch January 10, 2015 / 10:21 am

    Thanks Susan. It's been too long since I got any new Persephones. I think I may need to place an order.


  27. Thomas at My Porch January 10, 2015 / 10:23 am

    I've enjoyed looking at some color coded libraries, but can't imagine doing it myself.


  28. Thomas at My Porch January 10, 2015 / 10:24 am

    Americanah is not a bad place to start. Half a Yellow is maybe the better books but it is about war torn Nigeria so can be pretty emotional.


  29. Thomas at My Porch January 10, 2015 / 10:28 am

    I'm sitting in it right now with the sun streaming in. I need to remind myself to use it. We only have one chair in it right now so it is definitely a solitary exercise.


  30. Thomas at My Porch January 10, 2015 / 10:30 am

    I am getting a little more reading in this days but still have many house settling in chores to take care of.


  31. Thomas at My Porch January 10, 2015 / 10:34 am

    The Priory was my first Whipple. I've discovered that I don't LOVE all of hers but TP is one that I do love.


  32. Thomas at My Porch January 10, 2015 / 10:35 am

    The color is a British one for sure. Lucy is in the living room just off the front hall.


  33. Thomas at My Porch January 10, 2015 / 10:36 am

    At some point we will have some sort of open house. But that is hard to contemplate at the moment.


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