I've been putting some of my books on Library Thing, so far only my Virago collection (and because I'm easily distracted still only 200 of those), next the runs of things - like Trollope where I forget which ones I have but haven't read, and maybe eventually all my books, though I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. Books have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I loved reading as a child when no book that came into my possession remained unread for more than a day or two. I loved it as a teenager when I couldn't absorb enough new ideas and everything fed into a sense of possibility, and I continue to love reading as an adult when it's perhaps mostly about comfort and reassurance.
I can't remember when I first distinguished between books and reading, but if I just loved reading I would use the library far more. I love books too, it's why my flat is stuffed with something over 2000 of them, and why when I sat down and thought about it I upped my contents insurance - if the building burns I can't haul this lot out with me whatever they mean on a personal level. They mean a lot; the books on the shelf, read or not, are both manifesto and self portrait. They're certainly an accurate reflection of the things that interest me and the way I want to be perceived. It's also likely that they give away more about me than I might be truly comfortable with just anyone seeing. Why else do some books lead a quiet existence on bottom shelves behind chairs whilst others are front and centre if it isn't an attempt to edit other peoples impressions? It certainly isn't all about my convenience, and that's what's behind a niggling reluctance to have the whole lot catalogued in a semi public way. That and I'm lazy enough to find it an off-puttingly big job.
I don't have pets, though if my lifestyle allowed I would love a dog, and think I lavish some of that spare affection on my books which do after all offer something in the way of companionship and reliability as well as an actual physical presence about the place. At this stage in my life reading is mostly about escape from the day to day crap, I find total immersion in a written world for an hour or two renders me fit to deal with the actual world - which now I think about it is another reason contemporary fiction doesn't often appeal. Comfort reading isn't all about comfortable reading though. With a job that doesn't often call for intellectual effort grappling with a challenging read is a reminder that I'm good for more than directing people to cider and putting bottles on shelves (there is more to my job than this but it doesn't always feel that way).
That's what reading does for me, what the books themselves do is a little different; when I came home today I sat in my favourite chair with a cup of tea, the view outside mostly involved rain and a car park. The view inside of a bookcase filled me with contentment. These books are mine, I worked for them, I chose them, they've contributed to the sum total of my knowledge, and they're what I have to show for all the days of patiently showing people where the bloody cider is. They're also a record of friendships, places, good times, and bad - in short they made it feel better.