Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Shining a Light on Books

A NOTE TO MY READERS: The following post was written early in the week and scheduled to publish on Saturday. It was written before I knew it would be necessary to euthanize my beloved dog, Butch, which happened on Thursday. In light of that event, the tone of this Sepia Saturday post now seems flippant, inappropriate, or, at the very least, insensitive. Let me assure you that I am not feeling flippant at the moment. Nevertheless, I have decided to let this post publish as scheduled. I was satisfied with it before the loss of Butch, I don't feel like writing something else to replace it, and, as it was written in response to a theme-based challenge, saving it for later won't work. I hope you understand.


As luck would have it, the first two themes of Sepia Saturday after I discovered it were dogs (last week) and books (this week). Dogs and books, two things I love so much that both are mentioned in the "About Me" item in the sidebar of this blog. In fact, I probably have more posts about dogs and books than about any other topics.

This week, however, it didn't take long to determine that none of the oldest photos in my files featured books. The first photo I could find of a person reading anything was a 1949 one of my grandfather, lying on the very couch (with the very doilies) pictured below. Technically, though, Packy was reading a magazine, not a book, while the publication I was reading in the following photo from 1950 was at least called a book--a comic book. I've posted this photo before, along with the one of my grandfather, when I wrote about my earliest reading adventures here.

I do have a number of more recent photos of books, and one thing I noticed is that light, especially light streaming through a window, figures in many of those images. I like thinking about the metaphorical relationship between light and books: the way books shed light on so many different subjects, the way a good book lights a fire inside the reader, and, well, you get where I'm going with that.  If you're only half as corny as I am, I'm sure you can come up with other examples. (And if you're thinking about the Itty Bitty Book Light®, don't even go there).

The next photo looks sort of like sepia but isn't really. These are the colors I got by thinking there was enough natural light in my bedroom that I wouldn't need to use the flash. I was wrong, but I like the image anyway in its shades of beige and brown.

Disappointed at not seeing books in any of my genuine sepia photos, I made the following modern photo of books look sepia by tinting it in Photoshop Elements: 

Now, before you say, "Why, that isn't fair," let me explain my reasoning: The world is full of fakery, and most of the time it doesn't bother us at all. The wood finish on some of my furniture is fake, a partial denture fills out the corners of my smile, and every  sugary-tasting treat that's touched my tongue in the past year has been made with artificial sweetener. Watch any of this season's award shows, with their streams of starlets on the red carpet, and you'll see plenty of fakery pointing right at you. So what's the big deal about a little false sepia?

Never mind. I get your point.  But to add a historical perspective to this post, please know that I got that kind of crooked thinking from my father. Please know, also, that I inherited enough honest genes from other ancestors that I can't perpetuate such a fraud without admitting it. (Although it occurs to me that there was a time when I faked something and didn't confess it, but that was only because I really wanted to go to sleep and I did not want to bruise a certain male ego.)

The next photo is a full-color version of the same corner of my den that's pictured above. Books, in addition to lighting up my life (watch: here comes yet another cliché, right on the heels of that one), add color to my world. I go places, see things, meet people, and have adventures that would never happen any other way than through the pages of books. What a gift they are.

I keep a few special books in the living room in my grandmother's old secretary hutch, pictured below. In there, among other things, are a handwritten volume of my older daughter's poetry, a published volume of poetry that includes one of hers, and a copy of a book she wrote when she lived in New York and writing was her day job.

The boxes of books shown in the collection of thumbnails below are about half of the ones I gave away last summer. I took photos of them with the intention of creating some kind of book database so I wouldn't accidentally order the same titles again, which has happened before on half a dozen occasions. Applying a different definition of "light" keeps the metaphor alive, in that winnowing out enough books to have shelf space for the remaining ones "lightened" my load and left some uncluttered breathing room in my home. And affirmed in my own mind that I really am not hastening down the path to the city of Hoarderville.

So, those are my meager book photo offerings. In thinking about all those books, in realizing that Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and in recognition of the fact that Saturdays here have been traditionally about music, I'll wrap up this post with a video of a song that fits our theme perfectly: Peter Gabriel's version of "The Book of Love." The song is beautiful, but if you don't feel like listening to music, turn off the sound and watch the video anyway. You'll love the photos in it!


Thanks to sakuramlyu777 for posting this video on YouTube.

If you'd like to see what other folks have posted about books, click the image below and check out the list of participants in this week's Sepia Saturday challenge:


  1. Lovely post -- so glad you stuck with it. And so sorry for the loss of your beloved dog.

  2. I love your book photos! I think that the more books a person has, the richer they are. My books are all over the place-I wish I had a big bookcase so I'd have them all in one place. But I still have a pretty good idea of where to find a book amongst the chaos. ;-)

  3. I just discovered your blog via Sepia Saturday, so i did not 'know' Butch. But I read your older psots and want to send you my condolences.

  4. I'm glad you published your pre-written post, you're love of books shines through. If you want to keep a record of the books you've read but given away then is definitely the place to go.
    Sorry about the loss of Butch.

  5. So sorry that you have lost Butch.

    This is a very fine book post. I could almost reach out to touch (or grab) some of what you've shown.

  6. Wendy, thank you.

    Janet, I agree with you completely in your comparison of books to riches. Unfortunately, I had so many books that I was beginning to feel claustrophobic. Even if they'd been bags of money instead of books, I'd have had to get rid of some of them. It took a long time before I reached a point where I was able to do it, though.

    Viridian, thank you for your condolences. Butch was a wonderful dog.

    Joy, thanks for letting me know about I'll check it out today.

    Bob, well, if you had grabbed some of those books you might have put them right back. The stack in the fake-sepia photo contained some books from the '80s which included Linda Goodman's "Love Signs" and an autobiography of Delta Burke. Those were among the books I have since given away.

  7. It is not flippant at all. I can imagine how you must be feeling right now, I know I will have similar feeling to face up to in the years to come. Your love of books equates with a love of words and you have already expressed in words the love you had for Butch.

  8. Holly, thanks.

    Alan, thank you. I do love words, and your words here gave me comfort.

  9. So sorry to hear about Butch. How difficult that must be. This is a very fine post though, and not flippant at all.

  10. Sorry about Butch!!
    I can understand the loss of a pet. They mean so much more than that.

    As for your post, you don't fake, you enhance!! It's all semantic!!

    On a sidenote, how often are you proned to those "headaches"?...
    Just asking!! Let's hope that un-bruised male ego doesn't read this post...
    Eh! You brought it up!!

  11. I was sorry to hear about Butch.

    I like the picture of you reading. I am kind of surprised to see that so many people have reading photos. I think it is because it is such a good photo opportunity with a subject that is sitting still and engrossed in something.

  12. I am so so sorry for the loss of your sweet pup! Our furry four legged friends stay in our hearts forever.
    Sending you big hugs!
    xo Catherine

  13. Christine, Ticklebear, Postcardy, and Catherine: Thank you so much for your condolences. Butch was a great dog right up to his very last minute.

    Oh, and Ticklebear? That headache and I parted company years and years ago, so no worries about offending him now.

  14. Wonderful visiting with you here, for that is how you make one feel with your welcoming voice and humor. I enjoyed this very much, as well as the video.

  15. Thanks for visiting, Margaret. I'm glad you stopped by.

  16. I didn't think your post was flippant at all and I love that first photo of you reading on the couch.

  17. The Peter Gabriel video was so touching. I have a lot of old books too, rather well less-organised than yours (think "heaps"). Sorry to hear about your loss of Butch - I have an elderly cat, who I love dearly and can hardly bear to think about the day... Our companion animals weren't made to last as long as we were, more's the pity, but we give them a full and happy life while they are with us, and revel in each other's company.

  18. Kristin, thank you. You can tell by that photo that I took my comic books seriously.

    Jo, I'm glad you mentioned the video, because I really enjoyed it, too. Thanks for your kind words about Butch. It's hard watching our pets get old and knowing their days are numbered. I hope your cat stays well and keeps you company far longer than you expect.


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