Building a Home Library

My Latest Acquisition, written by the late great Joseph Campbell.

I believe a home library is a very personal collection of ideas. A repository of information on an individual’s most passionate interests. No two libraries, therefore, are the same. Over the years I’ve curated at least three personal libraries, all of which were disassembled or given away owing to cross-country moves or other major life changes.

The losses of printed data over my adult lifetime does not include the many thousands (probably more than 10,000) scripts and books I’ve comprehensively read and analyzed for the Hollywood movie studios, the librettos I’ve learned and performed or the hundreds of pop songs I performed or committed to memory. I have retained only a dozen or so copies of the top scripts and musical compilations for my library.

The loss seems a terrible waste but I do remember much of what I’ve studied and upon cracking open a recently acquired treatise on how to compose a libretto I realize that I already know much of what they’re writing about. And also, even if I still had hard copies of that prodigious amount of material I’ve read, I wouldn’t go back and read it all again.

So a new library is a wonderful thing. Over the last few years I’ve begun, once again, to curate and assemble a small personal library. This time I’m investing in a large number of reference style books on a literary vein, inquiries into mythology, Jungian psychology, award winning fiction, quirky narratives of any genre, select biographies, motivational texts, piano music, natural science and science fiction.

This comes at a time when I’m making a concerted effort to get off the Internet as much as possible and use my free time to read, study, play music, be in nature and expand my consciousness.

The Way of the Animal Powers by Joseph Campbell is an absolute treasure. It’s beautifully illustrated and is anthropologically as well as mythologically significant. Not surprisingly, it explores the way of the shaman in hunter-gather societies as a means of connecting with the spirit realm. Not a book to read straight through but to be opened instinctually for rich morsels of information and insight.

I encourage everyone to build their own library filled with beloved books, music and art that you may have already read or hope to one day read. We are all so enthralled with the digital media and that’s fine but there’s nothing like a bird in hand.

Who’s to say the digital world as we know it won’t one day go down or become so heavily censored that what’s available to us is severely limited. Or maybe I just like books I can hold in my hands and store on shelves as things to be admired and physically shared.

Here’s one last thought on personal libraries. There seems to be enormous value to focusing in on what most intrigues us as individuals, especially the process of selecting a book and author. Doing so gives us even access to greater vistas of thought and creative exploration. I wonder. Could building a personal library (that you actually frequent) be a way of paving the way to an expanded future?

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