My husband Christopher and I live in rural Connecticut in a house that’s over two hundred years old with a fireplace large enough to roast a whole boar. The windows are original and time has wrinkled the glass. The floors are wide planks of chestnut so uneven that you can get mildly seasick walking from the living room into the kitchen. Christopher is a literary agent and I am a writer so between us we have many thousands of books. One of the reasons we bought this particular house was because it contains nooks and crannies and shelves absolutely everywhere. Even the narrow closet in the upstairs guest bedroom has built-in bookshelves. This house was able to literally absorb every book we owned effortlessly. Curiously, the upstairs bathroom features no electrical outlets or a space to rest a toothbrush but there is a shelf that fits –exactly– The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Conner and three John Cheever novels. A brief hallway (if you can call it that) in the rear of the house features a tiny window set just an inch or two off the floor that rises up to meet the low eaves of the roof line. It’s the perfect spot for a cat, really, but one that reads because here, too, is space for books. The kitchen has no center island, no granite countertops and no room for a table but it has enough bookshelves for all the cookbooks I inherited from my grandmother and my aunt when they died. The house has so many bookshelves, some of which are located in quite curious places, that I cannot help but feel that all the previous owners shared a single trait: a terror of being trapped for even a moment without something to read. Living in this house has changed my reading habits. As I drift from room to room, I encounter a book I’d forgotten about or didn’t even know we owned and I pick it up. A half hour later, I hear something crash and I run into the next room to see what Otis, our one-hundred-and-fifty-pound Great Dane puppy, has knocked over. I encounter yet another book and start on that one. At any given moment, I’m reading a half dozen books at a time. When I go to the basement to wait for the clothes to finish drying, I pick up the copy of Moby Dick that’s down there. I bring the laundry back upstairs to the bedroom and I find a history of King George III that’s right beside the dresser where I put the socks away. The phone rings and I reach for it, only to get sidetracked by The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. And as many books as we have there is still so much room for so many more. I find this profoundly comforting, to live in a house that devours books as hungrily as we do and that then incorporates every word into its very structure.
Tickets for Augusten Burroughs at Books Inc. in The Castro on April 6 are on sale now