For many writers, a collection of books has the same level of essentiality as water to the thirsty soul. Some writers can make do with a few reference books, a dictionary and half a dozen favorite novels and/or documentaries. For other writers, a wall-length set of bookshelves hardly can contain their books; some tomes lie scattered on the floor and some peek out of boxes poked into closets and odd corners of the room. These writers do not stop at simple reference books such as dictionaries and thesauruses, of which they often posses five or six of each. They need novels, collections of short stories and a multitude of reference books that address every subject known to man.
Nowadays, with online access to information at a writer’s fingertips, such a collection of books may seem unnecessary and somewhat redundant. The writer needs only think of a subject and enter it into any one of the popular search engines to access dozens of pages information on the subject. Cross-checking these informational postings helps the writer determine the reliability of the data contained in them.
There are definite advantages, however, for a writer to build on the first few volumes he or she possesses and to create a personal library of carefully selected books. The basic theme of the selections, especially in the way of reference or documentary type books, may change as the writer’s interests develop over time. This also may apply to works of fiction, although a person’s taste in fiction tends to remain somewhat the same.
Perhaps the main advantage to having a personal library of well-chosen books is that of propinquity. With books close at hand, the writer does not have to rush off to the local library to borrow a given work of fiction or non-fiction needed as a reference for a current project. The books remain nearby, ready for instant perusal. Except for returning it to its place on the bookshelf, the book can remain close at hand for as long as the writer maintains the home library.
Another advantage has to do with familiarity. Every book in a writer’s personal library can become a familiar window into events, places and ideas. The more familiar a writer becomes with other writers’ offerings, the more ideas will come to the writer for future works of his or her own. Familiarity, in books, breeds not contempt but contentment. Many books in a library attain the familiarity of old friends of long acquaintance.
A third advantage to having a well-stocked and continually growing library of books at home has to do with rejuvenation. When a writer encounters a period of so-called writer’s block, the writer can turn to one or more favorite works in the home library for inspiration and ideas — or just to relax and let the writing muse enjoy a break in the routine. In this sense, reading forms the reverse side of the coin that has writing on its face-up side. For many writers, reading has the same importance as eating and drinking.
A fourth advantage a writer will enjoy in possessing a personal library of reference material has to do with authenticity. Having selected books deemed authentic and composed of verifiable facts, the writer does not have to take time to cross-reference them to ascertain their informational verity and value. The writer learns to trust the reference books in the home library over borrowed books or quasi-information gleaned on the Internet.
The fifth advantage of a home library for many a writer has to do with — well, a writer just likes to have a lot of books around, that’s all.