You can learn a lot about a family by the books they read. The next time you walk into the house of someone you've not known very long, look at the collection of books, or in some cases, lack of books, they own. If there are no books around, but they have a TV that's bigger than the fireplace, it means that someone is a sports fan and that person is in charge of the family purse strings. Books, however, suggest a certain intellectual aspect. Whether the family is a bunch of smart cookies or simply bored depends on the kind of books they read. If you walk in and there are Bibles everywhere, it means that you are about to be blessed with scripture-quoting zealots. A Bible, a Koran, and a Torah canoodling side-by-side on the same shelf means that the homeowners are either lost and searching for answers or they just want to keep their options open. My husband is one person whose dream is to one day have a library full of books in our house. The problem with that is that he hates to read unless he's in the bathroom. So, ideally, we either need bookshelves in his bathroom or a toilet in our library.
However, just because a family has a roomful of books on shelves, doesn't necessarily mean they read them. What you have to look for when determining clues about a person is not what books are on his shelves, but what books are not on his shelves. What book is hidden in the folds of an afghan wadded up on the sofa? What book is opened face-down on the coffee table or night stand? In my husbands case, the bathroom is a chief source of information as well.
If you came to my house, looking for clues to my family through our literature, the bookshelves would look like a whirling dervish had danced through the room. It would be difficult to find one book that is actually standing upright, binding out, like a little sentinel guarding the secrets of its pages. No, our bookshelves are visited often by every member of the family, thus they resemble an Amtrak collision. I like to read historical romance novels, biographies, motivational and how-to books. A nice combination of flight and fancy. I'm an anytime, anywhere kind of reader. My husband reads an eclectic mix of technical manuals, invention magazines, a wide variety of activities "For Dummies" books, and sci-fi novels. Of course, he is quite selective in his reading times and location. All of my children read for ? hour to an hour before sleeping and anytime they are required to be silent; like in the car or waiting for a haircut or vaccination.
My newly-minted teenager likes fantasy novels like Harry Potter and The Edge Chronicles and other series-type books. And for those of you who are wondering, he has read every Harry Potter book available and has not yet been moved to satanical worship. He has not joined the occult, started wearing black eyeliner or even asked for a magic broomstick for Christmas.
My daughter likes mysteries, history, and fairies, but draws the line at anything scary. Which is good, because she kicks in her sleep. For those of you who may wonder why this matters, I challenge you to try to keep your kid out of your bed after they've read a scary book. My youngest like his books with lots of pictures. Especially pictures of things with wheels: Trucks, race cars, motorcycles, you name it. He also likes comic books like Captain Underpants and Calvin and Hobbes. Like my husband, he is also selective in his reading location. So if, while looking for books in my house, you happen to come upon a comic book with questionable stains on it, I suggest you dig through our bookshelves and select a different book. The clues you have just deciphered through our books have given you enough information to start a stimulating conversation with one of us if you were to meet us at a dinner party. That is, however, very unlikely, as we will probably be at home reading a book.