June 25, 2005


How Can a House
Be a Home Without Space for Books?
(Rick Green, 6/24/05, The Hartford Courant)

It was a terrible thing to live with, like finding oneself the unwitting warden of a prison holding all of your best friends.

Most of Donald S. Connery's prized books -- more than six decades worth of collecting, from New York to Moscow and from to Japan to Connecticut -- were languishing in boxes, incarcerated in solitary cardboard confinement. Alas, it is the predicament of book lovers all over:

What to do with them all? Connery's solution was artful and extravagant, befitting a former foreign correspondent who since 1968 has lived at a mountaintop farm in Kent, Conn. Connery and his wife, Leslie, converted the silo attached to their 200-year-old barn into a most unusual home library.

“We had fence posts and rails stored in there, and the roof was leaking like crazy. I kept thinking, What a waste. What is it good for?” Connery recalled during a visit to his silo library. In the late 1980s, after 20 or so years of pondering, he hired a carpenter to rework the old round silo into a three-story cylindrical library. At last count, he and his wife had about 10,000 volumes in the silo, with a few thousand more in the house.

“I just felt they meant so much to me,” said Connery, whose specialty these days is writing about criminal justice and wrongful convictions. “You are with your friends, which is the way I think of books.”

In an age of palatial “media” rooms with nary a book in sight, it would be a stretch to say home libraries are making any kind of roaring comeback. But to the devotee, the home library is a vibrant, sacred space that can be as small as the corner of a room or as profligate as a mountaintop silo.

It's also a retro makeover that can transform a drab, lifeless space into a room of intrigue that reminds visitors that relaxing at home isn't necessarily always about the latest gargantuan flat-screen television.

“I can't imagine living without books. If I go out to dinner at someone else's home, and they don't have books visible, I wonder if I want them as friends,” said Barbara Farnsworth, an antiquarian bookseller in West Cornwall, Conn.

What kind of philistine would leave their own library to go visiting?

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 25, 2005 11:06 AM

Your library is real cool. I like the way it's in the utility room with all the books sharing space with the water heater and such. Makes it look like it's in a submarine.
My library's nice, not nearly so big (I got library envy!). People always ask me if I've read all the books. I think I've read maybe two thirds, but I always am getting them in faster than I read them, so my "to read" list is always growing. I keep waiting for a nuclear (or zombie) holocaust so I finally have "time enough at last."

Posted by: Governor Breck at June 25, 2005 2:51 PM

You guys seem to be drawing a distinction between the two synonyms "library" and "house."

Posted by: David Cohen at June 25, 2005 5:01 PM

Probably the real outsider here, almost every book i've ever purchased, especially the hard bound ones I truly loved, now reside in one of the two rural CA county libraries I live in conjunction with, ( for those who might care, the counties are Calaveas & Amador, both in the CA gold rush area).
After all, should I wish to re-read, checking out of the public library is a pretty easy way to do so. Plus, I get to share pleasures with inumerable others, as opposed to the books sitting in my home, unread unless/until I wish to re-read.

Posted by: Mike Daley at June 25, 2005 11:01 PM

Go back to Russia, hippie!

Posted by: Governor Breck at June 26, 2005 7:08 AM

Great idea Mike but many libraries sell the excess, but that works too. I've taken cartons of paperbacks to the local V.A. Hospital and often send P.B.'s and H.B.'s to friends. Keep a small collection of the classics and histories but still running out of space. I think the silo idea is fantastic. Now I regret tearing one down and selling the other.

Have a friend who upon moving to an assisted living facility in Philadelphia bought an old"tenement in the inner city and his daughter refurbished it into his personal library with some 5,000 books stored and catalogued.

Posted by: Genecis at June 26, 2005 10:31 AM

I watched part of an Itlanian movie on either IndepFilmChan or Sundance couple of weeks ago. Something about some guy in love with an actress. 70s era.

One of the characters was an "intellectual" sad-sack sort, who lived in an apartment of about 3 rooms and a hallway. Every room, and the hall, including the kitchen had floor to ceiling shelving on every possible wall space, filled with books.

A dream house. Tho a can't imagine the dusting.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at June 26, 2005 12:05 PM