Picture it now. A guest walks into my apartment, stares wide-eyed at the triple stacked bookshelves and asks...Wow! Have you read all these books? If I had a nickel for all the times I've been asked that, I would be very rich.
The question I would like answered--why would anyone keep 3000+ books if they didn't read them? Seriously, that's quite a few more than most people would need for interior decorating.
Some people collect spoons. Others crochet or knit in their spare time. My grandfather collected pencils from all over the world. I read books.
The primary difficulty I have is money--or the lack of money, I should say. So when I buy a book, its an investment. A longterm investment if you will because I expect to read that book multiple times. I have collected books by certain authors and I reread the entire sets every year. Some authors such as Louis L'Amour or Georgette Heyer were quite prolific, affording me the promise of hours of quality reading.
Others, such as Dana Stabenow or Christine Warren are relatively new authors on the stage. In any case, if their books are keepers, then they've earned a place on the bookshelves because I anticipate reading them over and over.
There are of course, e-books available now (or as some like to call them, digital books!) Those reside on my computer hard drive AND flash drive because you never know when that sudden urge to read might strike.
There, too, the keepers have homes in individual author's folders so I can locate them easily instead of scrolling through a list with hundreds and hundreds of books.
I suppose you're wondering what makes a keeper. A keeper must make me smile or laugh or nod my head because I know exactly how one of the characters feel. It might make me cry or worry that the hero won't be rescued in time. A keeper (of the fiction variety) must make me feel.
A keeper must be written well enough that grammar, spelling, and syntax don't throw me out of the story. If there are a few challenging words that require me to consult my trusty dictionary, that's fine, but if I find I must keep referring to the dictionary repeatedly to get through the first chapter, then alas, that book will not make my keeper shelf. My time is limited, after all. And I choose not to spend my time looking up words in the dictionary.
A keeper must have a smashing ending. I can forgive all sorts of things in a book. I can forgive a less than catchy beginning or a sagging middle or even a whiny heroine or stupid hero as long as the author crafts a truly terrific ending. If it's an ending with a surprise twist, that's even better. I love surprise twisty endings.
Finally, a keeper must leave something to the imagination. Back when I was a young girl, the stories traditionally ended with "and they lived happily ever after." I like that because it allows each reader to envision their own sequel. Mine were usually of the variety, "and they moved to Idaho and bought a ranch" or some equally interesting and unlikely scenario. But in the end, that is the enticing quality to a keeper--that opportunity to engage the imagination.
A keeper in the non-fiction category is a book that shares knowledge in an accessible manner. I'm not precisely stupid, but I'm not looking for a thesis paper in my research tomes. What I need is a book that presents facts or opinions in such a way that I can readily locate the information I need. Pictures, drawings, and diagrams are bonuses. The more esoteric the subject matter, the more welcome explanatory drawings and diagrams are likely to be. If I'm searching for an antique dagger for my hero, then a picture is a really fine thing. The same is true for Victorian maternity fashions or pre-historic pots.
On the other hand, if I'm researching history, then maps are the single most useful item in a book. I loooove maps. Big maps. Small maps. Black and white and colored maps. Give me a good map and I can almost write the history for myself!
When you come into my house, be aware that it's a house filled with the possibility of learning. It's a place where books are respected and revered and treasured.