I love the word “rude.” Nowadays it’s mostly used to just mean … well … rude, IE unpleasant, uncouth, uncivilized, and a host of other “un”s related to how one behaves in polite company. But back in the olden days I love to talk about so much, it variously meant things like “roughly-made” (“a rude table” certainly wasn’t cussing anyone out), “ignorant or unsophisticated” (the rude peasantry, staging all those uprisings) or even “robust.” Much like a certain f-word which rhymes with “maggot,” the word “rude” went through many meanings. And when I call myself a fan of rude books, I use all of those meanings.
Most of my book collection consists of books which are either roughly-made (small-press releases, half-bound review copies), unsophisticated (explosions! Explosions everywhere!), robust (if it doesn’t merit at least two rereads, it doesn’t go on the shelf), and, yes, uncouth (at least in the eyes of the “genre fiction isn’t real writing” crowd). I love rude books, in all their forms. And aside from the few rarities that live on my designated Egypt Shelf, the books are well-loved: I tend to read them until they fall apart, at which point I either buy another copy or get out the Scotch tape.
Here, then, is part of my library, and some of the books that I consider invaluable for a collection. Please forgive the terrible photographs.
- Historical fiction, arranged by date. Not publication date, but setting date. I like a good historical mystery! P.C. Doherty’s The Horus Killings is on the very far left, but the bulk of the collection begins with John Maddox Roberts’ excellent SPQR series. This section runs through most of the third shelf, ending with The Stepford Wives and thus covering approximately 3,340 years of terrible things happening in interesting settings.
- Folklore and chick lit. This seems like an odd combo, but I didn’t have anywhere else to put either of them. The cutoff point is where the little Roman statuette sits; because he has a somewhat apologetic look on his face, I’ve named him Gaius Solicitus.
- Comics! Mostly Fables and Larry Hama’s excellent original run on G.I. Joe, with a few Marvel collections (can’t really explain my love for Chris Claremont’s early X-Treme X-Men, but it’s there) and some oddities and wild cards. Also both volumes of Maus, because it didn’t really fit anywhere else.
- A bookcase that hasn’t been put together yet. As you can tell, I have a slight space problem.
- This whole bookshelf is solid genre fiction. Beginning with a near-complete collection of Discworld and Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy on the top shelf, it then moves into …
- Mostly urban fantasy, arranged alphabetically by author. From Kelley Armstrong to F. Paul Wilson. These shelves are full of good stuff, and are the most prone to being overstuffed. My Warhammer 40K novels, for example, belong in this area but have little space to occupy.
- Stray review copies and miscellany, including some good old raygun sci-fi.
The other shelf sees a lot of traffic as well, though for a different reason. This is the designated nonfiction shelf, and contains a lot of my research material, biographies, histories, random books sourced from family discards, and, of course, things I found at Half-Price Books and couldn’t resist.
- Kicking history off in style with the Oxford English Dictionary and Thesaurus, followed by an outdated (but still interesting) anthropology text and some other general, wide-ranging books. The real standout on this shelf, though, is …
- John Julius Norwich’s complete History of Byzantium, all three volumes. This is the only case of me breaking my rule and writing notes directly in a book: Norwich’s history is stuffed full of kings, emperors, popes, antipopes, servants, slaves, eunuchs, madmen, prophets, Crusaders, priests, prostitutes, and God only knows what else that I couldn’t resist adding some marginalia of my own. (Curiously, WordPress’s spellcheck feature recognizes “popes” but not “antipopes.” Man, when even the computer doesn’t call you legitimate … )
- Moving closer to the modern era, we have popular histories, biographies, and collections of opinion pieces. Not all of them mirror my views–not by any means–but if it’s in the collection, I find some use for it.
- Finally, my own modest contributions: my notebooks and sketchbooks. I have quite a pile of these things, thanks to my habit of writing my novels in longhand, but I pity anyone trying to read the notebooks themselves. When it comes to my handwriting, “chicken-scratch” is entirely too generous.
- Not pictures: photo albums, cookbooks, and other non-photogenic miscellany.
Now, three bookshelves only is a pretty poor showing for a writer. Which is why there’s also the Egypt Shelf, the Bathroom Bag (a tote containing reading for the aforementioned chamber, hanging on a convenient door handle), my Nook, and the various piles of unsorted volumes hanging around to be read and/or slept on by my feline roommate.
I joke that I have a book addiction, but it’s really more like a love of travel. For an outlay of ninety-nine cents at a secondhand store, I can buy a private passport to any time and any place. I can meet the great figures of history, study everything from Renaissance medicine to computer programming, and explore times past, times that never were, and times that may be. And the passport is good for life–or until the book falls apart, at which point Scotch tape saves the day again.
Back in the day, “rude” also had connotations of “vital.” The rude peasants, the folk of the soil, were vigorous and lively. Even in past years, when my health problems kept me indoors for long periods of time, I could rely on history and fiction–especially genre fiction–to be as vivacious and active as I wasn’t. Part of my education, and my escapism, came in the form of these volumes.
So yes, I am a rude-book fiend. I like adventure, romance, mystery, horror, and all kinds of fantasy. I like history, especially medical history, and biography. When I’m flopped on the couch with a book, I’m not there to educate myself; I’m there to have fun, and travel a little. Though education often happens, whether I realize it or not. You never know what you’ll get when you open a book.
Especially when you open the volume that inspired this post’s name. Yikes!