Between the Lines

One of my favorite things to do upon entering someone’s home (especially for the first time) is to look at their books.

I like to see which ones are well-worn, which are autographed, which are displayed prominently while others are scattered around the house within easy reach. Sometimes I ask about a particular book, especially if I am surprised to find it there. Other times, most times, I say nothing.

If I am in the library of someone I like or admire (and if I know them well enough to know they will not mind), I like to touch their books, to hold them in my hands, to see if things are written in the margins or if there is an inscription.

And then, I love to talk with them about their collections. I want to know about their favorite childhood book and whether or not they still own it. I want to hear about the book they turned to for solace during adolescence, the books that bring them comfort in times of heartache or loneliness.

I want to know if they’ve experienced epiphanies or been challenged by an author or transformed by a character. I love to hear stories about what they read, why they read, where they read. A person’s literary palate often reveals more to me than the personal photographs they have displayed around their home.

When I was in Grad School at the School of the Art Institute, I worked as a barista in my favorite neighborhood coffee shop, The Bourgeois Pig in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. I met many interesting characters grinding coffee and making espresso concoctions in the days before Starbucks hit Chicago. One of the dearest was philosopher and fellow-bibliophile, Kevin Neilson.

After losing touch, Kevin and I reconnected via facebook a year ago, and he has now launched a website, Between the Lines (at dedicated to booklovers:

"Booklovers are strange people, and strange people love learning about other strange people and the books they read and how (and why) they read them. Inspired by The Paris Review, Vanity Fair, and Bookphilia by Colleen Shea, Between the Lines is a blog that interviews a wide variety of people who are devoted to literature, from teachers, lawyers, and doctors to academics, novelists, critics — and beyond."
Kevin has already posteda few interviews, and I know that more are set to be revealed soon (mine included).

Between the Lines is a fascinating glimpse into the literary passions of some really interesting people. I invite you to check it out, and if you are inclined to share or make suggestions, send him an email at jkneilson [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Because I am unable to peruse many of your personal libraries (at least not yet, maybe someday), I would love to read about your literary tastes and experiences. Check out the Between the Lines and drop Kevin a note, even if it’s just to say, "Hey, this site is awesome. More please!"