After our wedding, my wife and I moved into a small studio apartment located on the corner of 800 N and 100 W in Provo, Utah. Before unpacking anything else – dishes, cookware, bedding, clothes, bathroom supplies – my wife and I put together five sets of bookshelves and proceeded to shelve our combined library.
Later, I would be stopped by one of my neighbors who would proceed to tell me how envious he was of our library. This will rank somewhere in the top 25 best moments of my life.
The surprising thing about our library was that despite the capacity to fill five bookshelves, there were only two duplicates in our combined independent collections: Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Color Code by Taylor Hartman. I believe the fact that these two books were the only two books that overlapped in our combined libraries is one of the reasons why we have such a strong marriage.
First – the fact that we had little overlap in our libraries meant we remain sufficiently different from one another, eliminating any chance of us running out of things to talk about. My wife rambles on about fantasy and fiction, while I ramble on about the various subjects my non-fiction books elucidate on, ranging from the ingredients of a Twinkie to the biography of the man who invented the thesaurus. She keeps me grounded by reminding me that sometimes entertainment is just that – entertainment, and my wife never has to subscribe to another podcast again, since I’ll talk about basically anything under the sun (vanity, vanity, all is vanity!).
Second – our first overlap is Lord of the Rings, written by the perennial father of modern fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien. Why does this show how we’re compatible? Because Lord of the Rings is the perfect marriage between shameless escapist fantasy complete with little hobbits, orcs, a giant spider and freaking Ringwraiths, combined with erudite Old English wordplay and complex social themes written into a vast, sprawling landscape of symbols! The book represents the combination of our personalities – a closet geek accountant who reads fiction to have swashbuckling adventures you can’t find within an Excel spreadsheet (though she assures me pivot tables can be just as exciting) and an almost obsolete English major aspiring for professorship obsessed with the strangest, most trivial scholarly topics. It is only expected that both of us would own our own copies, and strangely enough, we ended up buying a third boxed edition on our honeymoon – for real (for our children, we rationalized).
Third – The Color Code by Taylor Hartman. For those not in the know, this book is basically years of personality studies in psychology distilled into a simple, easy to understand system. Upon hearing that both of us knew about the book (and read it), we could tell each other what our colors were (she’s a blue/red, I’m a yellow/blue). We rarely use it as one would a fortune teller or take it as exact science, but the fact we both owned the book and knew it well showed we found interest in personalities and relationships. A lot of relationships fail because the two parties simply didn’t understand each other and rarely strive to understand – reading books about how to understand and work with other people meant our commitments to each other weren’t backed up with hopes and wishes; we were honestly trying to learn. This means all the difference.
A mentor of mine could read you by simply listening to what you said. He would let you sit there while all the while he wouldn’t say a word; nature abhors a vacuum and when people are confronted with silence, they fill it with their own words, of which he would use to decipher your soul. I, however, hold firmly to the fact that you can also learn a lot by looking through a person’s library. So what does your library tell about you?