BY MARTHA STEWART
ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL MOLFETAS
An ever-growing collection of books satiates an industrious leader’s intellectual appetite.
I have a tremendous number of books, so I decided to turn one of the seven buildings on my farm in Bedford, New York, into a library. It’s a 1776 structure, and I gutted it and rebuilt it in the same style as the original. It’s very different from just a room in a house—it is a house
One room is all art books. My ex-husband was the president of Abrams Books, which published the best monographs in America on art. Then he started an imprint called Stewart, Tabori & Chang, which did great big volumes on things like the Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre, and the Hermitage. So I have wonderful art books on pretty much every artist, from early art, to the Medieval period and the Renaissance, and all the way up to the contemporary.
In the hallways are my classics—and I mean real classics, in Greek and Latin. I have the entire Loeb Classical Library from Harvard University Press. The red-bound books are all the Roman books, which are in Latin, and the green books are all Greek. You’ll find every single work that has ever been translated from Greek, like Ovid and Homer.
I like what librarians call “stacks”—counters in the middle of the room, loaded with books and with workspaces on top where you can stand and look at big volumes—so I have a stack room where I keep my cookbooks, my first-edition novels, and my lifestyle and design books. The cooking and gardening books are the ones I reference the most—my gardening books are very well-used. I’m always looking for old garden plans, and information about plants. Those are in the libraries upstairs, in one of two bedrooms there, although my really extensive garden library is still in East Hampton, and has yet to be moved to Bedford. At my house in Maine, I have a library devoted to that state. It’s all books that were written in or about Maine, or by Maine authors, or published in Maine. I don’t know if it’s true, but I was told that Maine has more authors per capita than any other state in America.
I’ve catalogued most of my books using a library program, and I’m always editing my books: making room for new ones, and keeping the valuable older ones. I’ve had a real problem choosing the lighting for my Bedford library, because it’s very hard to find library lights. I finally found the right ones at Modulightor on East 58th Street in New York. They’re going to fit into the upper part of the shelving and illuminate the spines. They’re being made right now, and when they’re in place, it’s going to be utterly beautiful.
I grew up with books, and I love them. When my daughter was a young girl, my biggest gift to her was, if she wanted to read anything, I would buy it for her. I still pay for all her books, and she’s a mother of two and a grown woman. She has a vast library, and her children, who are only 3 and 4, have hundreds of books in their rooms already—and they know every book in their libraries. It’s in our DNA.
Now, though, I read on my iPad. What’s bothersome about reading from a Kindle or an iPad is that you have all your books with you at all times. I’ve never read like this before. I’m in the middle of several books, and I do not like that. I would much rather finish one book and then go on. But I’ve gotten a little sloppy: Right now I’m reading Euphoria by Lily King, The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, The Negotiator by George Mitchell, and H is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald. But I encourage people to get real books. Even if you read it on an iPad, if you love it, you should get the hard copy, too, and keep it for posterity for your children and your grandchildren.
Stewart is the founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and an Emmy Award–winning television host. Her fourth annual American Made Summit, a nationally recognized awards program that celebrates local and handmade products, is on Nov. 7.