Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fully Booked

The prospect of moving house this summer fills me with both excitement and dread. It's not the trials of deciding on delightful decoration, nor groaning at the gigantic garden awaiting me out west. It's all because of my books. Working from home means my house is more than just my castle - it's also my library. Studying The Book requires lots of books, which brings us back to my dread.

Packing. The clock is ticking, and sooner rather than later, all those books will have to be packed into boxes ready for the journey to their new home in Fermanagh. They'll even be reunited with some books that didn't make it out of their boxes when we moved into our current home. Those poor unfortunates have been consigned and confined to an unread existence under the spare bed. Perhaps they'll find some shelf space to make up for their boxed boredom.

My Heaving Shelves

Is there an answer in this digital age, with e-books emerging and Kindles turning paper books to kindling? Wouldn't it make more sense to stock up on space-saving resources rather than hauling several dead forests' worth of books to sit on other dead forests of shelves? The logical, rational position would be yes - start the download immediately. Having explored e-readers and considered Kindles, I'm not rushing to push the button just yet.

You see, contained within my shelves are more than just oceans of black ink on white (and yellowing) paper; more than endless bits of information to be read; there are memories and emotions - I may, in fact, be what I read.

Consider the excitement of entering a good secondhand bookshop, the smell of old books concentrating the senses; never knowing what hidden treasures you'll find, the bargains missed by others. That personal mission to find Fly Fishing by JR Hartley an old favourite. Browsing Amazon or iBooks just doesn't compare to the big book safari.

009/365:2010 Secondhand Books

My books bring back memories - not just of the stories I've read, but also of the places I've been when I was reading them. Gazing at Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns takes me back to the poolside in Lanzarote; The Partner, my first experience of John Grisham, was devoured in the car park while my wee brother played junior football in the rain in Whitehead; and so many books read in airports travelling to and from seeing my beloved fiancee (and now wife) while we were at college in different countries.

Imagine (unthinkable for some, I know, and possibly hypocritical by suggesting it in an e-journal), imagine turning off the computer, getting away from the screen, and interacting with a good old-fashioned book. Taking the time to read something, anything, that someone else has poured hours and hopes and dreams into; turning pages without any slick graphics showing pages turning; always ready to read, never shutting down or breaking down. Your local bookshop needs you - perhaps you need those old books after all?

My books transfer more than knowledge - they've become part of my life. How could I think of getting rid of them now, after years of searching secondhand bookshops the length and breadth of several countries? The dread of moving will be replaced by the joy of organising my new study library and hopefully seeing more of my books on the bigger shelving area. One thing is sure though - I can't justify buying any more volumes before the move: the removals lorry may already be fully booked.

This article was first published in the LAWKIT journal in June 2011. Go and read the far better articles from the rest of the contributors in the third edition!


  1. We just moved recently & our books were the biggest item & heaviest to move. Even though I felt like I was a gorilla dragging my stretched arms they were the most precious thing we own. Happy moving!

  2. Moving day is marching ever closer, so in spare moments (?) I'm trying to do a bit of sorting to get ready! It's incredible how books can seem to multiply to fill any and all available shelving, and fill boxes when the shelving ceases!