Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Books, mostly

It's been an odd festive season, all things considered. Not bad - actually I've quite enjoyed myself. But it's been odd.

Mostly, I suspect, this is down to our impending move. If the world doesn't suddenly shit on my head from a great height, we should complete the purchase of our new house on February 1st. There's a few things that need to be done to the place before we can move in - little stuff like ripping out all the old plumbing and starting again from scratch, fixing the roof, getting rid of the damp that's accumulated over three years of it being uninhabited, that sort of thing. We can just about afford the rent on this place for an extra month, so it's going to be four weeks of frenetic activity on my part. Then we'll have to move in, building site or not. Still, as long as there's a shower and a kettle, we'll be fine.

This past week though, I have been making a start on packing things up. Starting with books.

We have a lot of books. I am, by nature, a hoarder, and there's something very satisfying about a well-stocked bookcase. Right up until the point where you have to start deconstructing it. The bookcase is, I have discovered, the most space-efficient method of storing books. Putting them in boxes clutters up rooms very quickly.

At least I have good quality boxes. Just before we moved down to Wales, back in 1999, I worked briefly for a company that ran data warehouses. This is actually slightly less interesting than it sounds, which is to say mind-numbingly dull. But I did manage to help myself to about fifty stout cardboard file storage boxes. These are just the right size that, when filled with books, you can still lift them. When not in use, they collapse flat, too, which is handy.

So far I've filled about fifteen of them with around 850 books - I know this because I am taking the opportunity to catalogue the collection as I go. But that is just a drop in the ocean. That is just the books in my study, the paperbacks on the landing and the overflow in the bedroom. There's still the kitchen and my extensive collection of cookery books, and then the living room, one wall of which is entirely bookcase.

It's a slow process, too, packing books. Not the actual physical act of taking them off shelves and putting them in boxes - that doesn't take long. Nor the cataloguing, thanks to the handy investment in a bar code scanner (although that doesn't work for anything earlier than about nineteen-eighty, and quite a few of my books don't even have ISBNs.)

No, what slows down the whole process is the inevitable browsing. I got stuck reading Beowulf for an hour yesterday, and I've had to force myself into putting some books away, rather than piling them up 'for later.' There are books which take me back to specific times - some good, some bad; books which I've never quite gotten around to reading and which give me a little stab of guilt as I incarcerate them in a cardboard prison they'll not likely escape for over a year; books whose authors I've never heard of and whose provenance is extremely hazy; books I am embarrassed to have in my collection - 'Lace' anyone? E.E. 'Doc' Smith's entire Lensman series?

Hiding all these books away is hard. I wish I had time to sit and read, if even just to dip into some of the titles I've been handling. In a year or so, when the new house is redecorated, its plumbing is sorted and the damp has been banished back to the outside, I'll take all my old friends back out of their boxes, find them space on newly-built bookcases and leaf through their crackling pages in search of old memories.

I just hope that by then I will have a bit more free time to enjoy them.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous norby said...

Your uncle's fondue set exploded? Actually, I want to laugh, but it must have been pretty frightening for them, I'm glad they're okay, well except for your cousin's hands.

I understand what you're saying about your books. My soon to be ex-husband packed up all of my books-right now they're all in boxes in my parent's basement. I don't have any shelves to put them on, there isn't any room, but I'm very anxious to go through the boxes and just see them. I know he didn't do anything to them, but well. I don't like them all boxed up like that.

January 02, 2008 12:47 am  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Happy New Year.

I hope the new house has space for additional bookshelves. The beasties multiply and you never know how. :)

January 02, 2008 1:37 am  
Blogger highlandwriter said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

January 05, 2008 2:49 am  
Blogger Chaser said...

Moving books is always an ordeal. I'm pulling for you.

January 06, 2008 5:05 am  

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