We’re going to need a bigger flat (with more shelves)

My bookshelves are groaning. I mean that literally – there’s some precarious bending of slats going on. This year’s Christmas haul consists of 84 books that I’ve never read and about 120 that I haven’t read for eight years.

None of these books are new. My parents, since they were in the area for Christmas, took the opportunity to offload some of my attic-stored boxes on to me, along with all the books they suddenly decided to get rid of this year and that I offered to take off their hands. Even though I grew up with one entire wall of our living room being used for bookshelves, I didn’t really consider how much stuff would be arriving when I enthusiastically offered to have them. And I don’t even have all of them. My sisters had the opportunity to get in there first and take their pick, which I’m sure they did. (I also suspect them of taking their pick of some of my books, since all my Chuck Palahnuik, a book called ‘The Animals Noah Forgot’ and an awesome collection of 50-word stories are missing. I’d be angry, but frankly lack of space and the knowledge that I’d probably do the same thing to them just doesn’t allow it.)

Thus far on the organisation front, all I’ve managed to do is separate the reference books, plays and poems from everything else and put them on their allotted shelves, and then split the read and not-read up.

I don’t normally own any books that I don’t read immediately. Up until today, I could hand-on-heart say that I’ve read every fiction book on my shelves. I can’t say the same for the reference and some non-fiction, but that’s because I tend to dip in and out of those as and when I need them (except for a brilliant book called ‘The Feminine Ideal’ which was about ideal women’s body shapes through the ages and which was just unbelievably grotesque and fascinating, and I couldn’t put it down), and, anyway, I keep them on a separate set of shelves, because I have a bad habit of buying ‘interesting’ reference books which I ‘might’ need one day. Hence the out-of-date dictionary of psychological neuroses, two Latin-English-Latin dictionaries, a book on how to speak ancient Greek and one on how to write in hieroglyphics. They look awesome, but I have to admit that I’ve never really used them.

Having 84 books in the flat that I’ve never before read, all right there, all at once, is causing a bit of a reader’s existential crisis – the one that normally happens at a young age when some well-meaning adult points out that reading speed, history and publishing output means you’ll never ever read all the books in the world. Or maybe that was just me. Anyway, my young self’s response to that was to swear never to reread. That particular vow was broken by the inner nostalgic bookworm and the new-at-that-stage inner bibliophile, the combination of which have left me with said groaning shelves.* The sensation also reminds me of having too many dessert options. ‘They all sound so good! What do I have!?’ Eeny-meeny-miny-mo-ing, and knowing all along that if you break and have too many at once you’ll be left with a massive toothache. Or headache, in this case.

So my approach has been to count and put all the unread books (lots of W Somerset Maugham and Herman Hesse) into two boxes in the study. My plan is to get through them one at a time, taking books from the top of the boxes only. Unless the book in question is part of a series, in which case I’ll dig them out in order. The read books have been dropped on shelves, and I will sort out them out once I’ve finished all the unread books (so in a good few months), because there’s no point doing it before then since I’ll only have to reorganise everything again every time I finish one, because that’s how crammed things are (I HATE having to double and pile books on shelves, but that’s where we’re at, folks).

Also, some of the read books are now duplicates because I missed them so much/came across a nicer edition than the one I had in storage/forgot I already owned it, so I need to go through those and get rid of one of the copies. Probably. If they aren’t both too nice to get rid of. If I do that properly, I think I can just about squeeze all the books on to the shelves we have. And then I probably shouldn’t buy any more books, ever. But I will.

* Bibliophile = one who loves the format and look of books. Bookworm = one who loves their content. This is according to Wikipedia, but it sounds right.

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