I have been busy with the simultaneous challenges of the end of term and trying to pack my apartment while planning a major change in my life’s journey. I am currently at 29 boxes of books, with more to go: although I am sure the rest of my things will also take some time and effort to pack, I have far more books than anything else.
I am doing my best to cull, so far that means one duplicate and one I-am-never-going-to-read-this book have been rejected. I have long wanted — and been building — a fine private library, and these 29+ boxes are the fruit of many years of careful second-hand-book purchasing. Goal A is to walk across Europe — Goal B is to save towards the One Day House, where the books will have their home. And so, since my parents (understandably!) refused to let me move them all into their basement, I have a storage unit here in Halifax arranged and paid for the year, and have been moving boxes into it this past week.
My landlord called today to ask about setting up apartment viewings. One possibility was for tonight, which I refused on the basis of too-short notice. I am the sort of packer (or, indeed, tidier) who makes large messy piles of everything as an interim stage to putting them away. Presently my entire apartment and especially my living room is a series of messy piles.
Piles: Of books; of boxes; of sewing materials (I have been toying with making my own backpack — more on that to follow, when I get the chance); of paperwork; of equipment for my adventure; of the materials for making Christmas puddings. Of notebooks and story materials; of library books and borrowed ones to be returned to friends; of notecards; of containers of tea I have been trying very hard to go through.
Of mason jars; and clothing; and more packing material; of packed boxes awaiting tape, and packed boxes awaiting transport; of lists of what I have yet to do, or want to do, or desperately don’t want to forget to do. Of . . . well, you get the idea.
It’s been a while since I moved, and I’ve never put things in storage before. I keep having to make decisions about when I’ll want something — my gardening and writing books, for instance, are difficult. I had a partial list (an Excel spreadsheet) of my books from when I moved last, so I’ve been diligently entering in all the authors and titles, other important information, and also what box they are in, for each book.
This makes it slower but at least I will know where my copy of The Dictionary of Imaginary Places or the four different collections of John Donne’s poems and prose writings or Plato’s Republic in Cornford’s translation or any of my extensive collection of Latin grammars or my manual on falconry are, when I want them. (Respectively: Boxes 29; 13, 15, 23, and 29; 24; various; and not yet packed.)
I also now know I possess upwards of 1500 books, not including the ones that are still at my parents’ house. A better library than the vast majority of anyone in history has ever owned: and yet: well! Do I know them so well as a lover of books who only owns fifty could? Perhaps not; but one of the things I plan to do this year is delve very deeply into a small number of these, to know them richly.
(And in case you’re curious, of the non-reference books, I have read approximately half — more than 2/3 of the novels, less than half of the nonfiction; that’s what goes by the wayside when teaching. Next time I unpack them I will quite possibly arrange them by read and not-read, to encourage the movement of categories from the latter to the former.)