I have a lot of books. Not a surprise to anyone that knows me offline, and even a few people online. I taught myself to read at the age of three, and I never really stopped, often to the detriment of everything else in my life, up to and including remembering to eat. For the last few years (about five or six) I have moved from home to home, and all my books were in storage, in boxes crumbling under the weight of the contents. I’m finally living in a home that has space for me to have my books with me, and it’s done wonders for my mental health. I had a cycle for a while, “I have Too Many Books!” I would moan as I was moving house, and the pile of boxes filled with books would grow. “I need more books!” I would sigh as I looked around my own personal library, and the gaps that could be filled with yet more books. I like to think that I have currently hit a happy medium. I still like to buy new books, because you can never go wrong with new books, but it isn’t the over-riding obsession of my youth. (Hah. Youth. As though I didn’t spend much of 2019 desperately scanning the bookshops for something to read)
I knew that for so many reasons I needed to catalogue all my books, and sort them better. Up to now, I tended to roughly group them: fiction by genre, series and author; reference by subject and series (in the case of For Dummies and Complete Idiot’s Guide). There was no order outside of that, just shove things where they would fit. Last year, just before the lockdown, I went to a furniture store, and ordered five large white bookshelves. When I got them, I retired my older shelves, (mostly snatched from my family as they offloaded them, plus a giant custom shelf that my Dad had made for me when I was a teen) and the Drama Queen, (who I live with) built the shelves. But I sorted the books the same way I always have. I decided earlier this year to change that. In 2019, I had started a Certificate IV in Library and Information Services. Last year, thanks to a combination of unemployment, ADHD, and Covid lockdowns, I had to drop the course. But I had learned. Oh, yes, I have learned much from the units I had done. I went hunting, and found a catalogue app for my phone. I needed one that I could also edit on the computer, because trying to type on a phone screen is hell.
And then…. nothing. Until this week. I got a burst of motivation from somewhere, (maybe under the fridge?) and cleared the first shelf, and then went hunting for the books by authors starting with ‘A’. It’s taking me a while, because as I said, I have ADHD, plus I’m not very fit. But I am slowly getting through. I have just finished the ‘L’s with Mercedes Lackey, and I have carefully catalogued every book before it is put on the shelf. It’s been interesting, seeing where the clusters are, where I got obsessed with a series or author to the point of buying every book they’ve written.
It’s also brought back some memories.
There was a guy I knew at school, who was to blame for most of my taste in fiction now. He introduced me to the DragonLance Chronicles, when I was fifteen. My DragonLance collection now takes up about two shelves, and I often think about getting more, finishing the series. He loaned me Belgarath the Sorcerer, and the first five Wheel of Time books. I now have the full series, and most of David Eddings’ works.
My Ann McCaffrey collection I got from a family friend. Every time we went to his house when I was a teen, the adults would talk, my brother and sister would hang around being a nuisance, and I would find his bookshelves and read the Pern books. When he moved to Queensland after he was married, he couldn’t bring the books with him, so he asked if I wanted them. I took his whole collection.
Red Dwarf I think marks the first time where I watched the show before reading the books, and I met one of my best friends through a shared love for the series. I have a few like that now, Torchwood, for example, plus a few movie novelisations.
The Valdemar books conjure up memories, from when I was about 18-21. Dad worked in Brunswick, I worked in South Melbourne, and Mum worked in Northcote. We all lived in Gisborne. To get to work, Mum and I would travel with Dad, then she would drive the car on to Northcote, while I took trams through the city. After work I would take the tram back to Brunswick, and since I tended to finish a few hours before Dad did, I would stop at the library on the way. I would spend the time before Dad finished finding new books to read. I had discovered yaoi fanfiction by this time, so the blurbs for the Last Herald Mage intrigued me. Within a week, I was heading to Dad’s office with armloads of Valdemar books. Dad passed away in 2006, so reading those books now is a little bittersweet.
Tolkien has been with me my whole life. I didn’t read the books until I was older, but I’d been hearing about them since I was a baby. My godfather, my dad’s little brother, my favourite uncle. He was my most frequent babysitter when I was little, and he managed to upset my mother. You see, he would read me the Hobbit as a bedtime story and, more importantly here, had nicknamed me Hobbit, and got me answering to it. I just think it’s more evidence that I have never liked my birth name, but try telling my mother that. It may also be why I don’t like wearing shoes now.
I have more books than this, of course. Don’t even get me started on my non-fiction collection. Most of my books have some kind of memory attached, I still have some of my earliest books, some with written messages from my grandmother, or various aunts and uncles that bought the book for me… there are also the books that my siblings, or Mum have tried to offload and I’ve just gone, “I’ll take that one!”
There are more that are pretty much lost forever, because I wasn’t quick enough to take them, or I didn’t have the means to get them before Mum threw them out, and a part of me is going to feel that lack for the rest of my life. Books have been a part of me my whole life, and I couldn’t really live without them. Even those years where I had to keep them in storage, because there just wasn’t room where I was, was painful to me. Some of the books I have, I bought during those years because living without any books at all was just awful. I think I got so hooked on gaming as a way to fill that void, and ebooks didn’t work as a substitute. (now there’s a rant)
Phew. I think this post got a little out of hand, longer than I thought it would be. If you down got this far, thanks for letting me vent about my favourite subject in the world. ^___^ Maybe share your own stories about how books have shaped you?