Best Friends on a Shelf

I miss my books.

Isn’t that strange? It sounds strange. Especially when you consider that they haven’t gone anywhere, they haven’t been given away or destroyed, they are just packed up, in boxes.

In my parents’ house, my dad built me bookshelves, years ago. I quickly filled them to the brim with my beloved books. The shelves were over full with the stories and characters that I love. My friends. I could glance at any spine and tell you the story, the people, the best lines, the funniest parts, the parts that touched me, made me cry. I’ve weeded and pared down the collection several times over the years. I’ve had no choice, at well over 600 books, if I don’t control it, it will take over every space in my life.

But the best of the best, my best friends, never go anywhere. They stay, beloved, in their same spaces, year after year. So little changed that I could have told you, blindfolded, what the sixth book from the left, second shelf down, was.

(The Secret Passion of Simon Blackwell, by Samantha James, if you were wondering)

If you know me at all, my love of books is no secret. I devour them every chance I get. But, it isn’t just what is new and what is next. Every book in my collection has been read at least three times. Some of them, (the Judith McNaught collection (and yes, I actually own all of those), The Bride & The Wedding by Julie Garwood, etc.) I’ve read ten or more times. Yeah, I read a lot of books. No doubt.

When I moved, the books had to be packed. They went first, actually, because of everything I owned, I was most concerned that they be packed properly. And they are. Mass market paperbacks are together, alphabetized. Trade paperbacks, Hardcover, juvenile fiction, non-fiction, text books, and miscellany. Every type and section of the alphabet recorded on the box, so at a glance, I can know what is inside.

It was a fantastic system and very useful, for finding something. Because they were packed first, they’ve actually been boxed up for six months or so. If you’ve been to my new house, you have seen them all against one wall in the basement, 30-odd boxes of books.

However, in my house, I have no bookshelves. I need bookshelves. Desperately.

I’m still looking for the perfect shelves–and trying to decide where they will go in my house. I have ideas, but my ideas are expensive and my checkbook holds me back. So I try to pare it down and end up stymied.

Yet, with each passing day, I miss my books more and more. Today I saw a reference, in passing, to a book I own and it made me nostalgic. So much so, that I went to Amazon to see if it was searchable. It was and I spent ten minutes reading the available excerpts. They were only snippets and out of order and cut off at the worst possible place, but it still made me feel better to have that small connection with an old friend. (Ravished, by Amanda Quick, for the curious).

Even though I was not always reading one of them or even anything from my collection, they were always there. I saw them every day. Sometimes I’d just look at them, enjoying the look of a well-organized book shelf. Sometimes I’d just run my eyes over them and recall a story, or a particularly witty turn of phrase, or something that touched me and I’d just feel uplifted to have that connection. Just from a glance.

Not being able to see them, to visually connect with my books, is far more challenging than I thought. I remember, a couple (three? four?) weeks after I moved in, Elena and I were talking. She asked if my house felt like home. I said that it definitely did not. She said, “well, you probably won’t feel at home until you get your books unpacked”. It really struck me because it was so insightful. Perhaps even more than I realized.

While my house is definitely my home, there is an essence, a certain something that has been missing. I’ve been thinking it was just that “adjustment” period, to living alone, to being a home owner, to growing up. Who knows? But, while I love my house and am very happy there, it isn’t quite…finished.

So I told myself it was because it is not, in fact, finished. I still have rooms left to paint and decorating left to do and my vision is not complete. But, after getting weepy today over a mention of a story I haven’t read in probably five years, I think Elena hit the nail on the head.

I need to unpack my books.

I miss them, I want them organized, visible, and available for browsing/reading/daydreaming at the drop of a hat.

I think it is safe to say that I am now on the hunt for the perfect, affordable, set of bookshelves.

I want my friends back on their shelves.

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