From a booklover’s life

by Jules Morgan, via Flickr
by Jules Morgan, via Flickr

I remember the day I was going to Ireland “possibly for a year, maybe forever”. Since I was flying over there, my luggage was restricted by weight and I only could take four books with me. Two of them were dictionaries: Polish-English and English-Polish as I had a hunch they might come in handy. The other two were fiction: one that I already read and loved and the other one that I didn’t, but was supposed to write a review. That’s it, four books.

Just a year later I pushed my bicycle up the hill, carrying a package on it. It was my first bookshelf: meager, small and insignificant, but at least I could transport and assemble it on my own. I had few more books back then, but they still all fitted in and there was even some space left for boxes with “stuff”.

My friend visited me one day and when she looked at my bookshelf she instantly said: “Joanna! You have so many books!”. I looked at it too and realized how different our perceptions were. To me I hardly had any books and the few I had would not be called many. What was it? Thirty books maybe?

Two years more have passed and I had to get another bookshelf, and I thought one of the same size would suffice. In the end, I thought, I didn’t know how long I was going to stay in Ireland and moving houses was a hassle enough… But the new place had a beautiful display cabinet (and I loved these since there was less dust getting to my books), so I moved my books into it and slowly filled up empty space on my bookshelf.

Another two years passed and I became an owner of an ebook reader with a solid resolution of limiting the amount of printed books I buy. A vision of another moving houses was a dreadful one and when the time came, I carried bags upon bags full of books. My new place was much smaller and even though I didn’t share it with anyone anymore, it left little space for extra furniture. I managed to fit in my two meager bookshelves that has been with me for so long and put as many books as I could on them. I had a bit of extra space in my bedroom where all the dictionaries went, as I wanted to have these at hand when I write, but there was still not enough space.

So, as time passed and I reasonably bought less printed books, but I still bought some, I started piling the books up on the top of the shelves. One book here, one book there… The piles grew unnoticed. Until one day I looked at the shelves inquisitively and realized that the wood was bending, barely able to hold the burden and I understood it was the time. I knew I couldn’t think of temporary solutions anymore and I needed a proper bookshelf.

I needed my partner to carry the package and a taxi to bring it home, but as the black panels were assembled, I felt simply excited. I spent whole evening putting my books in the right order, grouping them the way I found most appealing. Still having over 200 books now, I filled the big shelf and one of the small shelves was still full, but at least the uneven piles disappeared from the top of it, bringing order to my library.

I still stop by when I pass my bookshelf in the corridor, to look at the black wood and neatly aligned books. I still consider my collection rather small, but it nevertheless pleases my eyes. I remember my friend’s words who said “The only thing better that buying books is buying bookshelves.” I smile. I brush my hand along beautiful spines. And then, a small voice somewhere inside my head whispers:

I want another one.

Joanna Maciejewska

Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games. Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English. Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. More than anything when flipping through your blog the other night on my phone, this was the one I wanted to read. Because books. Bookcases. Can there be anything finer?! 🙂

    I must admit, my current collection is … a wee bit larger than yours! Of course, I’ve had 20 years in my current house to let it grow. I still remember my first bookcase though; it dated to several years (and two moves) earlier. I bought it from a second-hand bookshop up the street (I believe they were closing down) and had to carry it back to my flat. It was heavy, and it made the 1km or so walk seem much longer! It was (and is) a beauty of a case; single depth (most of my newer ones are double depth to increase storage capacity) and 9 shelves high by about 4 feet wide. When I first moved from that flat to the next house, I had to saw it in half to get it in the back of my car, and then use a couple of stray pieces of wood and a little glue to rebuild it at the other end… 🙂

    1. melfka

      I feel slightly jealous now… 😉
      I don’t dream to have my own house to invite friends to it or to have a feeling of an accomplishement in my life. I dream to havy it so that I can really start collecting books. I always tell my boyfriend that we won’t have wallpapers covering the walls, we will have bookshelves.
      I really like your story about your first bookshelf and how you moved it – there is something magical about books and bookshelves for sure.

      1. Peter Jones

        Sorry… 😉

        My place is not about entertaining guests, that’s for sure. (In fact, long years of living alone have not been kind to my habits, and “mess” is an understatement!) But it *is* all about the storage. Usually it’s about the need for *more* storage… 🙂

        It’s taken a while — and I still prefer good ol’ paper books, I admit — but I have finally started buying more books on the Kindle, purely because every available shelf is overflowing and there’s just no more room for “real” books…

        1. melfka

          Well, my boyfriend is “no mess and no clutter” type, so my own, hm, “creative” nature is a bit limited, but yes, my place is for my convenience, not to be a showcase for someone else.
          I have no preference when it comes to reading, I just simply enjoy the look of the “real” books on the shelves. I usually buy ebooks instead of paperback editions of books I don’t feel strongly about (and that would be favourite series or author) and focus on nice editions etc. There is a Polish publisher who has a series of books called “Imagination’s Feast” with beautiful design and hardcovers. I go through the hassle to get them to Ireland even though I could get the same books in English… just not as pretty.

          1. Peter Jones

            They say not to judge a book by its cover … but a beautiful cover will get my money every time! 🙂

          2. melfka

            I am a bit more picky, but a beautiful cover will definitely make me hesitate ;).
            If you want to have a look at the “Imagination Feast”, check this page: It’s in Polish, but all the books that have numbers by them (on page one and two) have already been published and have their cover photo (imagine them hard cover, full gloss, not some flimsy sleeve…).

          3. Peter Jones

            That’s a great series! There’s nothing particularly cohesive about the artwork itself — no overarching design guidelines as such — but I love the way the simple but consistent banners containing author and title ties them all together. And, of course, there are a few titles I actually recognise! 🙂

            Often that’s what draws me in too: not so much a single lovely cover, but a consistent series of covers. In other words, I might see a single book and not be interested, but if I see two or three in the same set, well, that’s a little more difficult to resist! 🙂

      2. Peter Jones

        On a related note … have you heard of the term ‘tsundoku’? 🙂

        1. melfka

          Ooops. I somehow missed this question. The term rings a bells… *looks it up* Ah, yeah, I remember now. It makes me wonder whether it is leaving them _intentionally_, because if not, this should be called “buying more books than you have time to read”. 😉 In the end I do intend to read all the books I bought! Scout’s honour!

          1. darkphoenix68

            I totally intend to read every book I buy … I’ll just have to live forever to do it! 🙂

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