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 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.