A Library Divided

book suitcaseI’ve never actually counted, but, if I had to guess, I’d say I probably own several hundred books. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the number was over one thousand. As a reading enthusiast, I get a great deal of satisfaction from owning so many lovely printed and bound objects. But, it’s a satisfaction tinged with sadness, as the vast majority of my library is currently, according to Google, 8,503 miles away.

When I moved countries, my parents kindly let me store most of my worldly possessions in their home; all my books shelved or boxed in my childhood room (all except the copy of World War Z I read as I travelled). These books were a combination of titles I had saved throughout my life, including every book my parents read to me as a child, as well as the hundreds I purchased while working my first independent bookstore job.

I’ve always bought many more books than I can feasibly read in the near future, figuring on some level that I’m stockpiling for later in life. Over my three and a half years at that first indie store, located in Massachusetts, I bought across a wide range of subjects, from Tudor-era British history, to biology/zoology, to classics and modern fiction, to sci-fi/fantasy and young adult lit. In the years since coming to New Zealand, I’ve amassed quite a collection here as well, but it has yet to rival the size of my Stateside library (which, after all, was 25 years in the making).

Every time I go back for a visit I plan to fill a suitcase with my abandoned literature, but other things quickly get in the way, making the bag too heavy to fit in more than one or two of my estranged titles. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve restrained myself from buying a copy of Game of Thrones in Wellington, having to remind myself that I’ve got a perfectly good paperback edition on a shelf in the Midwest.

I dream of the day when all my books will be united, when I will be able to run my finger along each of their bindings and, if I can’t remember whether I have a particular title, quickly discover the answer with a simple scan along the spines.

Book Riot contributor Cassandra Neace recently wrote a post about driving 2,040 miles to pick up her collection of books from storage.

It seems a reasonable decision.

Liz Gillett

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