Friday, December 20, 2013

Circulating Library

So posting shelfies is a thing now, and here's one of mine. It shows part of my collection of hardbacks and, to the far right and on the floor underneath the bottom shelf, some of my own books, as well as a run of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and about two metres of paperback anthologies.

There are other shelves, of course. The bookcase at the right of the photo mostly contains books about science fiction. In the office, there are also six shelves of double-stacked fiction paperbacks, a couple of shelves of science books and a shelf of oversized books. Not to mention three shelves of books about London, New York and Los Angeles. And then there are the books on the floor of the office, and the rest of the fiction paperbacks in a built-in bookcase on the landing, and the bookshelves in the living room where, amongst others, the graphic novels and books about music and films reside.

But any picture that somehow managed to include all the books in the house (including those in the kitchen, which aren't all cook books, and the various caches of books in the bedroom) would only be a snapshot of single moment in a dynamic ecology. Like universes, book collections expand, contract, or (like mine) achieve a kind of equilibrium.

Books arrive at a slower rate than when I used to regularly review for Interzone (one American publisher used to send me a mailsack stuffed with books every other month), but still they come. At first, they lodge on top of a blanket chest in the office (which also, now I think of it, contains some books on biology left over from my academic career), or on top of the bookcase in the photo. Some are read in the office; others flow downstairs to be read. And then they either leave the house for a charity shop or the tender mercy of a book dealer, or return to the top of the bookcase, where a couple of stacks await proper shelving. Anything that makes the shelves must first dislodge something already there; because there's no room for extra books, there has to be a strict one-in-one-out policy. Once there, they might last five or ten years before I decide that I'm never going to get around to rereading (or re-reading) them and weed them out, or they might become part of the permanent collection. The books that I know I can't ever bear to part with. The sedimentary bedrock whose deepest layer is almost fifty years old now. Sooner or later, all book collectors become librarians of their own lives.


Anonymous Sergey said...

Impressive, Paul!

December 20, 2013 7:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this and a wonderful aphorism too:

Sooner or later, all book collectors become librarians of their own lives.

Beautifully said, Paul.


December 20, 2013 11:07 pm  
Blogger TchmilFan said...

I'm filled with biblioenvy.

I wish I could've kept all of my books, three moves and large-scale BHF/CRUK donations later and I struggle to fill three "Billys"

(I'm sorry to say there may have been a few McAuley's sacrificed to the gods of GiftAid, I think I'll check when I go home)

January 09, 2014 4:58 pm  

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