Ever since junior high school I’ve been a little obsessive about books. I would ride my father’s bike to the Book Tree across town. The bike was a ‘comfort’ model (high handle bars, wide seat, wide tires), but I rode it like a mountain bike on the bumpy trails that cut through the woods to the book store. (The only way I could get permission to ride that far was by staying off the busier roads.) I eventually wrecked the bike with all the abuse, but not before I’d ridden it across the state of Michigan twice on week-long organized rides. It was built by Fuji, if you’re in the market.
It, my obsession, started with boyhood staples like the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift, then Tom Clancy, Tolkien, Brian Jacques, and Michael Crichton. Then I started reading comic books and everything else. (Science fiction followed quickly on comics’ heels.) I loved F. Scott Fitzgerald (and still do). I struggled through some Faulkner (and still do).
The point of all this is I developed the collector’s impulse. It wasn’t long before I had two shelves full of books: those I’d read and those I had yet to read. Over the years those two shelves have mixed together. At one point I tried a moratorium on new purchases to try to read all the books I already owned, but that was short-lived. I made exceptions for certain books (non-fiction, favorite authors), and, as always, the exception became the rule.
A few years ago Danielle and I found ourselves surrounded by books. Our primary bookcase was overrun: books were shelved two-deep with more stacked on top of the rows. We made more room for books all over our apartment, bought new shelves. We gave books away. Eventually we reached a slightly fussy equilibrium (I guess those two words don’t really go together, but you get the idea), but the only way to maintain it was to give books away.
What I wanted was a library, a room in the house devoted to books, walled with shelves, walled with books.
With our new house, I’m about to get my wish. The painting is nearly done, and this weekend we’re going to the great IKEA for some Billy Book Shelves.
Then we can finally unpack our thirty-odd book boxes.