The last time we moved house, I organised for a carpenter fill two long hallways with bookshelves, floor to ceiling. They’re gorgeous bookshelves. They’re perfect.
‘That’s definitely it,’ I told my husband. ‘There’s heaps of room now. That’ll be plenty.’
‘Right,’ he said. ‘Sure.’ And he shook his head.
At the time, it was plenty of space. Once I unpacked the thirty (thirty!!) boxes and all my books were on the shelves, there was still lots of room between the books for things like photos in frames and Japanese pots and little vases.
That was close to three years ago. Now my bookshelves are almost full and, short of moving house again or extending, soon some hard decisions will have to be made. I’ll have to stand in front of the bookshelves and look at each and every book, one at a time, and decide whether each book will stay or go.
Some novels will definitely need to go, to the Brotherhood, or to friends. There just won’t be space enough for all of them.
Some novels, however, are immune from this decision-making process. They are my essentials, the ones I cannot be without. It’s a surprisingly small list, considering how many novels I own.
Some of them, like the Atwood and the Byatt, make me weak with admiration for the incredible skill on the page. Others, like the Brooks and the Flynn, are flat-out engrossing entertainment that make me remember the very best thing about being deep inside a novel: that lost feeling, the compulsion to keep turning the pages.
I reread them often but to be honest, just looking at them on my shelves makes me feel happy.