My bookshelf is full. I bought three new books from the charity shop today, one to give to a friend. I had to balance them on top of the case because there wasn’t any other space for them. This makes me feel proud. It makes me excited.
I’ve loved books my whole life. Whether I read them or not, the craving to possess a library has had me in a chokehold for years. I’ve relished in the collecting of books, buying most second hand or asking for them as gifts. I’ve always picked up anything with a blurb that latches onto my visual imagination.
Illustrated covers lure me in like succubi, and I can’t turn away from a bookstore, new and used alike. As a young adult, my vice was crime fiction; the violent capabilities of the human imagination seemed limitless. It was as exciting as it was disgusting, but I devoured the books voraciously, my appetite mimicking those detailed between the pages. I had a collection of over 200 books, but the unfortunate reality of awful London landlords and bedbug infestations meant the lot had to be destroyed.
At St Mary’s University Twickenham, I studied English Literature and Language, where I not only refused to touch the required reading list, I didn’t read anything at all for the first two years.
In my third year, I met Professor Allan Simmons. He served up books like hot slices of toast with all the toppings where the other professors had given me lumpy porridge. His module on Bob Dylan was a palette cleanser before he offered us the good stuff: Modernism, Post-Modernism and T.S Eliot.
My threadbare collection grew again, my shelves housing Atwood, Joyce and Beckett. The absurd, non-linear narratives huddled in my space, the stream of consciousness barely contained within, desperate to breach the gap between my reality and theirs.
From here my tastes evolved ever further. I found out that while English Literature was respectable, for the truly bizarre and dark I would need to turn to Russian, Japanese and Italian literature. I found Calvino, Murakami and Bulgakov. These three key authors are significant shareholders on all my bookshelves, and if I’m ever stuck for inspiration, there is nothing easier than referring to Cosmicomics or The Master and Margarita.
I’m 29 now, and I add books to my hoard almost weekly. I am never concerned about having too many to ever read. Nor am I concerned about keeping their pages crisp. They are more than possessions, but less than artefacts, and sometimes I understand that the only solid foundation of my life is the knowledge that I will always be a book collector.
Though there are other half-full bookshelves in my house, seeing this one stacked at odd angles, gaps filled in with trinkets and receipts and swollen with the memorial joy of knowing I chose them all, is the one that makes me feel accomplished. As if at this moment I have reached the spire of everything I want to be.