Family is what makes a house a home, but when we don’t live with family, when we’re out on our own either by ourselves or with roommates, there are little things that make a place truly ours. Sometimes it’s making the first meal in the new kitchen, or hanging up the pictures, or putting out a collection.
For me, it’s setting up the library.
After the physical and mental stress of moving, there’s something incredibly soothing about the act of sorting, unboxing, organizing, and shelving the books that makes a place feel like mine. Having my hand on every single book, seeing them all correctly in place, that’s when a place becomes mine.
I’ve always called it the library, even when it was just a tiny stack of books on the floor. I’d tell my mom I was going to the library, and I’d go into the closet, close the door, and curl up in a nest of blankets with a book and a flashlight, and I’d disappear for hours. I’d go walking through wardrobes with the Pevensies, talk to animals with Daine in Tortall, or sail the high seas in Amy’s Eyes.
For the most part, though, books really were from the library, either the public ones or the school ones. Money was tight, and with as quickly as I read, books would have been a serious investment. But then when I was…fifteen? Almost fifteen? I earned some money for babysitting all day every day for two kids for two weeks. They were great kids, and we had a lot of fun. I’d read out loud to them after lunch, so the food could settle, and for the first time they were actually enjoying books, which was almost worth everything right there. Mom and I struck a deal- as long as I put a third of it into savings, I could spend the other two thirds however I wanted.
We made a trip to the bookstore.
But thirteen years later, I can still tell you which books I bought, because they were ones I had checked out from the library so often I almost had them memorized. Everything Tamora Pierce had out at that time, the full Belgariad and Mallorean series by David Eddings, plus the side books, whatever Brian Jacques paperbacks I didn’t have yet. I came home with two enormous bags of books, plus the materials for a little bookcase. I put it together completely by myself, and when I had it up and organized all the books and put them up, I just sat there in front of it and smiled.
Every time I move I tell myself I have too many books, but then I get them all up on the shelves and suddenly this brand new apartment, with everything else still in boxes, the still unfamiliar floor plan, becomes home.
I’m still in the middle of the current move, but it’s been plagued with daily heavy rains, so process has been somewhat slower than I’d’ve hoped. However, those rains have meant that I’ve had more time in the new place to organize and unpack as I go. Today’s rainy hours project was my YA books.
My books have been in storage since January, so in many ways it was like reuniting with old friends. Seeing trilogies completed by books that have come out in the past couple of months finally sit all together was awesome. I’m the type of nerd that loves to recognize patterns, so it’s fun to see where authors’ names cluster within certain letters. It’s a weird mix of having a lot of books by particular authors in those clusters and having a lot of different authors in those clusters, but I have a ton of books whose authors’ names start with C. And M. And R and S.
The Tamora Pierce books have been joined by more- since I bought Alanna and Daine’s sets, I’ve added Keladry’s, Aly’s, Beka’s, and the Circle Opens and Circle Reforged sets. She takes up a full shelf and a bit. My Cassandra Clare hardcovers take up most of a shelf, and I’m not sure if they look impressive or terrifying all lined up together.
Every book, though, as I sort it by letter, as I shelve it, I remember why I bought that book. Someone I trust told me it was amazing. The characters sounded incredible. The setting seemed unbelievable. I remember why I was intrigued enough to buy them and I remember what my reaction to them was.
And that’s what makes it coming home. These are the friends I escape to in bad times, celebrate with in good times. They take me away from my own world and I come back to understand it better. They challenge me, change me in ways I can’t always even encompass until years later.
Then there’s the fact that I got to put my own book up on the shelf for the first time. It sits right between Tara Hudson and Eva Ibbotson, and seeing it up there legitimately is MIND-BLOWING.