Its finally happened.  After almost fourteen months of dragging through piled up cardboard boxes every time I wanted one of my treasured tomes my new bookshelves are now finished and the said books ensconced.  Or at least over half of them.  Once we’ve tackled the dining room which currently resembles a lumberyard come chinese takeaway the rest of my collection will find their homes there.

Still, alone as I was last Saturday (my OH being out at some boys do) I finished putting the books on the shelves, poured myself a glass of red wine and just looked at them. Seeing their orderly lines arranged to my liking along the alcove shelves for the first time since moving here I felt truly at home.   Having been somewhat of a nomad over the past 10 years and now moved into the first property I hold some legal claim to, this seemed a little ironic until I realised that, no matter whatever adventure I took since I learned to read, some of my books have always accompanied me.  

Travelling round the States at 20 I lugged with me a torn suitcase of the crumpled paperbacks I flew out with as well those I swiftly acquired en route.  Ten years later and staying with a family in Siena  whilst learning Italian  from my study room shelf spilled the books chosen to sustain me til I reached Rome and the rest could join us.   Indeed its rare that I leave the house without at least one in my bag – the mere thought of being stranded in a cafe or on a train with nothing to read makes me twitch and reach for the caffeine.

Books then. The most dangerous things in the world perhaps. Certainly warnings are scattered through myth of the perils of seeking knowledge.   For wresting the bright fire of the Gods was Prometheus’ bitterly punished. Lest Adam and Eve not be content with mere carnal knowledge, angels with fiery swords are set to guard against mankind’s attempts at the luscious fruit on the other tree. Whether Latin Bible or Arabic Qu’ran sacred books are set in languages designed for the understanding of the few.

More prosaically it is along with bras and flags that books are burnt, a part of societies’ symbolic battleground. Schoolbooks figure in international treaties and legal cases. Even in the parochial library where I currently work springs up the dilemma of books that are graphic and offensive and whether we should lock them away from the shelves that all and sundry may not leaf through them one handed. From cumbersome objects uncomfortably hard-edged to tissue soft pages which cushion dark evenings, I’m glad to be home.