Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been collecting material possessions far and wide; baseball cards and signed balls, old coins from nations past, and cool-looking beach shells to name a few. However, there is one collection of mine that is nearest and dearest to my heart; my library.
Over the course of 20 years, I’ve built up and sustained a library that grows with each passing birthday, Christmas, and any other day of the year that serves as an excuse to add more and more pages to my bookshelf. Amazingly enough, unlike other things that I collect and am actively searching for, I’ve been able to keep all of my books relatively in the same place.
For the first 18 years of my life, I had my library split between my Mother’s house and the various places that I lived at with my Father and step-family, all within about a 20 mile radius of one another in Western Washington. I’ve interchangeably rotated books between houses whenever I’ve been reading them, and this was a process that worked out pretty well.
That was, until College!
The day I signed my mental letter of intent to study at DePaul University in Chicago, I knew that caravanning my personal library from Washington State to Illinois was going to prove to be a monumental task of mental sturdiness and carrying-ability. I think most students, who have racked-together some sort of collection of literature through their childhood and adolescence, bring a few of their favorites to their schools of choice and then leave the rest in their childhood home; I feel as if that’s a rational thing to do.
However, from day one, I convinced myself that I would effectively transport my entire library from Redmond to Chicago completely by the time that I walked in my gown on graduation day in June of 2016. Surely I knew that it was a little ambitious of me to attempt such a feat without actively shipping any books across the country a-la USPS (c’mon, that’s cheating). I’ve always been a penny-pincher, and with the Great Library Project it’s been no exception. I’ve so far carried almost all of my library into checked bags that I take on flights with me between the two cities (flying Southwest usually helps, especially with the two free checked bags and the 50 pound maximum).
This project has a few planned out phases that I had in mind when flying the first novels to Chicago; first I would bring a few of my favorites and start buying cheap thrift-store copies of books I had always wanted to read, second I would bring the second tier of my books and only buy books in Chicago, that way negating the chances of having to ship more and more books to Chicago, and lastly I would make a full log of my personal library and bring the last remaining books that I have from my childhood home.
Currently I’m stuck somewhere between phases two and three, caught in a perpetual purgatory of indecisiveness on whether or not I can bring all of my books within the required time-frame. I’m also left with a huge handful of books that are more nostalgically desired than they are useful; though I take pride in the visual affirmation I get from looking at my library, the main purpose of my books are practical. My bookshelf is not only a source of decoration for my apartment’s living room.
I began phase three this winter break; with plenty of time to spare back in my childhood home, I started making an online database of all the books stored on my childhood bookshelf. Considering that it’s probably only about a quarter of my total collection, the sheer vastness of my collection started to frighten me a little bit.
I ended up having a little over 150 books in Redmond, which is even smaller than the original total I used to have (considering I’ve brought quite a few of them to school). Of these, about half of them were directly related to the Second World War. To make a long story short, I’ve had a lifelong fascination with the stories behind the world’s deadliest human conflict.
Another quarter of these books are my collections of fictional literature ranging from Shel Silverstein’s poetry to the Chronicles of Narnia. These are most of the books that gave me creative breaks when I wasn’t reading profusely about the political origins of the Third Reich or the military conquests of Patton’s Third Army. Who knew that kids could read children’s books?
For all of my book-snobs in Chicago who wish to take a trip back to childhood, rejoice; I’m bringing my entire collection of the Harry Potter series to Chicago. Now I’m no longer a complete literary muggle.
The rest of my personal library is made up of a combination of differing genres; sports, of which nearly all are baseball related, spiritual books (mostly gifts from baptisms, communions, and confirmations), Politics, and lastly some books that don’t have the privilege of being hurriedly rushed into a loose category. There were even some books that I didn’t include in my database, mostly because they were more coffee-table books than actual novels.
As I’m writing this right now, I’m somewhere over snowy plains states en-route to the Windy City for a several day layover before my embarking to Toledo for Christmas festivities with the family. Somewhere in the cargo of our Boeing-737 is also stored about 4-5 duffle-bags worth of literature and other things from my room, rounding out to almost 200 pounds in total. I’m confident in saying that this is my most successful shipment of books yet. Rejoice!
This is just the first part of a multi-faceted journey that I hope will truly never end; for me the gathering of books is similar to the gathering of memories, and the more I have the merrier. Wish me luck with the hellish organizational abilities required for locating my entire library!