Tuesday 24 April 2012

A Book Collector's Guide to Moving House, or, Bloody Hell I Don't 'Arf Own a Lot of Books

And we're in. The move to the new house – still in Lewes, for those who've asked – was successfully accomplished on Friday, and the new place is currently littered with boxes and bags and in the living room a pile of chipboard flooring waiting to be hefted up to the loft (we're currently using the chipboard as a huge coffee table). All in all the move went pretty smoothly, but I'm afraid, what with one thing and another, normal blogging service won't be resumed just yet; there are various visits by various sets of parents and relatives to deal with first, not to mention Rachel's impending birthday, plus I've yet to finish unpacking and shelving all of my books.

Speaking of which, I thought it might be instructive to give you a sense of what moving house is like for someone who, to be frank, owns a fuck of a lot of books (and comics, and records, and CDs). Indeed, it was those books which prompted the removal firm we hired – the excellent Martins Removals of Newhaven – to mark the job down as a three-man endeavour rather than the usual two. And once the books were all boxed, I began to see their point...

You can just glimpse a comic box peeking out behind the amusingly named ("Weener"... uh huh huh huh), specially provided books boxes in that second pic; there were around a dozen of those as well (and there are still more in my mum and dad's loft in south London). Handily, Rachel came up with a simple yet effective system for keeping track of what was in each books box:

She scrawled the names of the authors on the top of each one. This innovation became crucial once the boxes were removed...

...and deposited in the new house:

Pick the bones out of that little lot. Which was precisely what I proceeded to do, and which in the event proved oddly enjoyable, as it afforded me the opportunity to shelve the books in a different order. To wit:

A work-in-progress bookcase, with some of Rachel's books on the top shelf (it seemed only fair to allow her a little space...); Anthony Price and Kingsley Amis next shelf down; then Adam Hall (Elleston Trevor), P. M. Hubbard and Geoffrey Household on shelf number three; and Len Deighton and John le Carré on the fourth shelf down (and a Stieg Larsson box set and a couple of strays underneath). And over on the other bookcase...

We have Patricia Highsmith, Gregory Mcdonald and Donald Hamilton on the top shelf; Ross Thomas and Graham Greene next shelf down; Andrew York, Dan J. Marlowe, Richard Price, Charles McCarry, Joe Gores and Donald E. Westlake's Dortmunder novels underneath those; and more Westlake/Richard Stark and Dan J. Marlowe, plus Peter Rabe, on the fourth shelf down. Once again, the lower two shelves are TBC, but I'm making headway on those on both bookcases:

Things are bound to change around a bit, but I'm reasonably pleased with the results thus far. Of course, there is yet another bookcase in a separate room, into which some of my non-fiction will be going, along with a selection of graphic novels, the remainder of those heading up to the loft (once it's floored) with the comics. However, I can't show you that bookcase, because it's currently housing books which I've yet to blog about, and I don't want to spoil any surprises. Mind you, if you take a close look at the above photos, you might be able to spot one or two other novels which I'll shortly be blogging about – some of which will also be making it into my Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s gallery...

Be seeing you.


  1. Yes, we still have some, but you seem to be doing a grand job so far!

  2. You have so many books that even I am impressed. (And now that you are in a new house you should have plenty of space to get more books.). Everything looks high quality, too.

    My dad told me he is putting his house up for sale this summer. So I have to figure out what to do with all of the books (roughly equivalent to what you just moved?) I have in storage there. Maybe your mum has room in her loft?

  3. I got evicted from my study for the sake of peace and goodwill to all men in our household - well it separated my 2 teenage daughters and has reduced previous level of sisterly hostilities in the Keane household.

    The upshot was my 2000+ books, got shunted up to the attic - God that was fun, not - apart from 50-odd on a bookcase in our utility room.

    Because I couldn't see them, feel them, touch them - I felt bereaved!
    I'm slowly getting over it, but it has somewhat limited the speculative nature of deciding what to read next. Sometimes you can start something that promises much, but realise a short time later that you just aren't in the mood for that particular journey at that particular time....and I'm too old to hike up the attic every time I change my mind,

    Hope you settle your books soon, plus the other less important stuff! Furniture, bed, TV etc,


  4. Col, the boy has a chair. What more do you need? a bed?

    I moved six months ago and was without shelves at all for awhile (my books stacked in boxes against a wall for a couple of months) and found it so depressing.

    Still, now I'm sorted out and re-reading bits of the library I'd semi-forgotten about.

  5. I daren't suggest moving to OH - we have about a thousand books in the van in the garden, a thousand books in my linen stock/packing room, a thousand books dotted around the house and about 2 or 3 thousand in the loft. well, it's more than that if you include the kids...downsize? Much too stressful...

  6. Mum: I'm sure we'll be taking those boxes off your hands soon. Can't actually remember what's in them though!

    BG: Since I'll be removing the last of the boxes in my mum and dad's loft fairly soon, I don't see why not. Freight charges from Washington might be a bit of a bitch though...

    Col: Quite so. Now that my books are (mostly) back on shelves, I find myself just sitting and staring at the spines in a contemplative fashion, wondering where to go next. In some ways it's the anticipation that's the thing, more so even than the reading.

    Gordon: I'm now unpacking the graphic novels, and again I'd semi-forgotten about some of them. Rather enjoying reacquainting myself with GNs I'd forgotten I had.

    Vintagemaison: Oh dear God. I haven't quite got to that stage yet. Give me time though...

    Thanks for the comments, everyone!

  7. Congrats on the successful move. I dread the day we ever have to move. Not only do we acquire books like a dog acquires fleas, but I have a massive collection of vinyl records, primarily acquired during the final days of that format of music storage, when they were so cheap it would have been a crime not to buy them. And now that DVD's are on their way out, thanks to the late Mr. Gates, I feel thoroughly vindicated. And utterly horrified at the prospect of moving all that paper and vinyl, but we're rent-controlled anyway, so they'll have to carry us out. :)

  8. I slimmed down my vinyl collection years ago, Chris. Even so, I've still got something like a thousand LPs and 12"s, and probably half as many 7"s. They don't, however, take up quite as much space in boxes as books do!

  9. I do like the photos - I've been twisting my neck trying to decipher the authors and titles, in much the same way that I'll get nosey if I'm round someone's house I'll have to check out the bookshelf.

    I'll always try and see what someone is reading in a coffee shop or cafe - curious but not to the point of tapping them on the shoulder.

    Diverging onto synchronicity - the first time I watched Shallow Hal, Jack Black was reading a George Pelecanos book at the same time I was reading it - can't remember the title but it had a funky green cover - spooky, bearing in mind the film and the book were several years old by this time.

    More bookshelf photos please!

  10. I tip my invisible hat (don't wear them, don't own any) to you, Nick. It's quite an achievement to a book collector/bibliophile like yourself to pack move, unpack, and set up his collection in a new home.

    I, on the other hand, failed miserably at it. The last photo of boxes looks like my second bedroom. Yes, I've been lived in my condo for nearly four years and I still have UNPACKED BOXES! In fact the bedroom cannot be used for guests or an office as was the original plan. It will always be the "book warehouse." Boxes get unpacked and a few months later new boxes take their place. If I only had more space for shelves. But a certain someone won't allow it. Grrr. Partners. What can you do but compromise?

  11. Col, I'll see what I can do on further shelf porn. But if you click on the "shelf porn" tag at the bottom of this post, that'll take you to previous bookshelf photos.

    John, the secret is, the boxes we used to transport the books – and everything else for that matter – were provided by the removal firm, and have to be returned once we're done with them. So I've had no option BUT to unbox the books. Mind you, some have been decanted into different boxes, as they'll be going up in the aforementioned loft. As for partners, I can see their point of view: this "hobby" of ours can get out of hand. But although I do see Rachel's point, I know in my heart of hearts that she is, at root, entirely wrong...