Book Shelfishness

When making the shift into co-habitation, the question of which possessions to combine and which to keep separate is an interesting and sometimes tricky one. It probably says a lot about a couple which possessions they don’t allow to become enmeshed and which they do. Sometimes it’s a matter of identity, sometimes practicality.

Paul and I have always kept our music collections separate. This is mostly practical. We both have eclectic but quite different tastes. There’s not a lot of overlap. So it’s easier to find what we want to listen to by keeping our collections separate.

We also have kept our books separate. This was not practical; it had everything to do with identity. The books that we own are a snapshot of our personal histories. We kept them in different bookcases: mine in the pine bookcases I had made nearly 20 years ago and took with me wherever I moved, Paul’s in incredibly heavy solid timber glass door cases we don’t really want any more of.

The thing is, we’ve been together for over ten years now and have since bought so many books that we’ve both read and for which there’s no way to tell whether a particular book is ‘mine’ or ‘his’. The bookcase issue is getting to be impractical, too. I’ve been culling my books savagely in order to fit everything in mine, and Paul goes on adding to his, which is starting to feel a little unfair. No, it’s starting to feel a LOT unfair. Especially when Paul often ends up adopting books I’ve culled.


So I suggested the other day that we finally combine our collections. Paul, to my surprise, agreed. (In fact, he looked rather happy about it… until it came to the part where we had to remove, cull, re-order and replace a whole lot of books.) But to reassure the possessive bibliophile in me, who still remembers the awkwardness of having to extract my books from the ex’s collection, I’ve come up with a salve: bookplates.

We’ll probably only put them the books we feel most sentimental about. While I could buy them, we’re going to need an awful lot of them. I could make them, but that’s going to be time-consuming. However, I have had bookplates printed before for people who forget to bring my books to signings, or have ebook versions. It’s a lot faster and cheaper to have them made in bulk.