Getting Your Priorities Right: Moving a Library

The most important part of the moving process (other than the emotional impact on the children and the cat) was the library. How do you weed out the books you simply must take back to the UK? You may think it’s easy. After all, it’s a case of moving from less to more…

Shelves in France - just two.
Shelves in France – just two.
Shelves in England: three and a half. Still Billy, of course.
Shelves in England: three and a half. Still Billy, of course.

But that does not take into account the books I had double-shelved or set in careful piles on the floor and the filing cabinet. ‘You do have a lot of books…’ sighed the removal men (and I don’t think it was wistfulness I detected in their voices).

I did donate some to the local libraries in France, but I ended up with many more than I had originally come with to France. As any book loverwill understand. So somehow, all of the contents of these boxes…


…have to find a home in the new house. Yes, the study might be bigger here…


… but did I mention that I have twice as many books in the loft, waiting to be rehoused together with their more travelled cousins?

After a week or two of utter panic (not finding the legs for the desk, not opening the right boxes, laptop dying and then the e-reader/tablet dying, I finally managed to get things somewhat presentable (though not arranged yet according to subject, language and other esoteric criteria).


Time to be reunited with some old friends from the loft.


Sadly, my copies of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ and ‘Vile Bodies’ seem to have suffered from some warping in their box in the loft. But I have Jean Rhys’ unfinished autobiography ‘Smile Please’ to read for Jean Rhys Reading Week and Barbara Pym’s diaries and letters, as well as Dostoyevsky and other Russians (short story writers) to keep me company. Plus a few of my favourite children’s books, which I brought back with me from Romania: Arthur Ransome, Paul Berna and Eleanor Farjeon’s collection of stories ‘The Little Bookroom’.

There is more digging to be done, as well as more writing and reading, but for now, this was just a post to let you know my books and I are alive and well.



38 thoughts on “Getting Your Priorities Right: Moving a Library”

  1. Oh, those new bookshelves are lovely, Marina Sofia! And I couldn’t agree with you more about your priorities. Of course you’d have more books than you did when you went to France. Why wouldn’t a person? I’m glad you’re working through the process of getting everything sorted and settled. The nesting takes time, but the end result’s worth the effort.

    1. I am such a nester that it can be quite frustrating when I don’t have things quite the way I like it, so I am trying to be patient and do things gradually.

  2. When I moved in 2008 from Germany to Belgium I had just a mere 1000 books to move. On my own, no moving company. There are still some in boxes after 8 years. But the shelf space is already gone tough there was another shelf added. Either I have to move or buy another shelf. Is a table really necessary? Would be a nice place for another shelf

    1. Ah, but I also write (and work from home at the moment), so yes, a big desk is a must. I am considering getting another set of shelves for behind the door…

      1. Wasn’t talking about a desk. Was talking about the table where you eat and eventually receive guests. Must be feasible at a desk or on the floor. Dining table seems unnecessary luxury 😉

  3. Oh Marina, what wonderful news and I’m so glad you said it the way you did. Yes, books are alive and they keep on giving… Enjoy your new home and we look forward to your return.

      1. Friends that will never let you down. I do understand. I’ve tried thinning down, but how? How do you let go of trusted allies?

  4. By the way, when I left California for France (now these things must be shipped) I managed to cut back to only 27 boxes of books. I do believe that some were cross-bred with rabbits… I couldn’t begin to move again. C’est la vie!

      1. I do understand. Over a third of my shipment ‘disappeared’ on the way. Supposedly the crate was still in tact when it arrived in the UK…

    1. Mais oui! First job was settling in the cat and then immediately after the books. (Admittedly, the boys weren’t around at the time, so I’m not quite such an unnatural mother).

  5. It’s looking lovely, always nice to have more shelves rather than fewer but they don’t half fill up quickly! Those lovely Waughs remind me I am yet to read him. Must get around to that soon. Enjoy shelving those books!

  6. Lovely to have a post from you, Marina! Those old Waugh jackets bring back memories. Mine have suffered from damp in an old flat way back when but are still with me. I hope you manage to find a home for everything.

    1. It’s lovely to be able to write and read and share things online again – I felt like a deaf-mute, unable to take part in a fast-paced conversation with no one allowing me time to lipread.

  7. How wonderful to see you getting settled. One of my great joys when I returned to California after my first stint overseas was opening up those boxes of books that had been in storage for two years! Enjoy!
    (Not so great was my daughter finding three overdue library books in her storage trunk.)

  8. Glad you feel more settled – and hope you don’t have to go through another move soon. I’m fanatical about books, but precisely because of that (and after country-to-country moves in double digits), I feel a book’s only happy if it keeps getting read by different people and doesn’t just sit on my shelves. So I pare down continuously, and try to keep the total at max 600 or so. I like the zen feeling of choosing to keep only those that correspond to where my tastes have evolved to now …

    1. Oh, I wish I could do that… but it’s such a pleasure to rediscover old treasures! I know that because whenever I go back to my parents’ house, I come back with an armload of delights.

  9. Oh and shelves with glass window, how lovely, love seeing your reflection in the glass, what a wonderful, heart warming job that is, to handle all those familiar friends and find their place in your new home. Wishing you well with settling in.

  10. Ooh, those empty bookshelves look appealing – I could spend days planning what to fill them with! Glad you all survived the move – you, the boys, the books and, most importantly as I’m sure she’s already told you, the cat!

  11. Lovely to see the progress you’ve made. Empty bookshelves offer so much potential!
    We’re currently packing up boxes to ‘declutter’ in advance of a potential move so sadly saying goodbye to a chunk of our books and will have to wait a while to be reunited with them. Of course there are always more creeping into the house…

  12. Glad to know the move went well. Our removal men made the same comment when we moved house and they got confronted by stacks of packing cases filled with books. It’s an exhausting process to pack up a library but you do rediscover some books you’d forgotten having even bought (and in my case discovering multiple copies of the same book)

  13. I’m like Bea above …I don’t let my collection of books grow very much…I bring them in, read them and let them go…it’s quite liberating not to have to move millions of boxes of books. Not that I plan to ever move again. But still

    Glad the move is going along nicely though

  14. Glad you made it back in one piece, Marina. The thought of moving my books gives me palpitations – I think I would have to pay the moving men a lot of money because every time I look there are more books than I thought… But at least you’ve been reunited with other books, so that has to be good!

  15. i’m glad you found your way back to your blog, Marina. I have so many doubly stacked bookshelves myself, the removal guys are never happy to meet a book lover… Bon courage for your installation!

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