Harriet was six when she got her first shelf.
Her father installed it. She was unsure what she needed it for; she had nothing to put on it. Her father read to her every night and the shelf would gradually fill with books that were read to him as a child. Once she was ready to read her own ones, she read fast, she would need another shelf. She would never leave a book unfinished although there would always be one which she would never finish.
During her late teenage years she only loved new books, she wanted to be the first to break the spine in, the first to see its words, touch its pages and understand its beauty. She could afford it. Later she would reject this notion and increasingly buy more second hand ones, she thought they had a charm. Creased spines, tattered dust jackets, folded corners as bookmarks.
When she eventually married, she never mingled the books with her lovers. They remained separate in different rooms. She couldn’t bear the thought of having to her stories being shared with another’s. Her life: yes but her books, no.
She had no preference in hard or soft back but disliked non-physical books. She did not want her narrative to share the same space as search engines, advertising and pornography. The bright pixels on the screen had a barren quality about them; they were numb to her, she never wanted a book to glow, it was unfulfilling. She didn’t want to accidentally delete them one afternoon or for them to be stored in a cloud (If they were going to be destroyed she would prefer a house fire or a flood. It seemed more real). Those pixels closed down many bookshops in her neighbourhood and made her friends redundant.
She grew to love the aging of the books it made them almost human, just like some of the well developed characters; they show pain too. Those new books bought as a teenager grew old with her and faired just as well. She liked them to be gazed at whilst eating and to cover an uneven part of the wall. They were disordered, some too big to fit vertically so had to live horizontally, mismatched colours and incongruous subjects. She even liked the inconvenience it caused when moving house, the bulkiness, weight and space displayed a sense of achievement.
She did not much prefer her later years; poor eyesight and worn out spine. She knew what had had lead to this development and it hindered her pace of reading. The shelf would over spill less. She would forget characters and plotlines as the years went past but the wall of different bits of wood meant more to her than that though. It showed a journey of discovery.
After Harriet died the shelves remained; an epilogue to her story. It seemed to display much about her, a story of her life. A life-long adventure. Narratives, interests, desires, loves, ignorances and pretensions. It was a part of her life her partner never fully knew. Her last unfinished book didn’t make the shelf.