My friend Claire moved to Canada recently, to live the freelancing dream in beautiful Vancouver. She sold me some of her books (for the very reasonable price of £1 each) and her mum offered to send a box or two of her books over to her.
Now, I’m rather attached to the books I own. I live in a (not literal) box, so the books I end up hanging on to are special. Would they fit in the two suitcases I would only be able to take if I emigrated on whim? No they would not.
I would rather own books than change my life.
But it got me thinking, what books would I take with me if I moved – or had to move – as it’s clear they mean more to me than wonderful new experiences.
It’s not even just a case of picking favourites, I can pick them up (hopefully, what a gamble) at the place I move to. I have some old copies of books I could never replace – a 60s Persuasion by Jane Austen I stole off my mother for example. Are you telling me I’d have to give that back? What kind of book thief do you think I am!
So let’s imagine I can only take 10 books to my new country with me, five per suitcase, and that no one can afford to ship them to me.
What would I take?
Persuasion by Jane Austen, 1960s
So some of the pages are a little loose and the cover looks like a Spanish Mills and Boone, I love it. It was my mum’s and now it’s mine. That makes it family.
Some Do Not . . . & No More Parades by Ford Madox Ford, 1969 (ISBN13: 9780722136126)
I want to own the Parade’s End tetralogy book by book, but this seems to be the best I can find. I remember seeing this copy for £40 on Book Depository in 2013, I got it for a £1 in Oxfam.
Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm by Enid Blyton, 1980s
I’ve owned this copy since I was 10 and my sentimentality knows no bounds. How could I leave the country without a memory of home and its idylls.
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
I literally cannot go anywhere without at least two Jane Austen novels.*
Tell Me No Secrets by Joy Fielding, 1999 (ISBN-13: 978-0773726864)
This was the first adult book I ever read, one of the few books I’ve read several times. My aunt let me have any book off her shelves when I was 13/14 and this is what I chose. She’s turning 80 now, it wouldn’t feel right leaving it behind.
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2005 (ISBN13: 9780007189885)
Of all her wonderful, wonderful novels, this is my favourite. Adichie is a must, if only I could take them all! (I’m starting to feel like I’m actually going now, guilt and anxiety are settling in.)
Heroes and Villains by Angela Carter, 1991 (ISBN13: 9780140119305)
The first novel I ever studied at University. It introduced me to a whole new world of literature and studying. I read it in one sitting (after avoiding it for a month….., shut up).
An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestly
I stole this one from school.**
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
This or Slaughterhouse-Five. How could I abandon Vonnegut? I don’t have a physical copy of it to weep over. Both these novels blew me away, they were utter perfection in every way I needed them to be.
Beloved by Toni Morrison, 2004 (ISBN: 978-1400033416)
It was this or The Color Purple by Alice Walker, both influential books. However, I remember being so in awe of Beloved, so desperate to understand it (this was before I was aware of my white privilege) I couldn’t bear to abandon my copy now.
What books will always move with you?
Are you as precious of your belongings as I am?
* This is a lie, literally carrying two novels around would become problematic.
** True story.