My family is in a state of upheaval. We’re in the midst of a move, relocating from our rambling, dark old house to a bright, brand new apartment just a few blocks down the road. We’re delving into our cupboards and closets and boxing and bagging and cleaning and sweeping and cooking and eating around our crates and suitcases. We’ve already had one weekend of heavy duty U-Hauling, and are destined for another (starting tomorrow). Cabinets and beds and armchairs and tables and side tables and lamps – all of it’s got to be shifted. Lucky I have two older brothers living close by that can (have to) pitch in to help.

Moving my books is quite a chore. I’ve got three tall bookcases, each shelf double stacked, and I’ve been taking a box or two over to my new room every day. I worked as a library stacker in college, and so am quite adept at swooping twelve or fifteen books off a shelf and into a box in one go, each striated column held between my spreadeagled fingers like mad Jenga towers. They go quickly into the box, but often I have to stop and pause, to squint at them down in their cardboard confine and try to figure out the most efficient way of packing them. If only my books were of uniform size! It’s infinitely harder to pack your hardbacks with your pulp fantasty novels, your tall, artsy and irregularly shaped books on Emerson by Saramago with your obese Stephen King novels. It becomes a puzzle, a challenge: how many books, and how tightly, can I pack into each box?

The book cases are still in my old room, which means that upon arrival, forced by a need to re-use the boxes, I unpack each box and stack the books against the wall. I’m packing them spines towards the wall, about four or five columns wide, and thus far the pile has already passed over my head. I’ve started a new mountain in my closet, a mound with a wide base of Batman comics and old roleplaying rule books, which narrows into massive hardcovers like my Lord of the Rings trilogy and then tapers (attenuates?) up to the rarefied spires of slender David Gemmel books.

I’m almost done. Nothing makes you appreciate how many books you have like lugging them back and forth, box banging against your thighs as you lean back to counterweight the mass, shift-stepping down the driveway to drop them in the trunk and cause the whole car to sag down with a groan.