One can never have too many books. In our house, bookshelves take up an entire wall in the downstairs lounge, my daughter's room has an overflowing bookshelf and books are stacked in all the bedrooms.
I'm a confessed "book smeller". Those of you who perform this activity with new books will understand: you know who you are.
We consume books in our house, often two or three at a time. Books are permitted at breakfast and in cafes, but not in the toilet. At bedtime, my 3-year-old daughter is in the habit of asking for, "two books before bed, two books in bed and two books to read to myself". I let my son off dishwasher duty as I saw he was reading a book on the human body — a worthy distraction, in my view.
My treasures are grouped both by author and genre. I have sections for New Zealand authors, flash fiction, poetry and short stories, and my medical textbooks. Last weekend, I used Robbins Pathology and Mosby's Illustrated Medical Dictionary to help construct my daughter's "cave". The books were to stop the blankets from sliding off the kitchen stools. She snuggled inside with her mummy's books, Pieces of You and Catch Me When You Fall, saying, "There's your photo, Mum!"
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I haven't read every book on my shelf. For instance, despite an intense desire to finish David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, I can't quite get past the first 200 pages. Others I have read at least twice — some because I read the first version on Kindle and felt I needed to experience the sensory experience and total immersion that only comes with the ink-and-paper version.
These include Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, David Mitchell's Bone Clocks and Hanya Yanigahara's A Little Life. Others I re-read because they're so damned good, including Donna Tartt's The Secret History and anything by Tim Winton. I've also bought and re-read new copies of classics that inspired me when I was young but never owned, such as Catcher in the Rye, The Outsiders, The Bone People and Under the Mountain.
I'm not ashamed of any books on my shelf, even the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy (well, everyone was talking about it, so I had to satisfy my curiosity). Unfortunately, the trilogy is now incomplete after a house sitter, who shall remain nameless, borrowed No 2 and never returned it. These books are not on my re-read list (I haven't heard the word "mercurial" used so many times outside of a science experiment), but my A-type personality is slightly perturbed by the missing book. However, I cannot bring myself to buy a second copy so it shall remain incomplete.
I've recently finished the fantastic Chaos Walking trilogy by YA author Patrick Ness. My son is reading the first book and we're having great fun exchanging notes. One recent-ish acquisition is Richard Flanagan's First Person, an early Christmas present to myself, although I never really need an excuse to buy books. It smells good.
I told my husband I felt another bookshelf was in order. He pretended he didn't hear me. But, like wrinkles and sagging breasts, it's only a matter of time.
* Eileen Merriman is a consultant haematologist and author. Her first book, Pieces of You, is a Storylines notable book for 2018 and her second, Catch Me When You Fall, is out now. Merriman joins visiting UK writer Alex Wheatle and debut novelist
Erin Donohue at the Auckland Writers Festival on Friday, May 18 in Can We Be Frank, to talk about the complexities of writing for a younger audience.