I've finished unboxing the books.
There were thirty small liquor store boxes when I began. Most of them weren't, originally, mine. The partner of a coworker's father passed, leaving a small but focused trove of classic science fiction. There's Clarke, there's Dickson, there's Heinlein, of course. Ace Doubles. Analog anthologies. A small but focused collection of Star Wars novels, from before the second trilogy was approved for filming. Dozens more, most yellowed by age, as alphabetized as possible from the library of a dead man.
It has been six years since the partner carried these boxes out to the bed of Natasha in the sunshine of a coastal Massachusetts town. Six years, three homes, many adventures, and another coast ago. I unpacked about half of the boxes in Boston, only to repack them less than two years later, when it was time to come home to Oregon. At the time, I hadn't had enough shelves: I couldn't accumulate them quickly enough to house my own collection, much less this collection. Even with a loss of two hundred or so books coming to Boston from Oregon, I was still crucially short on space.
Then in Oregon, the first place was not designed to hold them all. A narrow townhouse, it was a temporary landing zone at best, on a busy street. The boxes went into storage, waiting.
Then again in Oregon, I rented a house with a massive basement. It promptly flooded. For a year straight.
But I live in the hills now, in a vast ranch house overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. And with enough time to breathe, and enough space in the living room, I've also room for shelving.
IKEA duly worshipped, cheap pine hauled into place, and some rather battered boxes emptied later, I have the measure of my collection - and a plan.
I always knew a good subsection of this collection wasn't staying with me. While most of it is very solid (I will never regret having a solid Heinlein collection: I grew up on that shit), some of it is not. A good amount of it is old pulp. More of it is military science fiction, which is much less my thing. I have yet to recall if I am a fan of the Stainless Steel Rat. The less said about William Shatner's science fiction novels, the better. I will simply never give a shit about Conan, except as a trope.
Now that everything is up and alphabetized by author, I can actually make an organized plan of attack: namely, reading through as much of this as possible, and deciding what to keep and what not to keep. While I've actually read a lot of what's currently up on the nineteen shelves worth of hardcover and softcover, some of it is entirely new to me. Despite growing up in a science fiction bookstore, and in a house with a very well-stocked library, I'd simply never heard of E.C. Tubb. Remarkable, considering the prodigious output of the man. And while I'd heard of Lin Carter in connection to the Lovecraft universe, I've never read any of his works.
So there's that. And after I'm done winnowing, I expect and hope to empty four to five individual shelves, with the other three to five empty (or loosely populated) shelves also available.
With the empty shelving, and seeing my own collection integrated with the acquired one, I can now turn my attention to the missing parts of my library: the pieces that vanished during my move to Boston. The excellent books I've only acquired eBooks of while waiting for enough time and space to organize the existing library. Trips to the local Powells are once again on the itinerary, though I expect many items will be acquired as used hardbacks through Abe Books.
Crucially, having grown up amongst the stacks and shelves of Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore, and in the shadow of my overstuffed childhood bookstore, I finally have a library worth the name again.
Truly, I have come home.