Separation Anxiety

Prior to moving to Singapore, I’ve always lived in one city: Manila. I still consider our house in Manila as my home – my room is still there with all of my stuff in it, not the least of which is my big bookshelf. Most of the books that I own are in that bookshelf back home. I didn’t even get the chance to arrange it properly before I left, the books there aren’t organized in any kind of order. I have some books here with me because I always try to squeeze in some of them in my luggage whenever I have a Manila trip. I’ve also bought some books since I moved, especially when I went to the States earlier this year. I haven’t read all of the books that I have here because I also read library books and Kindle books. I just find it comforting to have a bookshelf piled with books near me.

bookshelf Oct 2012

My big, messy bookshelf back home

I kind of feel sad that most of my books are back home in Manila instead of here where I am. I guess that’s what usually happens whenever a person needs to move for various reasons. I think I’m just not used to it. What if I feel like reading or just looking and touching an old favorite? Or if I feel like reading a book I haven’t had a chance to read only to discover that my copy is back home? Or if I want to look up a certain scene or passage in a book that I’ve previously read? Sometimes, I also like looking back at some of the signed copies that I have to check out what the author wrote (and also because signed books are awesome). I know my friends probably won’t understand when I tell them that I miss my books but the rest of you may be able to relate to how I feel. I have people telling me that instead of buying physical books, I should just get ebook editions so I’ll always have my library in my Kindle. But I like reading printed books. Anyway, I think that’s another topic for a different discussion.

bookshelf singapore may 2013

My small bookshelf in Singapore

I know a lot of fellow readers and bloggers move around a lot, especially the ones based abroad. So I wanted to get a conversation going about what it’s like not to have all of your books with you? Or do you feel compelled to bring them along whenever you move? But what if you’re not certain of the duration of your stay in one place, do you keep your books in your family home or maybe a storage facility? Do you also feel a bit sad when you don’t have all of your books with you? I would love to hear your thoughts on this. It would be good to know that I’m not the only one who has separation anxiety.

25 thoughts on “Separation Anxiety

  1. Oh, yeah, I would hate that! I too like the physical presence of the books in my house. I like to walk by them and look at them. I turn covers I especially love face-out on the shelves so I can look at them like art. Plus, I’m with you, if I suddenly want to re-read BEAUTY by Robin McKinley, I want it to be there!

    I like the physical experience of holding a Kindle better than holding a book, but I like to have my “old friends” in physical form and wouldn’t replace them even if I had a magic wand that could make the switch with one swoosh.

    • Yes, exactly. I find the physical presence of books comforting. Displaying books face-out like that is a good idea, so you can look at the cover instead of hust the spine. Sigh, now I feel like rereading Beauty because you mentioned it! I have a hardcover and paperback of that back home.

      Aww that’s a lovely way of putting it! I’d use that magic wand to build myself a massive library instead of replacing my physical books. 😛 The Kindle is convenient because it fits in my purse and it’s easier to read on it on a crowded train, I rarely get a seat in the mornings.

  2. I also love having physical copies of my books. I like how easy it is to get friends to read awesome books when I can say, ‘You can read this book, I’ll let you borrow it!” instead of telling them to look it up at the library (which they almost never do.) Also, how do you get an author to sign a digital copy? I got a kindle last Christmas and I’ve read a few books on it, and it has been convenient for some things but I still prefer physical copies… though I suspect we’ll be the last generation to have this attachment :-).

    • LOL people should take advantage of the fact that they have access to good public libraries! We don’t have that kind of privelege back home. I also let my friends borrow copies of my book and if it’s a favorite, I usually have duplicates so I can always keep one on my shelf. Yep, Kindles are very convenient and I usually bring only my Kindle when I travel but physical books have its own charm. I have a feeling Amazon (or another major digital publisher) will eventually figure out a way to let authors digitally sign ebooks. That’s kind of sad that we’ll be the last generation to appreciate books made out of paper and cardboard.

  3. When I studied in Russia for four months, I only brought two books with me, assuming that I wouldn’t have time to read and that I’d be reading more in Russian. Then I ended up living somewhere without internet, and I read and re-read that copy of “The Catcher in the Rye” in the evenings.

    I also had a weird split-up book collection for a while, as half were at my apartment and half were at my boyfriend’s apartment (I spent time in both, so I needed books in both). Now my book collection has finally been reunited, and it is wonderful. 🙂

    • Wow, you studied in Russia for a couple of months! That must have been fun. I have a Russian co-worker and sometimes we ask him questions about what Russia is like. I can’t imagine not having internet access though, I don’t think I’ll be able to survive that. I would definitely need more than two books with me.

      Isn’t it tough when you don’t have all of your books in one place? I bet I’d feel relieved when I finally have all of my books together in one place, instead of split up between Singapore and Manila.

      • It was a wonderful experience, and I want to go back one day. The general mindset that people have is completely different than in the states, and I was much less stressed than I am here. Even though I didn’t have internet at home, I lived about five blocks from a shopping mall that did, so I could still go online for an hour or so on weekends and catch up with friends and family at home.

        It’s weird not having all one’s books together. I often felt the need to reference books that I didn’t have with me, and there was just a general level of anxiety. Strangely though, when I lend a book to someone I don’t expect it to necessarily find its way back, and I’m okay with that.

  4. Chachic, I can totally relate! ALL (but one) of my books are at my bookshelves in Manila since other stuff took priority when I was packing for the States. That was practical, but practical doesn’t mean comforting. I always feel that there’s something missing in my apartment. If only I had Hermione’s bottomless purse.

    I work at my school’s library, where there are a lot of interesting finds on the shelves, but it doesn’t have all MY books. One time, I saw some of my books in a family’s home library; I couldn’t help but read one from cover to cover right there. It was like meeting an old friend on a foreign street.

    I’m not yet really open to the idea of buying physical books since I don’t have an address that I can consider permanent. Moving isn’t as exciting as it sounds when you consider all the stuff to move. And it would be harder if I had more books around (practical again). I’m really glad that there are e-books because if I can’t have my actual books, then I’m willing to have any digital substitute to bring around with me. E-books are a poor substitute of physical books though, since they can’t really replicate that flipping-pages feeling. And I don’t exactly read my books by page order.

    • If I had Hermione’s bottomless purse, I would have taken my whole room in Manila here with me. It really is sad that we don’t have all of our books with us! But I’m glad I’m not alone in how I feel about the situation.

      You work in your school’s library? How’s it going for you? I think it would be interesting to work in a library but I’m not sure if I’ll ever get the chance to do it. Haha funny that you couldn’t resist reading a book that you found in someone else’s shelves. Which title was that?

      I feel exactly the same way! Honestly, I would like to buy more physical books but I keep hesitating because I still have so many unread ones in my bookshelf here and I don’t have a permanent address at the moment. Like I said, Manila is still home for me but I’m not there right now. Ebooks and e-readers are really convenient but it’s not the same as having your own personal library.

  5. I don’t leave the house without at least one book in my bag, wherever I go.. I’m not a fan of reading e-books kasi. 😦

    The mention of libraries reminded me to go over my ‘future plans’ notebook and visit some here in NCR. ♥

    • I always bring a book or my Kindle with me whenever I go out. My travel time to work takes about 40 minutes (one way) so train time is considered prime reading time. Good luck in visiting libraries in Manila! You mean public libraries? I don’t think I’ve been to any of them.

  6. I definitely understand how you are feeling! I would feel the same way. there is somethign very comforting about being surrounded by your favourite book and just knowing they are there for you 🙂

    Also, I often think about how awesome your book shelves are x

    • Nomes, how many boxes of books did you take with you when you moved? 😛 It really is comforting to be surrounded by all of the books that you own.

      Glad you like my bookshelves. I wouldn’t mind investing in nicer shelves if I had my own (permanent) place.

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  8. I haven’t had to live anywhere without my books. When I did live in the dorms when I was in college my books were at my parent’s house but I wasn’t a big read then so it didn’t really matter. I think I would be ok without my books though since I get most of mine from the library. But I do think a house should always have books. They make the perfect decoration.

    Angela’s Anxious Life

    • I only started getting access to a good public library when I moved here in Singapore so I guess I’m more used to buying copies of books that I want to read (or waiting for someone to give them as gifts). But that’s good that you mostly borrow books from the library so you don’t have to worry about having your copies with you.

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  10. I totally feel you here! I still have times when I get pangs of longing for books that I know I have on the shelves back at my parent’s house. Whenever I’m home I shove a couple in my suitcase to bring back to NY with me. Next month, we’re driving home, largely because I want to get my bookcase that my father made for me, and of COURSE I’m going to transport it mostly full. The boyfriend’s going to kill me…:P Seriously though, some books are like old friends.

    • Looks like we do the same thing – I try to include as many unread books as I can whenever I go home. Wow, your dad made a bookcase for you? Would love to see that! I bet it will look beautiful filled up with your books.

  11. When I came back to the US in 2010, one of the things that broke my heart was knowing that I couldn’t take all of my books with me! I had amassed quite a collection of favorites, and I loved going back to re-read them every now and again. So it physically hurt to part from them (and that’s not even an exaggeration). How did I make up for it? By surrounding myself with lots of new books! It doesn’t quite ease the ache completely, but I’ve found some new favorites that I refuse to part with ever again. If only I could bring the entire Harry Potter series back over here with me…. *schemes*

    • I know sending a balikbayan box from the US to the Philippines is pretty affordable but I don’t know how much it would cost to send a box from the Philippines to the US. If you’re planning to settle down in the States, maybe you can look into that? I’d probably do the same if I ever decide to settle down abroad. I love your method of surrounding yourself with new books to make up for not having your old ones with you. That’s what I’ve been doing the past couple of months. 🙂

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