The one thing an eBook will never be able to do is replace the sheer beauty and joy of books on a shelf. I estimate I have about 800 currently occupying some rather undistinguished but functional bookcases. I love them all, but not equally.
I love these books for the pleasure they gave me when I read them, but they've given me more pleasure since, either occasionally rearranging them or simply admiring them on their shelves. The periodic cull that has been necessary over the years is becoming ever more difficult as parting with any of those remaining would be a grievous process.
A new favourite is a beautifully bound 2013 edition of Margery Allingham's golden age classic, The Tiger in the Smoke from The Folio Society. Words alone can't do justice to this handsome volume, and so I hope the pictures can.
But Finn Campbell-Notman's evocative cover and illustrations capture both the novel's mystery as well as the post-War London fog that enshrouds it. I've never read The Tiger in the Smoke, and while part of me would prefer to leave this copy in its current pristine condition, I won't be able to resist long.
To other lovers of craftsmanship in publishing I have some advice: don't go to the Society's website. The crime fiction section alone has enough stunning editions available to bankrupt me. (If any family members are reading this searching for Christmas inspiration, I was particularly taken by The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain, and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. And on the subject of Capote, it slightly frightens me what I might be prepared to do for a copy of the extravagantly gorgeous new edition of Breakfast at Tiffany's).
Back on my own shelves, some of my favourites are the dozen Everyman Wodehouse hardbacks and the silver-spined Penguin classic Bond novels I picked up in a charity store for a song.
In the next room I have a series of James Lee Burke hardbacks from the early part of the century. They have atmopheric cover photos that evoke the mysteries of the bayou and simple black spines with the title in white and Burke's name in a range of colours. (And I hate that the publishers have twice changed the style since then, denying me the opportunity to have a homogenous set). I love these books for the pleasure they gave me when I read them, but they've given me more pleasure since, either occasionally rearranging them or simply admiring them on their shelves.
Perhaps my favourite of all is the rainbow sweep of the twelve paperback volumes of a 2005 print of Anthony Powell's majestic A Dance to the Music of Time. The title of one of these volumes, Books Do Furnish A Room (left), offers the perfect answer to those questioning why anyone would keep so many volumes they were unlikely to read again.