Some years ago I wrote a piece called The Fade, about the impact a shelf-full of faded book spines had on my feelings about home. I should write a sequel, because it’s happened again—not because a tree was chopped down this time, but because I built bookshelves right next to the window of our top-floor Edinburgh flat when we moved in four years ago. You wouldn’t think there’d be enough sunlight in Scotland to fade anything, but there is, and even some books I bought here in the past decade have suffered. So I did some research on anti-UV window film, ordered some a month ago, and this morning finally installed it. Cutting the stuff to size was tricky, and squeegying bubbles out with a credit card was trickier, so the results are annoyingly imperfect; but I think I value the books more than a few air bubbles and plastic wrinkles on the double-glazing.

I think I do, but it’s getting harder to be sure. Those books are looking more and more like relics, because I so rarely add to them nowadays; at least, not the large paperbacks and hardbacks shelved next to the window. Even the paperbacks at the other (darker) end of the room aren’t multiplying quite as quickly as they did, thanks to lack of time to browse bookshops, lack of time and inclination for reading them, and competition from electronic devices that serve up a day’s quota of words and images in a few clicks and swipes. The ones that I never got around to reading are reaching (or past) the point when I know I never will, and one day I’ll pack them up and bundle them off to a charity shop (selling them on Amazon is too much work for too little return), keeping only my favourites. Then the ones that are left really will be a fading memento of fading literary loves.

Until the kids take on interest, of course. For now, they’re focussed on all the picture books I’ve been buying and reading them for the past 4-5 years, but my son isn’t far off the age I was when I first discovered Peanuts, Tintin, Asterix and science fiction. Seeing how they hold up against the many other entertainments competing for their attention will be fun to watch.

2 January 2012 · Journal