My Bookshelves

I think it’s interesting that there is this collective subconsciousness that moves and sways together like a massive amoeba. I’ve been thinking about writing a post about what’s on my bookshelf for a couple weeks. As far as I knew, the idea just came to me, probably because I’ve always found people’s bookshelves interesting. But after I apparently virgin-birthed the idea, I started seeing other writers’ posts about their bookshelves. So something else must have sparked my idea, and their ideas, and we just haven’t been able stop talking about our bookshelves.

By the way, I most recently (today) read about Lindsey Mead’s bookshelves HERE. Lindsey is a lovely writer, so please check her out. She is also the newest contributor at Great New Books.

Back to my bookshelves. They used to be organized by category or genre. This, of course, was before I had children–specifically, children who both at the age of two developed a keen interest in taking books off of the shelves and then piling them back on in no particular order. Now my bookshelves are a mess.

So here we have everything from vintage (A Separate Peace–never read it, it’s my husband’s) to new (Up from the Blue–quite good) to stunning literary amazement (Denis Johnson‘s Train Dreams) to children’s (I’m a Big Brother, which lost its appeal after my son’s little sister was actually born).



A mix of college books I didn’t want to part with (Classic Slave Narratives, Coming of Age in Mississippi), my husband’s additions (The Hobbit — never read it), random Christmas coffee-table book, and, of course, my beloved Lincoln. And that little red one toward the left? That’s the Minnesota State Legislature directory, a token from my days as a staff member. Where do you keep something like that?



Here we have memoir (The great All Over but the Shoutin’), classic (Anne of Green Gables–which I just realized I’ve had for 24 years–Fitzgerald, All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Martian Chronicles), and historical (The Year 1000). There’s also a copy of Map of the World, which my friend gave me soon after my miscarriage and which I haven’t had the will to read yet.



My favorite writing books are kept up high on the bookshelf, along with glass picture frames (and my Shakespeare volumes, paperback though they are).



BEST DINNER PARTY EVER: Aristotle, John Cheever, Barack Obama, Jack Kerouac, Meg Wolitzer (OK, she’s a last-minute invite, no offense), Judy Blume, Tim O’Brien, and Harriet Beecher-Stowe.



Notice how well-worn In Cold Blood, Toni Morrison, and TKM are. I think this is how books should look, all dog-eared, creased, and loved.

Take a look at one of your bookshelves and tell me what’s on it — and any stories behind the books. I’d love to know.

PS. Bonus Idea: get a beer and re-read my post. Drink every time I write “bookshelves.” You’ll be drunk by paragraph three.


22 thoughts on “My Bookshelves

  1. Love, love, love this post…we could talk books and bookshelves for hours and hours and still not be done. Just read “The End of Your Life Book Club” which is an eloquent an touching story of the last months a son and his mother had together before she died. She speaks about the importance of the physical book. Couldn’t agree more.

    • I know — I had to edit myself way down and remind myself to give everyone a taste, not the entire meal. The books you love are an extension of yourself, and who doesn’t like talking about themselves?
      I’ve heard of that book and actually just saw it at B&N, though I didn’t read the back. It sounds absolutely heartbreaking.

  2. That first picture reminds me what my shelves used to look like when the children were toddlers, they were always removing books from the second to bottom shelf so they could lie on it and read! I even have a picture of that, nothing like getting inside the bookshelf to fully immerse! As a result the books were often just thrown back on the shelf in a haphazard way until I had a moment to organise them, which wasn’t really worth it, as the little ones would pull them down again. Loved that they were reading so couldn’t really complain. 🙂

    • Thanks, Lindsey. I’ve been wanting to read it–there shouldn’t be so many books on my own shelves that I haven’t even read. The only regrettable thing about GNB is that I have dozens of OLD books I still want to read!

  3. There are no ‘virgin-birthed’ ideas anymore, unfortunately (those probably died out sometimes around the 1960s).

    Think of anything, then google it. Someone else somewhere will have already written something about it, guaranteed (well, 99% guaranteed).

  4. Pingback: Question of the Month: Drafts

  5. This reminds me that I have at least ten boxes of books from our library’s sale of castoffs that I haven’t read yet. Yikes! My shelves are overflowing already but I’m such a sucker for a book…

  6. Pingback: Question of the Month: Renewal

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