One Shelf at a Time

September 22, 2008 @ 3:37 pm | Filed under:

In the comments of this post, Patience mentioned that she’d like to know what books were on the shelf behind Her Majesty. I have often thought it would be fun to do a whole series of posts that went shelf by shelf through the house, talking about the books on each one. Of course, an awful lot of migrating goes on, so that what’s on certain shelves in high-traffic areas of the house changes day by day.

Still, it strikes me as a fun (long-term) project. One of my favorite things about visiting a friend’s house is getting to explore her shelves. I don’t think you really know a person until you know her taste in books, do you?

I’m sitting on the living-room couch right now. There are three bookcases in this room (two big and one small), plus two more in the adjoining dining area. And a stack on the piano, but those are not supposed to be there. :::glares sternly at husband:::

Beyond the piano is the hallway that leads to the bedrooms. There are three more bookcases lining the wall there, making for a somewhat narrow squeeze when you need to take the vacuum cleaner out of the hall closet, opposite the bookshelves. There really isn’t any spare wall space at all in this house: we’ve got bookcases crammed everywhere one will fit, and sometimes where they don’t fit.

So this “one shelf at a time” project could take me a while.

But it’ll be fun. (And maybe I’ll finally get my Library Thing catalog finished while I’m at it.)

I’ll start at the top: there are seven shelves on the tall bookcase directly opposite me. The top one is easiest to catalog because only half of its contents are books. The rest of the shelf is taken up by cloth cases full of Signing Time DVDs, some Bruce Springsteen concert DVDs, and our Star Trek and Star Wars DVD collections. Important stuff, is what I’m saying. Also a funny little statue of a mandolin player (well, it looks like a mandolin, at least, but I bet it’s called something else) from Thailand, a gift from our world-traveling friend Keri; a bowl of rosaries; and Scott’s electric guitar tuner, which I stick up on that shelf because I am too short to see it lying there, so it’s handy for him but I don’t get grumpy about clutter. I suppose there are advantages to having a short wife.

Anyway, the books on that shelf:

The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, because you never know when you might need a dose of Eliot or Auden, and also because that was the textbook for one of Scott’s very best college courses, and I know firsthand how great it was because I sat in on it a few times even though I had graduated the previous spring. It was taught by the great Dr. Susan J. Hanna, whose booming voice and infectious enthusiasm for poetry made her one of our favorite professors ever. As a matter of fact, Rilla’s (real, not blog) middle name is Susanna in her honor. (Sue Hanna, get it?)

Home Comforts, the giant tome that compiles everything anybody ever needed to know about the practical art of housekeeping. This was a housewarming present from my friend Elizabeth when we moved to Virginia seven years ago. It taught me how to fold a fitted sheet nicely, which is a grand thing.

A threadbare copy of That’s Good, That’s Bad, a picture book by Joan M. Lexau, illustrated by Aliki. Long since out of print (it was published in 1963), this was Scott’s favorite book as a little boy. We keep it on this high shelf because it’s too rickety to stand up to everyday use and must be saved for special daddy-read-aloud occasions. It’s a charming little formula story: Tiger happens upon exhausted Boy slumped on a rock in the jungle. Tiger is puzzled because Boy does not spring up and run away. “I have no more run in me,” says Boy—a phrase which has become an integral part of our family lexicon, as in: “I should really put that laundry away, but I have no more run in me.” “That’s bad,” says Tiger, and so the back and forth begins. Boy recounts a tale of narrow escapes (“That’s good!”) and harrowing dangers (“That’s bad!) as he finds himself scrambling to stay a step ahead of a very cranky Rhino. And now he’s too tuckered out to run away from Tiger, who plans to eat him. That’s bad. Very, very bad. I don’t want to give away the ending, but it’s Good.

A fancy leatherbound edition of Douglas Adams’s The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide: Five Complete Novels and One Story, which I believe was a graduation present to Scott from a brother and sister-in-law. It is a thing of beauty.

And finally, the rest of the shelf is taken up by a boxed set of four mammoth leatherbound volumes: collections of the work of Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens (not his complete works, of course—that would take up the whole shelf), and The Complete Sherlock Holmes. That is, there’s a hole where the Holmes is supposed to go. Jane laid claim to Mr. Holmes two years ago and the book hasn’t been back in the box since.

So that was the easy shelf. Only eight books. It’s when I get to the picture book shelves that this becomes challenging. And I’m not even going to attempt the shelves full of comic books in the garage. Too skinny: too many.

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11 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Rachel M says:

    What a great idea! Thanks for that glimpse into your shelves. I totally agree with what you said about not knowing someone until you see their bookshelves. And then there are those people with NO BOOKSHELVES AT ALL (shudder). I know what you mean about the library thing catalog, I even ordered the Cuecat thinking that would just make the job fly by, but I didn’t realize how many of my books were printed in the pre-barcode area. Not to mention there’s just so many books. I can’t think of anything I’d rather have too many of.

  2. Beth says:

    At first I was scared (in a good way!) because most of our books shelves have a good 40-odd books on them; and also amazed and impressed that you’d managed to find the time to write so eloquently about each and every one. And then I realized there were only eight and I was relieved and disappointed, together.

  3. patience says:

    Wonderful! I’m the same as you, I always check out people’s bookshelves as a priority when visiting 😉

    Very nice collection so far. A suitable mix of educated and geeky. I especially like the sound of Home Comforts, being able to fold a fitted sheet (and not just roll it up and stuff it irritably into a corner of the cupboard) is a dream of mine …

  4. Kathryn says:

    Ooh! Wonderful idea. I’m looking forward to seeing all your other shelves. I need that Home Comforts book. My attempts to fold fitted sheets have a kind of rolled-into-a-ball effect.

    I’m also shamelessly copying your idea and sharing my own books a shelf at a time. I’m a wimp, though, and only picking selected books from each shelf!

  5. Jeanette says:

    What an undertaking. But fun for us to read. 🙂
    I have checked out Home Comforts from the library a number of times. One of these days I will have to break down and buy it.

  6. mamacrow says:

    ooo, love this post, look forward to the next ones – I always make a beeline for people’s shelves to see what they have on them!

    Am slightly scared about doing my own posts on this subject, we also have bookcases squeezed in everywhere…

  7. Penny in VT says:

    yum 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. cici says:

    love this idea. if you want to be a bit of a slacker you could always just take pictures. of course, we would miss out on the lovely narratives. i can’t wait to see the rest of your shelves!

  9. Joy @ Five J's says:

    I LOVE this idea. I am a total book-aholic, as is my husband. We have 16 full-size bookcases in our house, and one half-size bookshelf. I can’t imagine how long it would take to blog through our books shelf by shelf. And I love seeing that you have so many of the same books we have on some of our shelves.

    I’ve bookmarked your site and will be back often. Love your blog!

  10. Alison says:

    I thought of the very same idea, of going through my bookshelves and sharing what I have on there. I LOVE to look at what people have on there when I visit 🙂

    By the way, I love the look of your blog and I will be back to read more. I’m busy re-reading the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy – my blog name inspired me to do so – though our copy is not leather bound!