Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Find us in Every Issue of American Athenaeum

In case you didn't know, you can find more of 1 Bookshelf in the printed pages of American Athenaeum. Just in time for summer, the "Things They Carry" issue brings two new authors exploring the memories of their favorite books.

To purchase a copy, and read what you may've missed, visit: American Athenaeum.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Bookshelf by John Mueter


Some of the volumes on my shelf have been my companions for decades and have accompanied me across various oceans to three different continents. When I was a young student living in Germany I fell under the spell of Hermann Hesse. He was quite the rage at the time. I acquired and read nearly everything of Hesse’s. I still have some of his oeuvre in the beautiful Bibliothek Suhrkamp edition. As we mature our tastes change. I picked up Das Glasperlenspiel (The Glass Bead Game) some time ago and couldn’t get past the first twenty-five pages. I find Hesse unreadable these days. His style (if there is one) drips with righteous sentimentality. Still, his books grace my shelf.
     
The same story in reverse: Many years ago a literary friend warmly recommended the novels of Barbara Pym to me, proclaiming her a modern Jane Austen. I read one novel in its entirety but couldn’t get enthused about it. Perhaps I had other expectations. Recently I picked up Ms Pym again, Quartet in Autumn, and have become a fan. Nothing much happens in terms of action, but her prose is lucid, unencumbered, elegant. Now that I take my own writing seriously, I view Barbara Pym as a model of fine prose. I strive to write like that.
     
No education is complete without total immersion in the Greek myths, and no one has rendered them more poetically than Robert Graves. I cherish my Folio Society boxed edition, exquisitely illustrated. Having been subjected to a stultifying brainwashing in a religious school, my young soul soared in high school when a freshman English teacher introduced us, with infectious exuberance, to the magical world of Greek and Roman mythology. Here was poetry and imagination, stories of heroics and bloodcurdling hubris! I have never recovered from the experience. (I thank you a thousand times, dear teacher whose name I no longer remember.) Robert Graves’ I, Claudius became my favorite book all through high school. It must be one of the best historical novels ever written.
     
I have always loved to travel. When I can’t, the next best thing is reading good travel writing. The current master of the genre, hands down, is Bill Bryson. I have read many of his books multiple times and always enjoy them. He writes with wit and erudition. A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country are my favorites. Next to Mr Bryson is William Dalrymple, a writer of history. He lived for years in India and has written several books exploring the complex history of the subcontinent. The Last Mughal covers the fall of the Mughal dynasty and the complicated relationship of the British to their colony. In his vibrant prose Dalrymple makes dusty history come alive. In a modern vein, Paul Scott’s sprawling four-novel Raj Quartet, aka The Jewel in the Crown is a stunning achievement in modern literature. I am also very taken with the Granada BBC film version of Scott’s saga. It couldn’t have been done better than that!
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John Mueter is an educator, pianist, vocal coach, composer and writer. His fiction has been accepted by various literary journals, including: Freedom Forge Press, Twisted Endings, Wilde Oats Journal, Writers Haven, Biblioteca Alexandrina, Haiku Journal. His opera Everlasting Universe, about Lord Byron at the Villa Diodati, was premiered in 2007. He currently teaches at the University of Kansas. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Bookshelf for a Work-in-Progress by Erica Olsen



When I housesit for several months for friends in rural southwest Colorado, I allow myself to bring along a single bookcase, tall and narrow, made of lightweight pine and fitting easily in the back of my Jeep. The rest of my library—thirty-five boxes of books—is in storage across the state line in Blanding, Utah.

Of the five shelves on my bookcase, the top one is the most important, because it holds the books related to my work-in-progress, a novel with the working title Rivers of America. The shelf is just below eye-level. Not intimidatingly high, not so low as to be out of sight.

My novel includes invented geography and natural history, which are also elements of my recently published story collection, Recapture & Other Stories (Torrey House Press, 2012). The novel is set, in part, on a massive natural bridge in southern Utah’s canyon country. (Picture the Ponte Vecchio built on red rock.) It’s partly inspired by a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in which Apollo pursues a nymph who escapes by turning into a laurel tree. In my novel, it’s aspens instead of laurels, and the cast of characters includes archaeologists and miners working during a gold rush, or possibly a uranium boom.

Accordingly, the contents of my top shelf range in time from ancient to contemporary, and in space from Europe to the Americas. The books include:
  •  Ovid’s Metamorphoses, translated by Arthur Golding, 1567.
  • Prose fiction from the English Renaissance, including Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia, a book I loathed with all my heart when it was required reading for one of my graduate courses in English lit twenty years ago. I’ve been drawn back to it for its form, a Greek-inspired romance quite unlike the modern, post-18th-century novel.
  •  Books about places, real and imaginary: the WPA-produced Utah: A Guide to the State; several volumes in the landmark Rivers of America history series; Holy Land by D. J. Waldie, a memoir about growing up in Southern California tract housing; and Italo Calvino’s novel, Invisible Cities.
  • Books about words and places: John R. Stilgoe’s Shallow Water Dictionary, an essay on the language and landscape of tidal marshes, and The Books of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon, a bibliography.
  • Books on my Scandinavian heritage: The History of the Söderfors Anchor-Works, a translation of a 1791 history of the village where my Swedish ancestors lived and worked; and two histories of Stavanger, the port city on the southwest coast of Norway where another branch of my family came from. (The stories of my great-grandmother, Frida, from Söderfors, and my great-grandfather, Andreas, from Stavanger, are going into my third book. (Believing in a third book gives me the courage to complete book two.)
If I could, I’d keep all of these books open on a book-wheel, like this wonderful device (pictured right) I saw a few years ago—and surreptitiously photographed—at the Biblioteca Palafoxiana, the library established in 1646 in Puebla, Mexico. The perfect bookcase for those of us who can’t keep to just one shelf.

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Bio: Erica Olsen uses the subjects of place, landscape, and history to write fiction that reflects on the relationship between nature and culture. She is the author of Recapture & Other Stories (Torrey House Press, 2012). She lives in the Four Corners area.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Book Drum by Jacob Collins-Wilson


This book drum is a reminder of my loneliness. It's how I spent my high school and college years. I went to my first party at twenty-two, after I'd already graduated from a Master's program to become a teacher. At the time, I figured I was safe from vices. I had a career. A party wouldn't suck me in like drinking dragged my father, my father's father, my mother's father, my mother's father's father. I was right. But it did throw me farther away from society, and deeper into the drum where I often resonated in the sound of silence.

Sometimes, while reading, I’d fall asleep on the rocking chair or in quiet closets while my wife attended parties. See, she loved other people, loved noise and the din of voices. The only sound I liked was music; but I loved it because it took me out of myself (the only thing I hated more than other people). Music allowed me to exist in a song that said more about my own life, and life in general, than I could ever write. But concerts end, so back to books it goes.

I read every book on this drum twice—I had nothing else to do. I've never understood more, thought more, felt more than when I read these titles. Yet I can't help but hate them with all of my being. Yes, they've helped me clarify my feelings and emotions, understand myself, but my students do the exact same thing. High school kids teach me about sorrow and suffering, about living without regrets or care, about the physical and psychological joy of flirting. Books are one way of getting those things, but when you get them only from books, you miss the physical.

Instead of reading Zorba the Greek, save up a cache of money and find a Kramer to run your finances until they're depleted, then go back to your job. If it's feeling you want, understanding, knowledge, thought, depth, quit reading the books lining the drum, and play the drum.
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Jacob Collins-Wilson currently teaches English at Forest Grove High School and writes a lot.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Well-Worn by Meredith Doench


Technically it’s not a bookshelf, but a collection of paperbacks stacked beside my nightstand. Most second-hand booksellers would term the current state of these paperbacks as well-worn. Multiple pages of these works are dog-eared, while the margins are filled with my scribbled thoughts and connections. The covers are permanently bent, torn, and haphazardly mended after so many harried shoves inside my cluttered book-bag. When I think of this book collection, I’m reminded of how my favorite music looked before the invention of the Ipod. My beloved tapes and CDs had been played so much, most of the printed material had rubbed off. Littered with cracks and scratches, it wasn’t hard to tell which tapes or CDs were a favorite at any given time. For me, well-worn equals well-loved.    

I like to think of this corner heap of literature as a greatest hits hoard similar to one of the multitudes of playlists on my Ipod. Always in flux, the collection grows and diminishes with different works. I have rigid rules for inclusion, though. Without these strict guidelines the pile would quickly grow beyond my ceiling or spill onto the nightstand, which is solely reserved for current books I’m in the process of consuming. 

Rules for the pile:
1.     I must mourn the inevitable end of the book. I’ve been known to slow my reading down to a crawl at the last leg of the book in order to savor every word: Please, please, please, don’t let it end!

2.     Even though my reading experience with the book may cease, my obsessive thoughts of the story and characters do not.  It must beckon my return to re-join the shelter of that conjured world.  If I’ve conducted multiple Google searches on any aspect of the book and/or author, it’s a keeper.

3.     The book must change me in some way.  James Joyce may have been known for his use of epiphany with character, but readers also need them.

So, you ask, what books are in my corner heap of literature?  What’s the central core of my well-worn books?

·      Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges aren’t the Only Fruit and Written on the Body. 
·      Tana French’s In the Woods. 
·      Stephen King’s It and Four Seasons collection (mostly for “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” and “The Body”). 
·      Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. 
·      Gary Gach’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buddhism, third ed. 
·      Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. 
·      Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. 

In my life, music and literature have always been connected. Both offer a sense of shelter—a rabbit hole of pure adventure. Similar to the way The Indigo Girls, Bruce Springsteen, and Alison Krauss are able to transport me to inspiration-land with the mere sound of their voices, my pile of literature takes me there with only a well-turned phrase. It serves as my foundation as a reader and a writer—as I grow, my well-worn collection will, too. It’s as alive as me—fluid and dynamic—even vivacious at times. Still, no matter how much I grow as a reader and writer, I’ll always return to this core of literature next to my nightstand where I’m set on SHUFFLE CONTINUOUS REPEAT. 
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Meredith Doench writes and teaches in Dayton, Ohio.  She has published in literary journals such as Hayden’s Ferry Review, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and So to Speak, among others.  She is one of the fiction editors of the literary journal Camera Obscura:Journal of Literature and Photography.   

Monday, September 17, 2012

One Bookshelf: Something Old, Something New… by Julie Patterson


I am drawn to antiques (hence the barrister bookcase) and anything that loosely resembles eavesdropping on someone’s personal stories—my favorite bookshelf exemplifies both. I’ve been buying old books for two decades, though I had little understanding of what constituted “rare” or “collectible” until I met the man that is now my husband and, in turn, discovered his mother’s collection of first edition, hardcover Pulitzer Prize winners. Now I have a more discerning eye for what I want.

The first book on my shelf is, in a way, a nod to my mother-in-law’s inspiration. The Pulitzer Diaries: Inside America’s Greatest Prize by John Hohenberg (copyright 1997, first ed.) chronicles the author’s twenty-two years as the administrator of the coveted literary prize. It is as much a history lesson as it is a literary insight.

The next three books—The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald edited by Matthew Bruccoli (1978, first ed.), The Journals of Sylvia Plath edited by Ted Hughes and Frances McCullough (1982, first ed.), and A Writer’s Diary: Virginia Woolf edited by Leonard Woolf (1954, first American ed.)—have all helped me get inside the heads of some of my favorite authors. I love knowing the thinking behind the craft decisions they made.

The fifth book on the shelf is a piece of my own ever-evolving story. The plain black cover and duct-taped spine give no hint of its contents, but I inherited the New Practical Dictionary for Crossword Puzzles (1975) after my maternal grandmother died. For years I had called her for assistance with the last nagging blanks—or, more often than not, the muddled corner of obviously incorrect answers—that prevented me from finishing the daily puzzle in our newspaper. These phone calls were very formal. When she’d answer, I’d say, “Is this the Crossword Puzzle Help Line?” She’d giggle and reply, “Oh yes, it is. What can I help you with today?” We kept the conversation limited strictly to the business of crossword puzzles.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943, first ed.) is on my shelf because I am a teacher of writing—and a teacher of teachers of writing—and I am motivated in my work to “correct” and/or counterbalance teachers like Ms. Gardner who mistakenly tell young writers, like Francie, to write only what’s “beautiful.”

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (1940, first ed.) is one of my favorite books, and this collectible edition was an early courtship gift from my husband. (So, really, it is his fault I spend my paychecks on books; he encouraged me early on).

My copy of Joan Didion’s A Book of Common Prayer, though not a first edition, is signed and privately printed—special, too, because it came from the famous Brattle Book Shop in Boston during my MFA graduation weekend.

The two books set horizontally, My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams (2007, first ed.) and Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (2002, first ed.), are wedding day mementoes. My husband and I combed these collections for excerpts (note the blue flags still marking some pages) that we then assembled into a dramatic reading for our reception. Three actor friends read it for us, knowing us well enough to add the appropriate emphasis to lines that most reflected who we are as a couple.

Last but not least, there is an intentional open space at the end of my shelf. I hope some day to add a few books with my own name on the front cover.
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Julie Patterson is a writer and teaching artist working with students and teachers in grades K-16 in Indianapolis, Indiana. She serves as associate director and writer-in-residence for the Indiana Partnership for Young Writers, an adjunct instructor in the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, and a visiting artist for both Young Audiences of Indiana and the Indiana Repertory Theatre. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Lesley University. To learn more, visit www.juliepatterson.net

Monday, September 10, 2012

Keeping the Bookshelf Alive by Deng Xiang


Have you ever gazed up at the stars and thought how beautiful they looked? Sure you do. I revel in their beauty the same way I look at the tottering book stacks on my bookshelf. One book in particular that strikes my eyes is an eight-centimeter-thick, dog-eared, physics assessment book, listing recondite questions and pithy solutions that I referred to thousands of times in preparation for the grueling examinations. It will always stay on my bookshelf, a memory of my time perusing physics, an equal reminder of my determination and resilience.

My bookshelf is just as mercurial as humans. Humans are always in a state of flux, while our blood courses through the numerous blood vessels in our bodies. Similarly, my bookshelf changes monthly. Borrowed books get returned to the library once a month. Typically, I limit myself to checking out ten at a time, or else I would never be able to satiate my love for books. As I place them into the bag, causing it to bulge, I often have a paranoid feeling that others might think I’m a demented bibliophile.

At home, I dutifully place my books onto the bookshelf. If I have free time, I’ll indulge in a story, picking any of the books from random. It might be perceived as drudgery to my friends, since they habitual play online multiplayer games. I try to see it from their point-of-view, but I don't even have a mild interest in online games. I do read fantasy books, but that doesn’t mean that I play fantasy games. To me, the gory images and bloodshed induced from meaningless combats stay in the mind, and can even affect sleep. On the other hand, when I read fantasy books, equally gory at times, I get to imagine the story for myself, learn about creative writing, and also steer clear of eyesore caused by staring at the computer screen (at least with paper books).

At the end of the month, I might not finish all my borrowed books. Nevertheless, I return them to the library, and renew my favorite, undiscovered gems. Bookshelves shouldn’t be left to collect dust. Rather, they should be cleaned off and mended periodically. Although my bookshelf isn’t bedecked with glittering diamonds, or made of high-quality maple wood, what matters most is having books at my disposal, in any genre, to savor whenever there’s time. 
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Bio: Deng Xiang speaks, writes articles, poems and stories while sharing his passion for all things erudite and salient. Mainly, his subsistence comprises of highbrow literature from chemistry to pure mathematics. His appetite for knowledge never ceases, even if he got an accomplishment worth showing off.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Our World: My Encyclopedias by Carmen Welsh



Yes, this is an encyclopedia set. The World Book Encyclopedia, copyright year 1972, to be exact.

It traveled all the way from Bronx to Miami.

When I was five, and reading a favorite series, I asked my mom about a word, and she pointed to our bookcase—it is the same one that now sits in our sunroom in our Miami home—and she pointed out our dictionaries, and often opened one. Never mind that my little hands could barely move the hardcover and turn its delicate pages. It felt half my size.

Mom said, "Any word you need. Any words you don't know the meaning of—use this book."

When I read more, and needed more, I asked for other titles, those with identical binder design—dark brown, gold outline and lettering—and was similarly told by Dad that I could use the “big people” books.

What were other pre-k to first graders reading? I wouldn't know. I learned almost all the known dog species by second and third grade; I also learned about the cat breeds a little later.

When a seventh grade science teacher paired me up with my friend, also a classmate, for a science project, my friend said we needed to go to the local public library for research. "No,” I told her. “We can go to my house. We have a library there." She must've thought it was just three books by the look she gave me.

By then, my dad had acquired another set, discarded by my junior high's library. We also had an older set, dating earlier than the World Book collection. But I had learned early on not to use those often. This particular set barely had photos, and most were poorly drawn illustrations—I did not realize, at the time, I was a budding artist—and what little photographs the books had were in black and white.

That afternoon, I led my friend into our house, to our sunroom. She gasped when she saw our three-piece bookcase. She grew more excited by our reference shelves.

"You weren't kidding!" she said.

"Then let's get started." I ran my finger over the binders, reciting which letter and secondary letter of the encyclopedias we would use for our class work research.

The next day, my friend bragged about my bookcases in science class. Our teacher was surprised by the level of research we had done.

"It's because of Carmen's library." My friend gushed to the teacher. "She has HUNDREDS of books! Like a real library!"

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Carmen Welsh, (a.k.a. Kayfey, Angry Goblin, In Pretty Print, and Goblinrant), holds an Associate in Art Education from Miami-Dade Community College and a Bachelor of Science from Barry University in Information Technology. She's published stories and artwork in fanzines, anthology magazines, and e-zines. One of her earlier short fiction became a podcast. Carmen also contributes to various blogs and is part of a hive of nerdy/geeky writers for the Nerd Junk Food Blog. She tweets updates about latest projects and enjoys updating her own website: http://TabbertheRed.com without calling tech support. Carmen is a member of the Furry Writer's Guild.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Bookgiver by e. l. kaufman


Maybe it happens to all writers eventually—suddenly you realize that you’re the “book giver.” I think it happened to me once I started going to birthday parties in elementary school—I remember wrapping lots of Baby-Sitters Club books. And I still gift books more often than not. Birthdays? A book. Probably not a BSC book anymore. Hanukkah? A book. Possibly eight. I can’t help it—I love books and I want everyone to read my favorites. If I could buy Rainer Maria Rilke’s Stories of God in bulk, I would.

I have a one-year-old niece, Maya, and I’m starting her out young towards a life of bookshelves. Here’s one shelf that I’ve stocked with some of my childhood favorites:

1.   Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw. I remember reading this book with my sister, before I could even read. I’d help her turn the pages and chime in on the repeating refrain, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always…” Of particular entertainment to my child self was the little boy on the cover, gleefully flushing a watch down the toilet. Actually, it’s still funny now—some things never get old, I guess.

2.   Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola. I’ll confess that as a little kid, I didn’t really understand this book. Apparently my mother did not use it as a tool to “introduce children to the concept of death” but rather read it with me because of the wonderful illustrations and beautiful text. I loved Tommy and his grandmother being strapped to their chairs when they ate. Reading it as an adult, it strikes me as much sadder than I ever picked up on—when I give this book to children, I warn their parents to read it first. Nothing worse than realizing, in mid-sentence while reading aloud, that you’ve just killed off Nana.

3.   The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. This is a classic that everyone loves. And now a major motion picture! As a child, I liked the “everyone, everyone, everyone, needs!” The cotton-candy colored tufted truffula trees also held a sugary, silky, sparkly fascination for me. I loved the little Lorax too—so angry! so passionate! I thought this book would be a particularly good choice for Maya, who, growing up as my sister’s child, is bound to be concerned about animals and the environment.

4.   The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, illustrated by William Nicholson. Is there anything more enchanting than being able to truly believe that someday your beloved toys will come to life and be real? No. (There’s a reason that Toy Story is so successful.) I was the type of child who talked to all of her stuffed animals, who cried when seams ripped or fur rubbed off. The book comforted me. Recently, I had the privilege of reading an excerpt from this book in my best friend’s wedding, and even as adults, many of the guests described the book as “magical” and “moving.” And I still like to think that DD—my beloved doll—is real.

As Maya gets older I plan on continuing to fill her bookshelves with the books that I loved as a kid—Shel Silverstein’s poetry, Noel Streatfeild’s art-centered adventures, Natalie Babbitt’s comic short stories, Beatrice Potter’s whimsical collection—and still love today. 
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e. l. kaufman earned her BFA from Emerson College and is currently working towards her MFA at Lesley University. She writes subversive, experimental stories featuring vivid characters exploring feelings of outsiderness, the loss of home, and living on the verge.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pappa's House by Paul Peppers


To describe my bookshelf I have to write a little about my grandparent's place. When I was a kid I spent many weekends at their two-story house. It was a comparatively modern place and a carbon copy of the houses to either side of it, but through the eye of my imagination the nights were crowded with monsterssuch as "the great old ones” from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, vampires from Bram Stokers Dracula, and pirates from Treasure Island. My small bed became the only safe haven on Wells’ Island of Dr. Moreau. In that upstairs room I discovered the first book I can remember reading just because I wanted toThe Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The cover art was done by Roy Krenkel, Jr, and the picture captured my imagination. After reading it, the small plot of grass behind my grandparents house became a prehistoric land peopled with savage animals and savage men—a land where I battled the half-man Tsa to free my princess from his bestial clutches.

I suppose my mom and dad sent me to stay at my grandparents to get a break from me and my teenage attitude. But then again maybe it was to look after poppa. The old man was beginning to get a little forgetful and had a tendency to wander off, if left alone. There were many years of living between me and my granddaddy, but we still enjoyed each other’s company. We had an unspoken agreement—he talked and I listened. I can still picture the old man in his liberty coveralls, felt hat, and shiny black shoes. In my mind’s eye I see him frozen in time, sitting on the front porch swing with a flyswatter in one hand, and a glass of ice tea in the other—alone in my memory, until I place my own form in the swing beside him, or see my thin legs racing across the yard to show off my new sneakers. I remember glowing with pride when he praised my efforts—calling me ‘hoss’ and ‘stout.’

Poppa was in the National Guard when the race riots were going on. He told me enough about what happened back then to make me want to read more on the subject. That old man wore many different hats in his life. He built bridges for the county, worked at a saw mill, roofed houses, and made moonshine. I guess he was my bookshelf. The stories he told allowed me a glimpse of a wider world beyond my own cares and problems; an exciting world where anything was possible and anything might happen. Hell, I even learned how to make moonshine.
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Paul Peppers is a diesel mechanic working in Cartersville Georgia. He holds an Associate of Applied Science Degree from Coosa Valley Technical College. He is fifty-three years old. His work has appeared in The Western, Larks Fiction Magazine, and Drunk Monkeys.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Simple Shelf by Gary Hewitt


Imagining a world without books is like living in a world of no colour and sound. Where would we be without the joys of Dickens, Shakespeare, Hardy, Lovecraft, and goodness me I could go on. Put simply, life without books is no life at all. This makes me ponder what books I would gladly have on my bookshelf.

For me, books have to excite, entertain, captivate and leave you gasping for more. There is nothing better than having the feeling of oh, just let me turn one more page. My favourite book of all time would have to be Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings. The language has been accused of being over-indulgent and publishers today would probably balk at the thought of a 1500 page behemoth flowing through their hands.

I would agree there are moments that are annoying, (Tom Bombadil for one), yet the imagination and storytelling for me are what makes it truly magical. I first read LOTRs when I was about seventeen or eighteen, and it was pretty much the first time I had a book I could not put down, considering it was so damn big. Anyway, after a couple of weeks or so I had finished it, and also experienced one of the best-ever endings. (spoiler) The hobbits return home to find the shire at the mercy of old Sharkey. (Why, oh why, they strayed from this in the Peter Jackson films I’ll never know—it was one of the stand-out moments of the book for goodness sake!)
     
Another series of books that makes my list of all-time favorites would be the wonderful Henry II Trilogy by Sharon Penman. Her attention to detail is fantastic and I found myself totally absorbed in the world of Simon De Montfort in his pious battle with these troublesome kings. The first novel sees the emergence of Edward from a feisty youth into one of England’s mightiest kings. The second focuses mainly on the Welsh insurgency until Edward’s patience finally snaps with disastrous consequences for Wales. I would certainly recommend reading her novels.
     
The next book I offer is the bizarre brilliance of Bulgakov in The Master and Margarita. This is a story featuring some of the most surreal images I’ve ever come across. What makes it special is that it was written at a time of supreme suppression in the USSR; it’s a satirical assault on the regime of the times. The world Bulgakov creates is populated by Pontius Pilate, gun-toting human-sized cats, a talking severed head, the devil and of course, Margarita. If that hasn’t tempted you to read this brilliant piece of insanity, then nothing will.
     
The time has come to sum up. I love reading. I also love writing. If I never learned the art of reading, and being taken away to distant far away places, I sure as hell could never write. To me though, reading books is simply dreaming with words.
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UK writer, Gary Hewitt lives in a small village in Kent. He has had several stories published including editions of M-Brane and Morpheus Tales. His style does tend to be dark and is rather unique. He is a member of the Hazlitt Arts Writers’ Group. http://ghwt9996.wix.com/tales

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My One Bookshelf by Tom Cleaves

What does my one bookshelf hold? Interesting question since I don't even have a bookcase. All my books are stacked on the floor, in the corner, or on the table. Does this bookshelf have to include only books I currently own or have read? If that's the case, then I only have a few I can choose from. If I was asked this a few years ago, before my apartment building burned down, then I'd have some three hundred books to consider. But I will do my best to give you my bookshelf using only what I have today.

The first book on my "shelf" is Tales of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. It is one of my favorite books of all times. It is a tale of a man, who in my mind, is the ultimate and true hero, Sydney Carton.

Next are two "journey" books, Homer's The Odyssey and Dante's Inferno. Are our lives similar? A journey to our "real" home, paved with obstacles, or the latter, a journey through our own hell, that we would not survive without guidance.

The next book is Moby Dick by Melville. Do we have our own inner Moby Dick that we are so obsessed with that we lose all sight of reality and rationality?

The next books I have piled together are very important to me: The Jungle by Sinclair, Handmaids Tale by Atwood, and The Good Earth by Buck. All really good books, that tie together the theme of women's rights. Of them, Handmaids Tale, affected me the most.

The next three books, reflect who I am. Atlas Shrugged and Anthem by Rand, and Walden by Thoreau.
And that's my bookshelf right now. The books I've read and enjoyed and discussed. Next year it could be totally different.
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Tom Cleaves is an avid book reader and philosopher. He is an administrator for the Tea & Pee Bookclub, although, he often doesn't get much of a say in the books that are chosen. He's hoping to change that in 2013.