Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Bookshelf

The Thanksgiving holiday offers some people a time off from work, and while eating seems to be the focus for some, for others it is about having time to be leisurely. During your weekend respite, rather than rushing off to a mall, why not spend it curled up with a good book. Below is a list of books for your Thanksgiving bookshelf. Feel free to add you own suggestions in the comments section. 

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen
Besides being a resource for history misrepresented in high school, Loewen's book is discusses what really happened during the first Thanksgiving. A must-read for all Americans interested in our country's history. 

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick
A book that details the journey of the Mayflower, and spans fifty-five years of settlement and war in a New England colony. 

Mayflower 1620 by Peter Arenstam in conjunction with Plimouth Plantation
An inexpensive resource that chronicles the pilgrim landing in Plymouth. 

First American Cookbook by Amelia Simmons
A resource for early American cooking. Learn the secrets of the early colonists, and what might've been on the first harvest dinner table. 

Imagining New England: Explorations of Regional Identity from the Pilgrims to the Mid-Twentieth Century by J. Conforti
Conforti explains the origins of the identity we know today as "New England." How did the regional identity get started, and what made it stay? An important read in understanding the origins and traditions of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving: Its Origin, Celebration and Significance as Related in Prose and Verse by Robert Schauffer
This book offers a comprehensive list of early fiction sources about the Thanksgiving holiday, like May Lowe's Thanksgiving in America. A homey read during the holiday season.

The Book of Thanksgiving by J. Faust
A book of poems, stories, recipes, and history tidbits for the Thanksgiving enthusiast.
Don't forget to add your own holiday favorites. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bookshelves, by Sonia Erlich

Saturday mornings. Beyond the bounds of the weekday schedule, outside of Outlook calendars and school bells, no thought yet of Sunday evening’s bookend. What to do with all of these unclaimed moments?

As a child, many of those mornings were spent re-ordering my bedroom. This involved, among other things, removing all of my books from the shelves, taking stock of each one individually, and determining its proper pile on the floor. This drive did not stem from an idea of what I “should” be doing; rather it seemed to me that this is what you do in life: you engage, you tend to your environment, you envision something and draw it into being.

My father would pass in the hallway, then double back to my open doorway and peer in. “You’ve been at it for two hours,” he would say, scanning the mounting chaos on the floor, “and somehow it looks worse than when you started.”

“It’ll be clean,” I would tell him with absolute conviction.

The best part about clearing off the shelves was the chance to hold each book in my hands again. And sometimes, holding would lead to opening, and opening would lead to reading, and before I knew it, the sun would shift across the sky, and I would be called for dinner. Like the earlier part of that Saturday, Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary knew no time limits.

As I got older, I moved around quite a bit. Different states, different bedrooms, different bookshelves. In Washington, D.C., it was a rickety, rusty, three-tiered thing on wheels. Thank goodness for the Salinger, Orwell, and Plath that held it in place. In Utah, they were old milk crates, and the various colored plastics provided an excuse to create categories (Existentialists, Multicultural, Mythology, Books that Shaped Me, et al). Houseguests who took time with the collection renewed my appreciation for the books. Walker, Camus, Tolstoy. My bookshelves could speak for me in a way that I could not, something like, “I am the sum of these parts”.

Now I live in the city where I started. I don’t know if I’ll stay forever, but I know that when I moved back, four years ago, I didn’t want to worry about nailing plywood into someone else’s wall. For all the road trips and climate changes they had endured, my books deserved some stability.

So, once again, I took to the bookshelves, only this time, I had thick planks of stained pine, inherited from my grandfather, to fill. I sorted through the milk crates (they doubled nicely as storage containers), created categories and piles, reassessed the categories and piles, and eventually, assigned a place on the shelves to each book.

I love the way bookshelves communicate for me and the way the shelves of others speak for them. Beyond the sum of their parts, our collections reflect our values, our phases, our influences, our pursuits and passions. They are worth an intimate look, a hold, and the devotion of an entire Saturday. 

Sonia Erlich is a graduate of Lesley University's MFA program. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Jenny Catlin's Bookshelf

The book shelf is made out of L brackets. The nails came from the same store, the dingy one on Alvarado that makes me question humanity every time I shop there; screaming jaundiced infants and blank-faced strangers shoving one another to reach miss-spelled Happy Birthday balloons.

They are too long, the nails. We didn’t have a hammer then. I pushed them into the wall with the bottom side of a cast-iron pan that belonged to his dead brother, before he was dead.

I didn’t put them up evenly, the brackets. The Ballad of The Sad CafĂ© levels it. My favorite copy, I love the colors and I've never stopped wanting to be Carson McCullers, perhaps without the debilitating strokes.

I do all my work on the ten-year-old lap top, covered in stickers from his first stab at college. (Silly when the lap top that holds up the books is new and better.) But I broke it one night when I first got to LA. Sick of kidney-punch vodka and sharing a scratchy bed with a stranger enemy who played the same broken DVD all night in a hallow motel room, while we waited for him to get out of Rehab.

The first story I sold is trapped in there--it was the first bridge I burned when I got here. It’s the only story anyone ever wanted to pay for.

We couldn’t bring anything, two towels, two forks, two chipped bowels. Just an old Toyotas worth of belongings. The books were the worst. We threw away and left and sold tens of thousands of books. The guys at Kilgore Comics sure got a hard-on over what we brought them. Signed Bukowski and Crumb. A first edition copy of The Slaughterhouse Five with dust jacket, I never really cared for Vonnegut anyway. They gave us five hundred bucks, I knew The Woman alone was worth that much, but it was hurry up and forget for us, so we did what we had to, hastening departure, like imaginary renegades.

I'm not sure how I chose the books I brought. Some I love, some I never liked to begin with. It was hazy, surreal, bizarre, the time back then. Drunk and paranoid, we left nearly everything.

We have furniture and clothes and a once again growing mass of books and shelves to house them, but this shelf is the one I hold the dearest. I re-read American Salvage and Where I'm Calling From, so many times, in that first damp apartment that their pages are just stacks of paper. Now Carver’s words will always taste like slightly moldy CA rain.

This shelf reminds me that no matter what the world takes from me and what I give away to the world, even when I have nothing, I have words. And words are everything.
Jenny Catlin is a writer from Colorado. She edits and can usually be found on any of the dream streets of the Southwest. Her first full length collection, Some Men I Left In Denver, is expected around the New Year.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Jacqueline West's Bookshelf

The bookshelf that has had the most powerful impact on me was a white plank balanced on two brackets that were bolted to the wall of my childhood bedroom. The shelf hung directly above my bed, which was covered by a shiny purple polyester bedspread. Bouncing too exuberantly on that slippery spread could (and did) lead to occasional bookshelf-related head injuries. But that’s not the kind of impact I mean.

As a child, I did not believe that I would grow up to be a writer, let alone a writer who wrote for other children. I’d never met a real writer, and most of the authors whose work I loved lived far away or had died long ago, which made them seem almost like literary characters themselves. Besides, I loved stories with such unquestioning devotion that I wouldn’t have believed a real, human person—one with an occasionally runny nose, and clothes that sometimes got smelly, and all the ordinary self-doubt and fears and tendencies to misspell certain words that plague most of us—had actually sat down and written them. 
On that shelf above my bed, I kept the collection of books that were my very own. Most of them were gifts, but some were purchased with my own three-dollar allowance, ordered from those Scholastic book fliers they passed out to grade-schoolers once a month. I read—and reread and reread—these books with the kind of love that might only belong to young readers. I can still remember almost every book that stood on that shelf, interspersed with my most precious souvenirs and knickknacks (many of which were also shiny and purple). 

All of A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books. The Paddington Bear collection. The Bunnicula series by James Howe. Illustrated fairy tales. The Wind in the Willows. Matilda. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Several volumes of Trixie Belden. The Secret Garden. Everything by Bill Watterson that I could get my hands on (or that I could sneak away from my brothers). Anne of Green Gables. My garage-sale copy of Little Women, which I read so many times (often starting over the moment I got to the end) that the page corners were worn as soft as velvet. 

I read these books unjudgmentally, with complete faith in the characters and their stories. I paid no attention to style or technique…but I think I absorbed it subconsciously, or even subcutaneously. These books became a part of my writing DNA. Now, as a grown-up writer, I hear their voices in my own voice, just like I sometimes hear my dad’s phrasing or my mom’s laugh coming out of my mouth. The white plank shelf is long gone, but I still own many of those books—and even if I’d lost every volume, their influence would still be permanent.         

Jacqueline West is the author of The Books of Elsewhere (, a fantasy series for young readers that debuted from Dial/Penguin in 2010.  Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in journals including ChiZine, Strange Horizons, Ideomancer, The Reflection's Edge, and The Pedestal Magazine.  Visit her at

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Trisha J. Wooldridge's Bookshelf

The top shelf of this bookcase, a bookcase made by my grandfather who migrated to the U.S. from Poland, a bookcase that spent much of its life as the sole wooden bookcase in my bedroom, a bookcase that lived through my childhood and teens in the honored place beside my bed where I could sneak books when I should have been sleeping, this top shelf of this bookcase has always been dedicated to housing the a collection of special books. Books that defined my life.

For a while, I kept a Bible and a catechism there.  My then-religion had a major impact on my life.  During my grammar and early middle school years, it housed Judy Blume, The Babysitter's Club, and a Sweet Valley High. I really wanted to be popular, but knew I wasn't. 

During middle school and junior high (because we had junior high in addition to middle grades when I was in school), it housed multiple copies of Madeleine L'Engle's series (four copies, in particular, of A Swiftly Tilting Planet) and C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia and Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn and another unicorn novel by an author I don't remember called, The Firebringer. I realized I would always be strange… and I really loved unicorns.

In high school, the top shelf housed a double layer of books from the DragonLance series and Forgotten Realms. Along with my Dungeons and Dragons sourcebooks. And some three-ring binders of my own writing. I had embraced the creative geek--and I found others who had done the same.

My bookcase was too big to fit in the back of any car my family owned, so I had to leave it behind for college. While I was in college, it was more of a showpiece than an easy-access escape route. I put my pretty, embossed, gold-edged Lord of the Rings box set there, along with my Complete Works of Shakespeare. My Bible and catechism books moved back in--as much for my faith as for the beautiful pictures and ornate spines. The collector's editions of the D&D sourcebooks moved in there, too.

After college, I moved around to a few apartments and finally my house, and the shelf has become a combination of easy-access escape and showpiece. It's the first bookcase you see upon entering the house, and the shelf is either the first or second one you'd notice. There are a few books older than me along with references for herbs and religion and health. I'm likely going to change it over again, soon, because we're re-doing our books (which live in every room of the house at this point - including bathrooms!), but you can bet there will be Important Stuff staying and going on that shelf!
Bio: Trisha J. Wooldridge is a freelance writer, editor and educator from Auburn, MA and the current president of Broad Universe ( Her experience ranges from Dungeons & Dragons Online to animal rescue public relations. She writes about food, wine, horses, haunted locations, education, and she interviews bands like Voltaire, Within Temptation and Nightwish. Her short story, "Party Crashers," co-authored with Christy Tohara, was in the EPIC Award winning, Bad-Ass Faeries: Just Plain Bad, (Marietta 2008, Mundania 2009), with a second co-authored short story in the EPIC Award winning, Bad-Ass Faeries: In all their Glory. She's editing another anthology with Kate Kaynak of Spencer Hill Press called, Unconventional,which collects the secret stories of the weirdness people always knew happened behind the scenes of conventions and conferences.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cassie Consiglio's Bookshelf

The top shelf of my bookcase is very special. It doesn't contain any books, but it does hold my piggy bank collection. There is one that my Dad brought home from Las Vegas. A lot of precious awards are up there. Another valuable thing on that shelf is a wooden chair my Great-Grandpa Eddie made. My baby "book" box is on the shelf and it holds lots of things from when I was first born. There is even a tiny diaper in there. Most importantly, the top shelf holds a picture of my Grandma Sandy. It makes me feel like she is still alive. 

Cassie Consiglio attends fourth grade in New Jersey. She lives with her mom and dad, and two dogs, Yodel and Twinkie. She likes karate, soccer, video games, and reading. Her poem, "The Last of Everything," appeared in the anthology, The Last Man Anthology, a tribute to Mary Shelley.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Elley P. Johnson's Bookshelf

This is my cave, my Momma Cave, and here is my one book shelf, and that over there is the fuzzy pink robe I wear when I write. Seriously, no joke about the fuzzy pink robe. 
My bookshelf is a coffee table, and it’s a work in progress, just like me. 
Currently, my table holds suggested readings from my kick-ass MFA mentor, Tony Abbott. It also hold books to slurp ideas from, books I pine for, books I’m marinating in my brain, and books I pick up for a quick thirty-second jolt of inspiration. I don’t put these titles on a shelf. I like to keep these books close. Five years ago, my table was filled with books offering advice on how not to mess up my kids. Five years before that, the table overflowed with DIY computer programming and IT infrastructure design books, with a few not so random Martha Stewart Weddings magazines mixed in.  
Having a Momma Cave to keep my table is a new luxury. My Momma Cave is where I go to read and write. I close the door for three hours a day and try to shut out all the dangling details that so often keep me from putting words onto the page.  I have a sign on the door. It reads: 
Are you on fire? Are you bleeding profusely from the head?
If your answer is no, DON'T KNOCK. You will survive. Mommy will be with you shortly.
If only it were that easy. 
During my three hours a day, I slow to a crawl, my plate empties, and I am without a thing to do for someone else. I like to think of it as freedom in suspended animation. Blissfully messy and disorganized, but a freedom I hold dear. This is what my table (bookshelf) represents, and what my Momma Cave preserves, fuzzy pink robe and all. 
Elley is a low res MFA student at Lesley University, and lives in Bangkok, Thailand were she frequently dehydrates from mixing extreme heat and 50 cent Singha Beer. She has published in JAMIA such thrilling titles as “The World Wide Web: A Review of an Emerging Internet-Based Technology for the Distribution of Biomedical Information” and “Web Report: A World Wide Web Clinical Multimedia Reporting System.”  She is currently working on a spy geek chapter book, a middle grade novel with Leprechauns and Thor, God of Thunder, and a travel log detailing every place around the world her children have vomited, either entirely or partly, on her.  
For more Elley, visit

Friday, July 29, 2011

Heidi C. Parton's Bookshelf

First, a note about the bookcase itself. This is my favorite bookcase (of four) because my dad, with the help of my younger brother, built it for me as a Christmas gift one year. It’s made of pine and varnished a deep, glossy cherry with beveled edges on the top and bottom shelves and a vine pattern along the side panels’ front edges. On the bottom shelf is a brass plaque bearing my name and the year it was made. It’s one of the most beautiful, thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received and has become the place of honor for many of my favorite books. It also bears a wound: when my dog was a tiny, teething puppy, she attacked all of the wood she could get her jaws around, and this bookcase was one of her victims. I was a little devastated to see that she’d bitten off a chunk from one of the bottom corners, but I think now that it’s part of its charm, part of its story.
The shelf in the photo—the one I’m especially proud of—contains books by my graduate school mentors and thesis reader, two collections of short fiction, a couple of John Steinbecks and Virginia Woolfs, an Oscar Wilde omnibus, all of Flannery O’Connor’s work, several books on philosophy and world religions, and a growing assortment of Japanese and Chinese literature—including, most importantly, multiple copies of the Tao Te Ching and the Chuang Tzu (the two books that have changed my life more than any other and are the main reason this shelf made the cut). These books have shaped me, both as a person and as a writer. They’ve been the light posts on my path.
They live and breathe, as the best of books do. They aren’t static objects that I consume and then cast away, hollow and useless. Again and again, I come to them with questions and find their versions of the answer. I have them talk to one another, debate their ideas, harmonize them or let them disagree. They can simplify or complicate my existence, according to my needs and my mood, and they continue to change me. For the better, I think.
Heidi C. Parton is a recent MFA in Creative Writing graduate from Lesley University. She writes short stories, freelances as a copy writer and editor, and contributes to a variety of culture blogs, including her own, Something Looseknit, which covers philosophy, art, music, literature, and whatever other topics catch her eye. Heidi currently lives in South Carolina with her husband—a graphic designer, photographer and musician—as well as two cats and a dog, but grew up as a gypsy child in an Army family and is therefore from everywhere and nowhere.

Sherry Thompson's Bookshelf

I worked for thirty-five years in an academic library, and briefly, part time, in a public library. For much of that time, I kept a copy of Wilson’s poem about books near my workstation. Though I worked in libraries, I wasn't permitted to have books at my station—these verses helped.
 “Oh, for a book and a shady nook. Either in a door or out;
With the green leaves whispering overhead. 
Or the street cries all about.
Where I may read all at my ease. Both of the new and old;
For a jolly good book whereon to look. Is better to me than gold.”
---John Wilson, 1887

My book collection formed, during my pre-teens. When I was young, I collected fairy stories. Later horse books. Still in my teens, it was fantasy, myth and the occasional SF story that took over my favorite shelf. In my mid-twenties I discovered C.S. Lewis, who took over my whole shelf for most of a decade—until I learned that he had been part of The Inklings. I felt I was the first to discover a mystical sect, and with it the mother lode of new books. The Charles Williams “spiritual thriller” novels and his Arthurian poetry soon consumed half of my favorite shelf. And there they have remained, fending off all those that seek to dislodge them.
The Inklings inspired me to write. I began collecting texts on writing fiction or fantasy. Donald Maass,’ The Break-out Novel was on the shelf well over a year, as I immersed myself in it, and tried to use all his words of literary wisdom in editing my manuscript. After I had followed every Maass rule, as closely as I was able, confident beyond measure, I submitted my manuscript to his agency, only to be rejected. I removed the book from the shelf immediately and for good.
The Shelf and I have been through many other permutations over the decades. The current version is part of a dark cherry five-shelf bookcase, which runs two and a half feet wide. Above its five official shelves is a precarious pile of books equal to a sixth shelf.
This bookcase is surrounded by more just like it, all solidly full of books covering one wall of my living room. Bookcase “relatives” are scattered in other places throughout the room wherever I could tuck them, between that stuff called “furniture.”
The Shelf is the fourth one from the floor. Dark cherry wood, it has taken possession of a couple of non-book items, like a clear stained glass box with a hinged lid and mirrored bottom I made in a stained glass class.
The Charles Williams books reside to one side of a small wooden box, which protects a deck of Arthurian tarot cards, there simply because Williams’ poetry is Arthurian. Flanking these books on the other side my candles were the early Anne McCaffrey books, Diana Wynne Jones, Barbara Hambly and recently, Patricia McKillip, as I revisit the mystical scenes in her works. McKillip perches, perhaps uneasily, beside the C. S. Lewis Bible gifted to me by a dear friend this past Christmas. Nearby,  Lewis,’ Perelandra, The Great Divorce, and Miracles.
I’m currently months away from my sixty-fifth birthday, so my favorites have permutated over several decades. Periodically I’ve withdrawn books from my favorite shelf to make room for more recent loves. But no book ever goes away completely. It just recedes a bit at a time, further from my favorite shelf.
Sherry Thompson’s novels include: The Narentan Tumults series: Seabird, (, Earthbow, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2. (  ( You can find out more about her work by visiting,

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jan Nerenberg's Bookshelf

My bookshelf or shelves--I am surrounded by shelves, boxes, cupboards, and boxes of books, stacks next to the bed, on the kitchen table, and anywhere there is a blank space. Frustrated with finding just one book shelf, I turned to my pride and joy, a 12” Webster's Unabridged filled with etymology, thesaurus, definitions and near unlimited word choices. My Oxford English Dictionary (four pages reduced and printed on each onion skin) complete with magnifying glass is, alas, in storage as we wait for our home to be rebuilt from a flood. 

From my dictionary, it was just a step to add inspiration. Ursula LeGuinn and Charles Dickens, who can both pack an entire world into an opening paragraph; J.K. Rowling, James Owen, George R. R. Martin, Cornelia Funke, J. R. R. Tolkien and a new favorite, Tony Abbott's Kringle.  I, of course, had to add my little phoenix to remind me of how fleeting life is and the phases we pass through on our journey as writers and people. 

She (my phoenix) normally sits next to a cryptex and pictures of my folks and my kids, for it is all of these things that inspire me as I write. My mom’s face smiles and tells me I can. Dad reminds me to choose the right word. My kids remind me that the wish precedes the reality. The cryptex helps me to imagine new words. And the books, well, the silent rustle of pages whispers secrets. I lose time looking up words and then find myself pages later wondering where I began--but filled with a new arsenal of ideas.

And as a parting suggestion, try The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester – “A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary.”  Delightful.
Jan lives in the Pacific Northwest, just completed a MFA in Creative Writing at Lesley University. Her children's fable, "Misako and the Dragons," was published in both RAIN Magazine and Note Bene, an international magazine. "Gentlemen, Please," a nonfiction essay, was published in North West Literary Review. Her poetry has been published in both RAIN Magazine and The Daily Astorian. She is completing a fantasy novel, The Questing Pearl, written for young people and the young at heart. To learn more about her work, visit: Just Jan

Aaron M. Wilson's Bookshelf

This shelf is my mind. It resides above my desk and writing space. The books on the shelf are ideas and inspirations that keep me coming back to my desk to write. Each book is a beloved friend and lover. I return to their pages often for comfort and intellectual companionship. However, unlike the stability of my marriage with poet Jessica Fox-Wilson (@9to5Poet), these bookish companions rotate whimsically.

Even though some of these titles rotate, a few books remain as constant companions. They watch over my creative practice with vigilant determination. They desire nothing but my continued writing success (or so I like to believe). On bad writing days, these companions become competition rather than vigilant protectors, and I can only think about how I wish I'd written Solar, Freedom, and especially The Swarm. I'm constantly pushing myself to write stories (and hopefully a novel) worthy to sit on the same shelf amidst their company. As it stands now, I do have two copies of my collection of linked stories on the far right, The Many Lives of Inez Wick, and I wonder what my competitors / companions think of them. I hope that they accept my work and think it worthy because each of those books on my shelf have in some way inspired my work. Each of those books addresses my passion for writing and reading fiction inspired by humanity's impending environmental crisis. My hope is that where activism seems to have failed, a revitalized eco-literature, in the vein of Edward Abbey, will succeed to spark our collective imaginations and spur us into action. Only time will tell.

Aaron M. Wilson was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska and now lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He earned his M.F.A in Writing from Hamline University located in St.Paul, MN. He writes about books, stories, movies, and his experiences as an adjunct instructor of English, Literature, and Environmental Science on his blog: Soulless Machine. He also regularly updates Twitter @SoullessMachine. His fiction has appeared in eFiction Magazine: The Premier Internet Fiction Magazine, Twin Cities: Cifiscape Vol. I, and The Last Man Anthology.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lee Robin's One Shelf

I love to read. I love the classics. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Madame Bovary, Crime and Punishment, The Awakening, are a few of my favorites in my collection. But my 1 book shelf that I visit the most, and have a close personal relationship with, does not contain classics or any fictional masterpieces for that matter. My 1 book shelf is neatly organized and completely full of textbooks, reference books, and binders from my life as a Physical Therapist Assistant student, for the last two years. This shelf defines my new life, my future, my career, and success.

I like the idea of writing about 1 book shelf and the feelings this shelf evokes in me every time I look at it. When I look at this shelf, here are just a few of the many thoughts I have:

 1). Wow, I learned a hell of a lot in two years.
 2). Wow, I need to remember a hell of a lot of information to pass my licensure exam.
 3). I spent a lot of money on textbooks.
 4). I have worked harder in the past two years than any other time of my life.
 5). I have strength within me I never knew I possessed.
 6). The human body is a complicated but amazing self-regulated-machine. (Yes, I actually think this while looking at my bookshelf).
 7). I’ve chosen an amazing profession to dedicate my life to.
 8). I wish my Mom could see this bookshelf…

So, there you have it. Just a few of the thoughts this shelf evokes in me. It also represents my hard work, my sacrifices, my loved ones that have put up with me and my stress for the past two years, their support and understanding. Most of all, I like how organized it remains. When my studies are hectic and stressful I know I can at least find exactly what I’m looking for, right at my fingertips – on that shelf. That shelf might not be full of fictional classics, but it is full of my blood, sweat, and tears, both happy and sad ones!
 Lee Robin

1 Bookshelf: Welcome

Welcome, and thank you for visiting 1 Bookshelf.

The idea for 1 Bookshelf started when I was cleaning off my bookshelf. I marveled at how much of my life was caught up in just one shelf. Maybe it was to get out of "cleaning," (making room for new books seems to be an endless task). I started an exploration around the house to see what surrounded me. Some bookshelves are for fun, some for research, some are for favorites, and some are for unread books. Some shelves are heavy with books from my current MFA program.

Others are from undergrad. I have an entire bookshelf filled with books about African History, slavery in particular. ( I majored in History). Half of the books were assigned by one professor, for one class, and contain all the staples of historical scholarship, like Blassingame and Genovese. When I look at that one shelf, I see my professor, my classmates, the discussions, the weather, my fear I couldn't keep up since it was a grad class, the expansion of my understanding and knowledge. I remember the HUGE paper I had to write, with thirty primary sources, and the libraries and collections I visited to get them. I also remember all the enslaved African narratives. All the stories about the injustice of slavery, the Civil War, and the fight for Freedom. The shelf also leads me to other classes on slavery. It leads me still to stories I've written. To conversations. To an enormous period of time that shaped my life. That one shelf is very important to me.

But it's one shelf in a sea of bookshelves. I'm overflowing with books. I have books for every occasion, and for every topic I've written a story/novel about. I have books that people have recommended. Books I won't ever read. Classic books. Philosophy books. Children's books. Tea & Pee Bookclub books, banned books--my favorite. Books I haven't a clue where they've come from. Books that the neighbor lent. Library book sale books. Old books. New books. My own books. Books.

Although there are many shelves, I seem to have a system of where they all are. If I move one and don't remember moving it, then it can take a while to find. I always have a current book-reading shelf. This is like my email inbox. It's organized. New things come in and out without too much effort. It's the one that gets the most play. See picture below. I'm just finishing this shelf and moving to the next for the second half of the year.

Of course, these are only the books here in my house. There are bookshelves at the library, colleges, the White House, family and friends' houses. Bookshelves are the first thing I am drawn to in a house. And as if I didn't have unread books of my own, I gravitate and find myself asking to borrow a friend's. There are also a growing number of virtual bookshelves, a whole other way of organizing books.

The long and short of it is this: bookshelves are part of our lives. They all have a story of their own. This little endeavor is to explore those stories. Imagine that I've come over to see your books. Which shelf would you show me first?

Right now, I'd show you the one in the picture. It represents twenty-six books, and several months of reading. It includes fiction and non-fiction, and just about every genre. There are a lot of teen books, (most for school), including Tony Abbott's Lunch-Box Dream, a nostalgic and brilliant book that also brought me back to my African History bookshelf. War & Peace, a Mt. Everest for some. Anne of Green Gables, a childhood classic I never read until this year. Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth, my favorite book so far this year. Karen Armstrong's, Twelve Steps to Live a Compassionate Life, a book I wish I wrote. But at the heart of this shelf is a commitment, one to reading. It represents a semester with an amazing teacher, the book I completed, and the craft paper I wrote. It represents many book talks and cups of tea, laughter and sharing of each other's life philosophy. I love this bookshelf.

In closing, I hope you'll take the time to read some of the other bookshelf stories, and take away a sense of kinship with other book enthusiasts and writers. If you have a bookshelf you'd like to share, see our guidelines. Maybe you have a really cool bookshelf or know where to find the longest bookshelf in the world. Send it with a story. In the end, the bookshelf represents knowledge and literacy, two things I never take for granted. It also is a historical record of our civilization.
--Hunter Liguore