Wednesday, July 20, 2011

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

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