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