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.