We’ve shared our office bookshelves with you before (in fact, we’re working on building more, but many of our sample shelves contain books yet to be published, so those stay fairly discrete), but our personal shelves have yet to be revealed. As avid readers ourselves, we know that our book-storing habits can uncover personality quirks. In this short series, we’ll be sharing our editors’ personal bookshelves, as well as their methods for organization (if there are any). Let us know if you can relate!
Since I’m a small apartment renter, my bookshelf has room for improvement. The glass cabinet I bought from Target on a whim, while attractive in the space, doesn’t measure up to my unstoppable book collection. Each of the three shelves are double stacked, with more books piled on top.
In the past, I attempted alphabetical organization, but I struggle so badly to remember titles and authors that I found it easier to leave them in consecutive order. Favorites from college courses are grouped together, as are book club books, Bas Bleu books, and summer reading. I’ve found I have a locational memory– I know where everything in my apartment is, as long as I put it there myself. Similarly, I know I can find my short story collections from my favorite college course on the bottom shelf.
Literary fiction by women has a special place in my heart. I treasure my Lorrie Moore, Margaret Atwood, Miranda July, Lucia Berlin, Joan Didion, Flannery O’Conner, Anne Carson, and Joyce Carol Oates books, and my Norton Anthologies purchased for English courses have survived rounds of donations (I only donated a few books after moving into my college apartment, then again when I moved to Atlanta. I like rereading too much to donate more). For lighter reading (AKA, books I can read in one sitting without thinking too hard), I’ve built up quite the Carl Hiaasen collection. My love for crime writing has also translated into a large assortment of thriller novels. I’ve read Gone Girl at least four times, and AJ Finn, Tana French, Alex Michaelides, and Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen got me through my last semester of college (assigned reading got too dense, so, paradoxically, I did more personal reading for balance).
As far as “classics” are concerned (I’m 23, so “classics” has a relationally looser definition), I rely on Jeffrey Eugenides, Italo Calvino, Henry Miller, Kate Chopin, Virginia Woolf (I wrote my senior thesis on interpreting her influence over the feminist movement, and justly rewarded myself with a large lighthouse tattoo), John Updike, and Raymond Carver. Most of my taste was formed in college (I was an English major– if that wasn’t obvious–with a concentration in Creative Writing, and I graduated with Honors from UW-Milwaukee in December 2019), but it’s been further honed by the New Yorker Fiction Podcast. In case personal reading wasn’t enough, I enjoy listening to authors reading and discussing short stories while I drive to work. It’s also a useful sedative at night.
My all-time favorite book is Self-Help by Lorrie Moore. She masters the second person in this short story collection, and her dissection of the feminine condition is adroit and artistic without being heavy-handed. Her plots are satisfyingly unique, while the emotional experiences she studies are remarkably relatable.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin, and The Edible Woman are also of notable personal significance. I admire her ability to incorporate dystopian characteristics without completely disconnecting from reality. Her settings are beautifully off-kilter, if only by a few degrees. Miranda July’s The First Bad Man and Joyce Carol Oates’s Dismember are similarly brilliantly uncomfortable.
There’s a lot on my shelves I haven’t read yet, and a lot I’ve read many times. Books are a constant comfort in my personal life (and now my professional life as well!), so my unread stacks aren’t discouraging or guilt-inducing, but potential new worlds to explore and love… eventually.
If you have book suggestions for me, please leave them in the comments below!