Evil Gal Productions

Mere Smith
is a recovering Southerner,
longtime TV writer,
author and blogger.
July 16th, 2013 by Mere Smith

#innershelf

This blog entry started in highly unusual fashion.

Highly unusual in that, when I woke up on Sunday morning and heard the news about the not-guilty verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, I was so fucking thermonuclear pissed, I immediately wanted to spew righteous (and self-righteous) venom all over the internet.  I mean, fuck those Florida rednecks, man! I grew up down there! I know what kind of shitball bigots that state excretes like smelly pus!

RARWWWRARWWHRRHHRR(incoherence).

And these days, that urge to vent on the net is not so unusual. In fact, it’s pretty much SOP for anything that pisses us off now: you take to your blogs, your Twitters, your huddled Tumblrs, yearning to scream free.

But here’s the problem: the hell good does it all do?

Other than:

A)   make you feel better for a while

B)   probably piss off some assholes, which, admittedly, will also make you feel better for a while

C)   add to the cacophonous maelstrom of fury and distrust that blasts everyone into their separate corners, hurt and wary and more sure than ever that humans in general are hateful, stupid creatures at whom evolution will eventually look and go, “Oops! Let’s start over!”

So, fleeting relief – but a smidge counterproductive in the long run, you might agree.

Then I remembered this quote from Neil Gaiman’s book, Make Good Art (derived from his 2012 keynote address at The University of the Arts):

“Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. 

Make good art.”

It made me wonder: how in the world could I turn this swirling, black hole of rage-suck into good art?

In the beginning I didn’t think it was possible. It felt like my brain was made of liquid vicious, my bones made of knives, my fists of rock. I wanted to hurt and shriek and maim and kill – but violence is what got all this fucking mishegas started and so now I was right back to Square Zero. Try again.

So I tried again.

And at first it was difficult to let go of all that anger, to put it down, to turn to something – to “art,” whatever the hell that was gonna be – to turn to something that wouldn’t satisfy that innate craving I nurtured for revenge. I had to rise above myself – or sidestep myself – or basically just avoid my murderous, blood-thirsty troll-self – and focus on something that would bring people together rather than drive them apart in the maelstrom.

But what would I do?

What could I do?

I was just some useless TV writer sitting in her useless office surrounded by useless books on their useless shelves…

…except even in my hate-spiraling I never really believed the books were useless.

Throughout my life, books have saved me more often than I can remember. They gave me something to do while the bullies laughed and subway creepers creeped; gave me characters who showed me I wasn’t alone in my weirdness (even as a kid I realized I couldn’t be all that weird if an author had written about the exact thoughts I was having); books showed me ideas, new ways of thinking about the world… including a book that told me to take life’s ugliness and alchemically transform it, through art, into its own kind of beauty – even if I was the only person who found the art beautiful.  (Which again, with 7 billion people in the world, is statistically next to impossible. Reassuring.)

So I stared at my shelves and thought: all those books, all those ideas, they’ve all gone into making me who I am today. In fact, I’ll bet everyone’s bookshelves give you a glimpse into who they are, into what they’ve learned, into how they see the world. Instead of allowing ourselves to be driven apart by anger and fear, I wish we could all come into each other’s houses and just look at each other’s bookshelves—

–and there it was.

Turns out if you stop being so fucking angry for a minute, you might actually be able to make good art.

So I took to Twitter and asked my readers to tweet pictures of one of their bookshelves – any bookshelf would do, but we’d call it their #innershelf — and, if they felt like it, to tell me a little something about their books and what they meant to and/or about them. (Some readers, who shall remain nameless but is totally @QuoterGal, wanted to show me EVERYTHING on their INFINITE shelves – which I took enormous pleasure in browsing privately – but for the sake of blog-length, I had to narrow it down to one photo each.)

So instead of falling prey once again to our sense of ferocious outrage – a ferocity I believe the media (mainstream and otherwise) encourages in us like the owner of a pit-bull at a dog-fight – let’s do something simple together: let’s just look at each other’s books.

Let’s say to each other, “Oh I’ve read that!”

Or, “I always wondered how that was – what did you think?”

Or even (if we must), “That book there? I was not too fond of that — why were you?” and then listen to the other person’s reasoning.

In other words, instead of closing ourselves off from each other, let us open each other up like books… and read.

 

@cabri

@cabri

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A few titles: Soon I Will Be Invincible (fuck yeah you will!) by Austin Grossman; The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer; Radio On by Sarah Vowell

Other cool stuff: matches, Tic Tacs (?), a coin, a stick, a rock

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cosmicbob55

@cosmicbob55

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A few titles: Just about everything J.R.R. Tolkien has ever written, apparently, in several editions.

Other cool stuff: I like how he stacks his books horizontally on top of his other books. Because there’s always room for more books!

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countmystars

@countmystars

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A few titles: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater; Story by Robert McKee; A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama by Laura Amy Schlitz

Other cool stuff: It’s a Kindle bookshelf, y’all!  A CYBER #INNERSHELF! (Insert Singularity joke here.)

.

dondrennon

@dondrennon

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A few titles: Building Better Grammar by Gina Hogan; Berlin Diary by William L. Shirer; Electronic Principles by Albert P. Malvino

Other cool stuff: Love the juxtaposition between Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and An Hour Before Daylight, the memoirs of former President Jimmy “I’ve committed adultery in my heart” Carter.

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Yep, that Finance

Yep, that Finance

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A few titles: Do You Remember? The Book That Takes You Back by Michael Gitter and Sylvie Anapol; Artistotle by G.R.G. Mure; The Pocket Book of Quotations by Henry Davidoff 

Other cool stuff: Yes, the Finance likes to read things until they literally (in both senses of the word) fall apart. It’s part of why I love him.

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@girl_onthego

@girl_onthego

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A few titles: Um, it’s a shelf of a kind. So I see some memos, and little clippy things, and possibly a greeting card.

Other cool stuff: PLASTIC DINOSAURS ON PARADE. OBVIOUSLY.

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@haunt1013

@haunt1013

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A few titles: Led Zeppelin and Philosophy: All Will Be Revealed, Ed. by Scott Calef; The Dharma of Star Wars by Matthew Bortolin; Navigating the Golden Compass: Religion, Science, And Daemonology In His Dark Materials by Glen Yeffeth

Other cool stuff: Note that Batman and Philosophy (Ed. by Mark D. White and Robert Arp) sits on the shelf right above Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno

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@imaginepeace

@imaginepeace

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A few titles: All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots Of Middle East Terror by Steven Kinzer; A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran by Trita Parsi; The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Iran’s Future, Ed. by Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel

Other cool stuff: I have to confess, I imagine this is what my #innershelf would look like if I were about 100 IQ points smarter.

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@irrationalitv

@IrrationaliTV

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A few titles: Angel: The Casefiles by Jeff Mariotte, Nancy Holder, and Maryelizabeth Hart (kinda partial to this one for some reason; can’t figure out why)(!);  The Return of Merlin by Deepak Chopra; Native American Religions by (I’m guessing here) Sam Gill

Other cool stuff: Bonus doorknob and cat tail!

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@kukkurovaca

@kukkurovaca

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A few titles: The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead; Sewer, Gas, and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy by Matt Ruff; The Jennifer Morgue (A Laundry Files Novel) by Charles Stross

Other cool stuff: This is definitely the only group of books that came with a face attached.

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@Lionnesss

@Lionnesss

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A few titles: Marlowe Admired by Marilyn Garabet… and that’s about the only one I could make out.  Wanna fill in some titles in the Comments, @samatwitch?

Other cool stuff: There is nothing more satisfying than a well-stuffed bookshelf. Which sounds really dirty.

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@MerryLandOfAus

@MerryLandOfAus

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A few titles: Backwards by Rob Grant; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith; Back to the Batcave by Adam West

Other cool stuff: This is a very neat bookshelf. I, too, own neat bookshelves. For about a week a piece.

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@mightybattlecat

@mightybattlecat

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Actually only one title that I could make out: Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (looks like maybe Sixteenth Edition? In which case it was edited by Adrian Room, John Buchanan-Brown and Terry Pratchett).  More titles always welcome in our Comments section, @mightybattlecat!

Other cool stuff: A little white bowl of… what’s in there? I can decipher the world “VooDoo” on a book on the same shelf… should I be worried?

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@MisterGreggles

@MisterGreggles

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A few titles: You’re Not Doing It Right by Michael Ian Black; Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet by Sherry Turkle; V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

Other cool stuff: Over on the far right, I couldn’t pass up mentioning Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, Told By Its Stars, Writers and Guests by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller, which is a great read… if you like having all your illusions crushed. And hoo boy, do they really not like Chevy Chase.

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Monique

Monique

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A few titles: The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory; The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu (I couldn’t see the translator); My Enemy’s Cradle by Sara Young

Other cool stuff: Can I get a “VAGINA HOLLA!” for an almost exclusively female-penned #innershelf?

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@MoxieSix

@MoxieSix

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A few titles: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman; Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander; Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire

Other cool stuff: Autographed William Gibson to top it all off!

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@NYPintA

@NYPintA

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A few titles: Spunk and Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style by Arthur Plotnik; The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins; The Starflight Handbook: A Pioneer’s Guide to Interstellar Travel by Eugene F. Mallove and Gregory L. Matloff

Other cool stuff: The best thing about bookshelves is when you have so many books, the shelves start to sag in the middle.  Well done, @NYPintA!

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@philogden

@jphilogden

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A few titles: The Great Movies by Roger Ebert; No Place For Truth: Or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology by David Wells; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Other cool stuff: I’m seriously starting to get a bookshelf Napoleon Complex, y’all.

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@jphilogden added: “On one level the idea of letting the image say a thousand words is enchanting to me.  Yet, like Matthew Weiner, I can’t help but give some context to what you’re seeing.  It is my heart’s desire to change the conversation between Christians and Non-Christians/Atheists through the art form of television.  For as long as I can remember the conversation (from both sides) seems to always devolve into, “I believe this therefore you are wrong and I don’t respect you”.  What I feel is always missing is how similar and, on some level, bonded we are because we’re human.  So I’m always looking for books that help me understand things from both sides and learn how to listen with confidence.  
 
Thanks for the opportunity to share.
(Side note: It’s complete coincidence the ESV bible and The Wire books are together but both have influenced me in powerful ways)”

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@QuoterGal

@QuoterGal

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A few titles: Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell; Catch-22 by Joseph Heller; Running With Scissors: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs

Other cool stuff: I’m pretty sure the Angel action figure is taking an axe to Bart Simpson and a nun. Which is definitely the coolest sentence I’ll write today.

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@QuoterGal added: “Even as a kid, if I saw a movie based on a book, I wanted the book immediately. I first bought ‘The Bad Seed’ when I was eleven. This shelf represents a lifetime of movie vs. book obsession.”

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@saalon

@saalon

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A few titles: Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay; Foundation by Isaac Asimov; A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Other cool stuff: I’m seeing lots of Catch-22 and 1984 on y’all’s shelves… and I’m like, “Yeah, dystopian absurdism — or absurdist dystopianism — sounds about right for my readers. Or maybe they just like books with numbers in the titles.”

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@Saismaat

@Saismaat

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A few titles: The Common Law by Oliver Wendell Holmes; DSM-IV-TR – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition); Race, Rights and Reparation: Law and the Japanese Internment by Erick K. Yamamoto, Margaret Chon, Carol L. Izumi and Frank H. Wu

Other cool stuff: Remind me never, NEVER to break the law when I’m with @Saismaat. Or, wait — maybe I should wait until @Saismaat is with me BEFORE I break the law. I can’t decide.

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@samatwitch

@samatwitch

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A few titles: Illuminata (can’t tell which version) by Marianne Williamson; Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential by Caroline Myss; Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi (I think — it may be Backlash by Lydia LaPlante)

Other cool stuff: Shiny green things on top! And stuff on all the shelves! Also, Creepy Baby, aka Phronsie (so I’ve been told), is chilling out in the lower right corner, just waiting to strangle someone in their sleep while laughing.

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sawilcox28

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A few titles: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling; Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gould; to say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Wills

Other cool stuff: When I read it several years ago, Haven Kimmel’s A Girl Named Zippy made me laugh out loud about 26,000 times. Okay, maybe a little less than 26,000 — but more than 14, for sure.

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@track7grrl

@track7grrl

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A few titles: Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip by Nevin Martell; This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women by Jay Allison, Dan Gediman and Studs Terkel; Lost Encyclopedia by Tara Bennett (@TaraBennett, and a kickass friend of mine) and Paul Terry

Other cool stuff: What looks like a simple ball of twine in the corner… or IS IT?

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@track7grrl added: “I might have cheated on the assignment. My bookstack is from my ‘belief’ room. I designed that stack specifically so visitors could see who I was from the books/topics I believed in most. So in some ways, it’s an aspirational, communicative stack more than a random shelf.”

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@xoac

@xoac

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A few titles: Broken Magic by Eric Sipple (@saalon; sort of a kickass friend of mine, except for the “kickass” and “friend” part); World War Z by Max Brooks; Lunatic Heroes: Memories, Lies and Reflections by C. Anthony Martignetti

Other cool stuff: THIS PICTURE IS FROM A FUCKING FANTASTIC INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE IN PITTSBURGH CALLED ELJAY’S BOOKS.  VISIT THEM!

 

Comments

21 Responses to “#innershelf”
  1. Lioness says

    Well, there are the 4 A A Milne books at the far left in my pic, with Winnie il Pu next to them (Winnie the Pooh translated into Latin) a sizable collection of Sandra Boynton in the middle (all skinny paperbacks), Wessex poems by Thomas Hardy and Egyptian Secrets by Albertus Magnus. (a book of spells!) to name a few.
    Now, have you set up how we will borrow from each other? I see a few I’d like to peruse….

    • Mere Smith says

      Tell me about it. There are a lot shelves/stacks here I’d like to just arm-sweep into a giant bag and take home.

  2. Other titles… Let’s see, I can’t remember the Voodoo author right now, but that’s definitely the Norton Anthology of English Literature Vol I and II on there, Campbell’s Hero of 1000 Faces and The Power of Myth, Jung’s Collective Unconscious, Goethe’s Faust (1 and 2), copious Stephen King, my Tolkien collection including Lord of the Rings, Hobbit, the Reader, and the Silm, Katherine Briggs’ Encyclopedia of Faeries, Uncle Remus Tales… I see my Mirrormask production book, Brian Froud’s Good Faeries/Bad Faeries, and A Teacher’s Guide to Jewish Holidays.

    The bowl has sand and an incense stick for morning meditations/prayers which I don’t do often enough. Also not very visible are the Argonath bookends. Around the Tolkien collection, natch.

    • Mere Smith says

      You know, I’ve noticed that a rather large majority of my readers have at least one Joseph Campbell book. I find that fascinating.

      And I’ll bet you and @cosmicbob55 would get along splendidly. Maybe he could borrow your Argonath bookends…

  3. nypinta says

    Also, the bookshelves I bought were cheap. So the sagging was pretty much a given. 😉

    • Mere Smith says

      It doesn’t even matter what kind of bookshelves I buy — they always end up sagging in the middle. Guess none of us escape the hell of middle-age…

  4. I love that The Finance (or maybe just you) frequents library sales. I have tons of books with an SF label taped at the bottom. 😉

    Also, I started reading Heyer long before I ever heard of Austen (except as a ref in the Heyer back cover blurbs ;). In the ’60s and ’70s you could still buy Bantam romances for under a dollar. I’d hit the 5&dime every weekend to see if any new books by Heyer or Cadell had magically turned up. To this day, I would still far rather read a Heyer than an Austen because I will always and forever be a philistine. #NoRegrets

    • Mere Smith says

      I’ve never read Heyer before — but after your recs, I can hardly see how that will stand!

      P.S. Philistines are underrated.

    • I love Georgette Heyer and have all her books, most of which I reread on every few years. Although some of the heroines are ‘typical’ Regency heroines, some of them are strong women.

  5. I’ve got no snark. Shocking, I know, but this is all sincerity: I was moved by this response. Like, emotionally moved to an actual positive emotional response.

    Thank you.

    • Mere Smith says

      And I am, like, thisclose to writing a sincere “Thank you” back…

      But fuck it. Twatwaffle.

      UPDATE: Ahhhh, CRAP. Thank you.

  6. Mere, this is the Happiest-Making Blog Post in the History of Ever. There is NOTHING (seriously), *NOTHING* I enjoy more than looking at other people’s bookshelves. I could scour waaay more and still not be bored.

    I think you done a Good Thing Here – transmuting Rage and Sadness to Art *and* Community, and helping us all do so, and I’m grateful. I’m so glad that our Asylum liberry has such variety. (I think I now prefer it to the Rubber Room.) Makes being bunged up in here almost worth it.

    Yeah, I *knew* there was only a’posed to be one shelf, but Some Nameless Others sent you multiples, creating Book Anarchy, and then I got competitive. I haz no shame in Matters of Books.

    I’ll copycat the others and list my books l-to-r because still shameless: Running With Scissors, Mildred Pierce, Sophie’s Choice, Spartacus, Marjorie Morningstar, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (asylum lit), Catch-22, My Man Godfrey, Mrs. Miniver, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Nun’s Story, Escape, The Bad Seed, Gone With the Wind, Grand Hotel, Sybil, The Seventh Cross, Kitty, About Mrs. Leslie, Kitty Foyle, Gentlemen’s Agreement, The Snake Pit (asylum lit), The Mudlark, and The Disenchanted (which technically doesn’t belong here, but it’s *about* a screenwriter, and it was made into a play, so close.)

    Hundreds more of my books were made into movies, but for some reason only these books on this shelf are organized thusly. #GoKnow

    I know this comment is way too frakking long, but I couldnae help mysel’. Again with the love for this post. It was as interesting to see what struck you about each as it was to investigate each shelf.

    • Mere Smith says

      I just knew I had to do something with all that anger (besides rip off a Beatles song in the previous post — and that was more the sad reaction, which then transformed into the rage-suck reaction) — so while sitting there stewing and trying to figure out how NOT to stew, I remembered Gaiman’s quote and the answer came to me. I almost feel like it was as much his answer as it was mine.

      And aside from “The Snake Pit,” which I’m now going to find and devour, I love that I’ve already read all your Asylum Lit (“I Never Promised You A Rose Garden” and “Sybil”). Not that either of us will find this surprising.

  7. nypinta says

    Now that I’ve gone back and read all of the commentary below each picture and not just mine (because yes I am that self involved…) I must ask, should I be concerned that the person I have the most books in common with is saalon?! I’m not surprised at all that Haunt’s books are a collection of pop culture philosophy books, but I was about to pitch a fit that his get a neat bookshelf while Track7grrl’s was relegated to a floor tower until I saw she did it on purpose. I’ll stand down. (But I’ve got to get a copy of the Dictionary of Imaginary Places!!) I’ve been in Lioness’s house a few times (she can’t get rid of me) and can testify to the fact that her well stuffed shelf is in the company of many many well stuffed shelves. I like The Finance’s bookshelf very much. Is his DNA available for cloning?

    • Mere Smith says

      Honey, who isn’t that self-involved? Like I ever bought a yearbook to look at the other people?

      Also, The Finance’s DNA is available for cloning, just don’t tell him about it. My methodology would be… unorthodox.

  8. Kim In Fargo ND says

    Fascinating post. So interesting to see what books fellow followers treasure. But one Big Question: am I the only one who alphabetizes? And if you don’t alphabetize how do you find anything?

    • Mere Smith says

      Kim, if you only knew how hard I laughed when I read this comment last night.

      It was the complete bafflement that sent me into gales.

      I don’t alphabetize, either — I’m more of a grouper. (Not the fish. Though having both eyes on one side of your head… hey! Would make you a Picasso!) For instance, most of my Stephen King and J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman and Stieg Larsson, etc., etc., are all grouped by author — but the majority of the time, I rely on my visual memory for book spines (colors, fonts, pictures), like @QuoterGal and @Lionnesss.

    • I don’t alphabetise but group. For instance, my poetry books are together; historical; reference books – subsets to Westcoast books, writing, grammar; non-fiction; children’s books, etc. I have a couple of shelves of Whedon-related books, one bookshelf which is mostly scifi/fantasy, the top shelf of which has three rows of paperbacks plus some stacked on top. I also have several shelves of romances, which are grouped by author.

      I also can usually picture where my books are, which is handy as I have numerous shelves with double or triple rows!

  9. Kim, I don’t alphabetize, but each bookcase of mine usually contains one subject, like History, or BritLit , and within the case they are organized chronologically. There are exceptions: children’s books are organized by author, but there I usually have so many of each author that the groupings are obvious – same for the Mystery, Sci-Fi, Humor bookcases. Poetry is chronological, Crafts is grouped by subject, the big antique bookcase has the prettiest books and largest sets. Herbs/cooking/perfume is by subjects, my spouse’s Persian & Armenian books are all together.

    Plus: I’ve had them organized as they are now so long, at this point I usually just *know*.

    There. Waaaay more detail than you wanted to know.

  10. Lioness says

    I don’t alphabetize but I do have a good visual memory, so I know where books are, generally. And I arrange roughly by subject & author. With other shelves being “Books That Have Been Signed By Their Author” . But doing it alphabetically wouldn’t work for me as so many shelves are two deep.

  11. Kim In Fargo ND says

    True story – my brother-in-law (a book lover but not an organizer) came home from a lengthy business trip and was appalled to find that his new wife had gathered up his extensive collection of books from all around the house and shelved them according to Library of Congress system. With his very own index card catalog. She’s a librarian. He should have known. I’m just saying.

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