Shelf Space


I remember being a teenager and having a boy in my room for the first time. It was exhilarating and nerve-wracking and we had to keep the door open, so what to do? My bedroom was so tiny that even at its neatest and cleanest there was barely room to stand in the middle of it, and it was hardly ever neat and clean. Boy and I sat on my bed and in my nerdy-girl way I pointed out my favorite shelf on my bookcase. The other shelves were taken up with knick-knacks and odds and ends acquired in the brief seventeen years of my life, but my favorite shelf was the one that contained actual books. And not just books, but my favorites. The ones I wanted people to see and know just by looking at them what kind of person I was. (So ya’ know, they were mostly Anne Rice, which sure enough tells you all you need to know about 17 year-old me.)

I currently do not have enough shelves to hold all of my books. If you were to enter my house right now, you would assume that I’m building a fort in front of my couch, due to the four piles stacked in front of it. I recently went through my collection and weeded out some books I will never read again and have made some room for my book castle to be shelved properly. I haven’t gotten to the point of actually doing it, because my inner-librarian is trying to figure out which ones will go where. Because seventeen years later, I still have favorite shelves. The ones I want to draw attention to and the ones I want you to never look at. A carefully placed photograph or a tiny bowl holding seashells draw your eye away from the copy of Summer Sisters shoved as far back as it will go. (I would take a bullet for Judy Blume, but I’d much rather guests look at the shelf with Salinger and Shakespeare and assume I’m intelligent and well-read than assume I’m a normal human with guilty pleasures.)That Dia de los Muertos jewelry box? It’s there to obstruct your view of my crossword puzzle dictionary.

I suppose if I were a normal person I would arrange my books alphabetically by author or do something with genre or even by color. But, no. My books are arranged in such a way that only makes sense to me. Some of them are arranged by theme, like my shelf of mysteries. Some of them are arranged chronologically by when I read them. Some of them are where they are for practical reasons. There’s just no way for the giant Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker to live anywhere other than on a bottom shelf. And my cookbooks (that are read and rarely ever used) are close to kitchen. In writing this, I realized that I subconsciously put Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Joyce together on a shelf above Man Ray because they all knew each other in real life.

The problem that I face with my newly created shelf space is how do I arrange the books that go there? They’re all TBR, so I don’t know them well enough to know where they fit. It’s certainly a problem that my nerdy seventeen year-old self would appreciate

About the author

Elise just can't quit you.