I recently viewed a neat series on YouTube called, “Stacked Up, writers show off their shelves.” http://stackedup.tv/ George, a friend of mine and an editor of the series, told me about the videos. Now I’m regarding these as guilty pleasure viewing. The short videos interview different writers such as Susan Orlean, Kathryn Harrison, Abigail Thomas and Jennifer Gilmore about their books. The interviews often take place in their homes.
The first one I watched featured Amanda Stern. http://stackedup.tv/video/from-the-mixed-up-shelves-of-amanda-stern/ She talks about what books go next to her bed and why, versus books that get placed in the living room or in the hall.
Her comments got me thinking about why I’ve got books like “Loser” by Clark Humphrey, “Screaming Life” by Charles Peterson and “Generation X” by Douglas Coupland nestled next to Jack Kerouac and Tom Robbins in the living room, but enduring favorites like books by Diana Gabaldon and Jane Austen go in the hallway upstairs.
It turns out that many of my oldest books are in the living room. They operate like a record collection on display. I want you to think, Hey, she’s a cool cat. Along with the books mentioned above, my living room collection includes “Ghost World” by Daniel Clowes, and the movie guide to the “Lord of the Rings.” Even though I’m missing a coffee table, these are “public” books that I want you to take out and flip through.
As a definition of myself, these books are a pretty poor representation. Maybe they are on this floor because I can bear for them to be farther from the core of my collection. The bulk of my books are housed near and in the bedrooms. I wonder if books are generally stored near bedrooms because we read at night during much of the year.
For fun, I’ve walked up to the upstairs bookcase. The first two shelves hold Elizabeth Von Arnim’s “The Enchanted April,” lots of Nick Hornbys, Charles Finchs and Stephanie Barrons. Two cheerful novels by Waverly Curtis wink back at me from the top shelf. These are also the shelves I gaze at when I sit down to write.
There is probably some great feng shui interpretation of why we decide to put which books where. For now, I’m going to enjoy watching how others do their bookshelves.