In curating your ideal bookshelf, you are constructing an expression of yourself in that specific moment: what’s important to you right now? The contributors to My Ideal Bookshelf have different ideas of import. Some focus on reference, others on beloved texts, others on texts they haven’t read yet but want to or think they need to. As an editor at heart, curation comes naturally to me: my spring cleanings are more ruthless culls. With my birthday on Tuesday, I thought this would be a good time to start a new tradition: to celebrate my nativity each year, I will curate my ideal bookshelf, so that I may count my rings in the future. The rules? Ten books I would actually use as reference material. Commence shakedown.
I’d have taken a photo, but the books on this bookshelf that I do own are at my parents’ house and the ones that I don’t own, well, I don’t own. (I suppose I could have gotten library copies, but that would take effort.) I’ll just talk you through it. Obviously, it would be sorted alphabetically for fiction and by Dewey Decimal for nonfiction. There are other and perhaps better organization systems, but I like clean-cut systems that don’t judge. (There are no genre distinctions in my broader library beyond “fiction” and “nonfiction”.) I imagine, space permitting, that it would take up the uppermost shelf in my bookshelf, or perhaps be displayed on the (hypothetical) window sill above my desk. The point of having these books collected would be to have them ready and at hand at a moment’s notice.
- Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
- Wicked by Gregory Maguire
- The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
- Boldly Writing by Joan Marie Verba
- Bitchfest edited by Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler
- Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier
- Rock and Roll is Here to Stay edited by William McKeen
- Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon
- The Magician’s Book by Laura Miller
- The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
Middlesex for the fully realized Cal Stephanides and his magnificent voice. Wicked for the fully realized Elphaba, only ever glimpsed at biased, side angles. The Lord of the Rings because it’s my baseline. Boldly Writing for my Trekkie foremothers. Bitchfest for the ideas, arguments, concepts, and illuminations that I’m still working through and need to come back to a few times. Woman: An Intimate Geography because the words “remember that time and space are curved and you will come back to me” is burned into me. Rock and Roll is Here to Stay for the multiple voices and stories I want to be able to revisit at a moment’s notice, and because the image of a woman so joyfully overwhelmed that she tells Bill Wyman “Oh my God, you are so stone beautiful I can’t believe it!” even though they’re separated by a stage is one I cherish. Maps and Legends because the sentence “All novels are sequels; influence is bliss” would be my tattoo if I was of the inclination. The Magician’s Book because it’s about our relationships with books and I’m a reader-response theorist at heart. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test because I woke up the day after I finished it with Wolfe’s voice in my head, and I want to taste those waters whenever I need a jolt.
So that’s where I am right now.
Presumably, at this moment, I’m probably still asleep—last night, I went over to a friend’s apartment and celebrated our joint birthdays: hers was yesterday, mine is on Tuesday. (Aren’t scheduled posts an utter trip?) My week has been very busy between work, my school’s literary magazine, and the Agnes Scott Writers’ Festival, which I couldn’t be as involved in as I wanted due to said work and my school’s literary magazine. Alas! It was a wonderful festival nonetheless. I did read Harley Loco, Segregation, and The Art of the Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien this week, so I feel like I’m getting back to my usual reading pace. As my time here at college grows short, I’ve checked out all the texts I can only get at my academic library out. I hope to finish them before I graduate in a month. A month? Saints preserve us all…
This week’s links:
- At Jacobin, Gavin Mueller uses The Onion‘s Sex House, a parody of reality TV, to examine reality TV “stars” as workers.
- At The Feminist Wire, Jia Hui Lee ponders if the legalization of same-sex marriage will dissolve the queer community into married units and thus derail wider and more pressing needs in the queer community.
- A cute primer on the history of nail polish at Refinery29. I’m a massive nail polish freak—I’m currently sporting unintentional Dalek nails.
- “On Funny Women, Feminism, and Being Pretty” at Splitsider talks to female comedians to get the pulse of how they feel. Since We Killed ends on a weird note where the “pretty versus funny” binary gets transformed into a “pretty earns the funny” paradigm, this is a nice cleanser.
- Spin interviews RuPaul. I adore RuPaul.
- Alex Summers’ actions in the current X-Men comic could have been a way to further examine oppression, collusion, and prejudice, but the writer’s responses to responses to it are—well, they’ve been deleted from Twitter. Good thing the Internet is in ink and Racialicious has an amazing write-up.
- “Do Not Consume Psilocybin Mushrooms While Trans*” is about acid trips, love, and microaggression.
- Jo Walton continues her almost series on hashing out why we read at Tor.com with “Fantasy, Reading, and Escapism“, where she talks about why escapism isn’t a bad thing.
- Becky Chambers at The Mary Sue‘s review of Bioshock Infinite discusses how the game examines racism and oppression in America.
- “Lip Shtick” at Texas Monthly is about the Neiman Marcus in Dallas that sells more cosmetics than all the other Neiman Marcuses in America, and examines the culture that produces that particular symptom.
- “Consumer Products” at Lapham’s Quarterly examines celebrity culture as substitute for religion.
- “The Master” by Marc Fisher at The New Yorker is about sex abuse at a private high school in the nineteen-seventies, but it also touches on cults of personality and the ongoing damage (as the victims are now middle-aged), which I rarely see highlighted.
- “Where have all the wildlings gone?” is a graphic design tribute to Game of Thrones; good to help keep track for those who haven’t read the books, and there’s fun wallpapers for everyone. (I’m House Targaryen, obviously.)
What would be your ideal bookshelf at this moment?