The Sunday Salon: My Ideal Bookshelf 2013

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.


The Bookshelf

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 monthmonth? 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 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?

11 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: My Ideal Bookshelf 2013

  1. I love your choices, and your reasons for them. Now I’m dying to do a post like this, except most of my books are still in another country – and tracking library copies does take effort 😛 I could always do one without a pretty picture to go along with it, though. Also, *adds Rock and Roll is Here to Stay to wishlist*

    Happy early Birthday 😀

    • Oh, I’d love to see yours! Bookshelf porn is all well and good, but I wanna know which books are really important. 😉

      Rock and Roll is Here to Stay is a delight. It’s uneven, as all anthologies must be, but there’s a lot of good writing from a wide variety of sources.

      Thanks so much!

  2. I love the idea of an “ideal bookshelf”, whichever way you organise it. I have discussed it once with an friend during coffee break, because it’s part of a scene in a Dutch book: to have an actual shelf where you put the books that are most important to you at that moment. I have often comtemplated what that shelf would look like for me – right now, or even a few years back. It is a fascinating idea. Anyway, I know your take on it is somewhat different, with reference material, but it is still completely wonderful to see and it reminded me of my own contemplations about it. (sorry for the disgression). As for the books you selected: I am a little hesitant to admit that I actually haven’t read any of them. I guess that needs to change, doesn’t it?

    • That’s not a digression, that’s a proper comment! It is a fantastic concept—I’m not surprised to see it’s cropped up before My Ideal Bookshelf. I picked reference material because I’m not a huge rereader; these are all books I will pick up and read a few pages of for reference or moral support (in the case of The Lord of the Rings) and then put back on the shelf.

      If you’d like! I do heartily recommend all of them, except for Boldly Writing: unless you are super-interested in early Star Trek fandom and want a blow-by-blow of them over a fifteen year period, I would pass. It’s extraordinarily specific. Everything else is well worth a read, however! (There’s a wonderful audio production of Middlesex, which I link to in this post, which I also heartily recommend.)

  3. I feel that I’ve spent my life assembling my ideal bookshelf, and it’s taken over my house, and choosing a few titles from among the titles I need surrounding me would be overly exclusionary.
    I certainly agree that LOTR is a “baseline” and that sentence from Maps and Legends is very good–I would add that there are other sentences in that collection that are almost as good.
    I’m writing a post about Team Human, which your comment at Jenny’s Books caused me to read.

  4. Pingback: Meanwhile: Other Bloggers’ Links | Iris on Books

  5. I love this idea. My ideal bookshelf, right now, what I need to have with me. Or, as I used to say, if I were moving to another country, what would come in my suitcase with me? that I can’t bear to be apart from?

    YOur choices are interesting! Love that LotR and Wicked are on it! As is Boldly Writing……

  6. Even though I have only read one book on your ideal bookshelf, I love it – I love your pithy reasons why.

    And you’ve introduced me to Bitchfest, which I had never heard of and is now going on my ‘to-buy’ list.

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