Welcome to PROJECT: BOOKSHELF, a continuing series in which Mackenzi Lee tries to read every book on her bookshelf in the course of a summer while friends, writers, and readers drop in to tell us about their respective shelves. This week, we are joined by Rin Chupeco, whose delightfully creepy novel, THE GIRL FROM THE WELL, hits shelves on August 5.
But first, let’s take a look at my reading wrap-up.
This week, from my collection of unread books on my shelf, I read…
Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
- Genre: YA contemporary romance/time travel lite
- Where I got it: Won in a giveaway I don’t remember entering. So one day this book just showed up on my doorstep, and I did not complain.
- What I thought: I knew going into it this book was not the sort of thing I usually enjoy. So while I enjoyed it more than I do more contemporaries, this novel was too heavy on the romance and too light on the time travel for me to really enjoy it.
Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper
- Genre: YA historical fantasy
- Where I got it: ARC from the bookstore
- What I thought: YA historical fantasy–my genre! And while this one was a little slow in places, it was so atmospheric and lush. It helped that I read it while I was in Maine and it’s set in a whaling town off the coast of New England.
And now, meet Rin and her bookshelf!
I would like to make a rather embarrassing confession: I am not a very organized person, even when it comes to my own books. I don’t particular care about arranging volumes in their proper order, as expected of any decent bibliophile; half of the time I don’t even lump books from the same series in the same bookshelf, much less in the same row.
You’d think I’d have more respect for the writers whose books I’ve bought to, at the very least least, stack my collections in their proper orders, instead of the haphazard fashion they almost always find themselves in.
The problem with my bookshelf, I have found, is that 1.) one bookshelf alone is about three rows deep, which means I have to keep reaching in and taking out books to get to the particular novel I want, (which is trying for my patience, which I only have a bit more of than a sense of neatness); and 2.) I never run out of books to buy, which only makes my problems with #1 even worse.
I tried to be neater about the whole thing, I really did. I spent a considerable amount of time agonizing over which books should be donated to the nearest local charities in a bid to decrease the number I have to manage on my shelves. I tried stacking them in piles on my floor first – my prized Nancy Drew hardcovers in this pile, Agatha Christie murder mysteries over here, forensic and criminal profile books in the next, my David Eddings and Robert Jordan books in the one next to it. I even attempted to arrange them according to date of publication whenever I could.
It lasted for about a week. Once I realized I had to take out virtually my whole Death Gate cycle and Dragonlance collection to reach in and grab my Mafia nonfiction books, the whole notion of organizing to make my bookcase look pretty flew out the window.
Now, my system for locating books is that I don’t have any. I have a fairly good idea of which row a particular book I’m looking for is located at despite the mess, so it only takes about five minutes of groping about before I find it. That isn’t to say that on rare occasions I have spent half an hour hunting down a particular novel because it wasn’t where I thought it was, and often accompanying that search is the conviction that maybe I really ought to arrange all these more properly, but that only lasts until five minutes after said book has been located.
Now, it looks like I can’t be bothered to take care of my books, which is not the case at all. All my new books remain in good condition despite appearances. I also have a habit of buying books at discount bins or secondhand (mostly the hard-to-finds, like my treasured Gormenghast series) and I like dog-eared books that are a bit worse for wear as much as I like new books and new-book smells. I like books that look to have been thoroughly devoured by many other eyes and hands before they’ve been passed into mine. I like books that look like other people had enjoyed reading them, and had read them often.
In a very odd way, how I arrange my books is similar to the way I tackle my writing and my writing habits. I have no set rules when I sit down to begin or finish a story; I don’t always have a plot structure, or even a plot in mind when I begin to type, and I tend to wing it as I go along. I pay dearly for it when it comes to fixing up all those plot contradictions that undoubtedly crop up – but in the long run, making no restrictions over how the book should be written has served me well. I like the promise of chaos, of knowing about not knowing how the book will shape out until I’ve written it.
And so my Stephen King and Peter Straub books rarely ever sit side by side. There is at least one Boris Akunin mystery in every shelf I own; I think there are two on the bottom row. Infinite Jest, which I bought from a friend, will probably never share the same immediate space as The Pale King or Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, but I think David Foster Wallace himself might appreciate my (lack of a) filing system, which comes off almost as manic as his own novels.
Because sometimes it’s not about having a system.