Tag Archives: project: bookshelf

Project: Bookshelf with Annie Cardi

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 Annie Cardi whose debut novel, The Chance You Won’t Return, is absolutely stellar and I’m honestly a bit confused as to why you’re still reading this instead of running immediately to your local independent bookstore to get yourself a copy. She has some bookshelf confessions to share with us this week….

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…

Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly

  • Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
  • Where I Got It: Advanced copy from the bookstore. Also MarcyKate is both a fellow Bostonian and debut 2015 author, so I was super excited to get this one!
  • What I thought: This book is pitched as Frankenstein meets the Brothers Grimm, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a beautiful love letter to classic fairytales and modern fantasy, and I think it would be a great book for kids transitioning out of middle grade and into YA.

Mistwalker by Saundra Mitchell

  • Genre: YA magical realism
  • Where I got it: Courtesy copy from work
  • What I thought: This book is so creative, and so atmospheric, and so Maine. All of those are things that I love…but I didn’t love this book. I think it just lacked some tension, and needed just a little more going on to really keep me engaged.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

  • Genre: YA dystopian
  • Where I got it: So technically this is Marx’s book. But it’s on the bookshelf in the living room that we share. So it comes from my bookshelf. So it counts.
  • What I thought: The ending didn’t quite live up to all the build up, but over all it was a fast, enjoyable read and I’m super excited for the movie. I think the visuals will translate really well to film.

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

  • Genre: YA contemporary realism
  • Where I got it: Another advanced copy of a fellow 2015 debut-ers book
  • What I thought: I knocked this one out in a single sitting. Without even meaning to. It just sort of happened. It’s a very heartfelt and sincere look at depression and suicide, and the use of physics to look at those subjects is brilliant. I also love the family dynamics at the core of this book, and the question of if children are destined to become their parents. Guys, there are so many great debut novels coming out next year! Get excited.

And now, meet Annie and her bookshelf!

I get nervous in a house without a lot of books. If I go to someone’s house, one of the first things I do is check out their bookshelf—not even purposefully, but because it’s the most interesting thing in the room. (Okay, if they have a dog or cat, I crouch down to pet said fuzzyface while checking out the bookshelves.)

Bookshelves can also tell you a lot about someone—what they generally like to read, what they enjoy enough to buy, what they love enough o have multiple copies of, how organized they are, etc. etc. Since I can’t invite all of you over to scan my shelves, here are a few of my bookshelf confessions:

photo 1Confession #1: Organization is for libraries and bookstores…

When I want to borrow or buy a book, I appreciate shelves organized by category and author’s last name. At home, things are a lot more haphazard. I try to keep things arranged by general category (YA, fiction, nonfiction, etc.) but within those categories authors get mixed up and books in a series get separated and sometimes books are shuffled into different categories if there’s not enough room on a shelf.

Confession #2: …Except when it comes to color.

One bookshelf is organized by color, ROYGBIV-style, with black and white at the end. I’m actually way more likely to find a book on this bookshelf, because mostly I remember a physical book by how it looks.

Confession #3: I judge books by their covers.

The bookshelf in our living room, the one that gets seen most by guests? Yeah, books are specifically selected for that shelf based on how pretty their covers/spines are. (Books that are especially cool or emotionally important also get priority.)

Confession #4: You can find me in the YA section.

I write YA, so it makes sense that I would have a solid collection of YA novels. It’s one of the categories I buy the most, and I have several shelves devoted entirely to YA.

photo 2Confession #5: Rereading is my excuse for buying more books.

I’ve always been a rereader. When I was younger, I’d reread books all the time—even just paging through sections that I enjoyed. I reread less now, but when I want to read a book and have to choose between buying it or getting it from the library, I ask myself, “Will I want to reread this?” If I do, it goes on the purchase list. If not, I get it from the library first, and then if I love it, I can buy it and add it to the collection.

Confession #6: My books stay on my shelves.

There are generous people in the world who, when you say “Oh, I want to read that,” will take that book off their shelves and give it to you and tell you that you can give it back whenever. I am not one of those people. I lost two copies of The Princess Bride in high school by lending them out, and I still haven’t gotten over the loss. (I’m petty, yes, but they were my books and they don’t make that cover anymore!) If I let you borrow a book, it means I deeply trust you as a human being. You might be named a godparent at some point.

Books are more than just the words on the pages. They contain all the excitement and emotions of your reading experience, all the memories that surrounded your reading experience. They’re a little part of who you are, right there for you to see.

*Some books also from husband’s collection; love means never having to ask to read a book.

Annie CardiAnnie Cardi holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and a BA from the University of Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in The Georgetown Review, Vestal Review, Juked, and other publications. In 2011, PEN New England selected her as a winner of the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award for the manuscript that would become her debut young adult novel, The Chance You Won’t Return. Annie lives near Boston with her husband and a portrait of a sea captain. You can find her sharing funny gifs and pictures of corgis at: Blog Facebook Twitter Tumblr.

Thanks for tuning in! Join us next Friday for our final edition of Project: Bookshelf.  Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive.

 

 

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Project: Bookshelf with Kylie Brien

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 Kylie Brien, a bookseller, writer, and fangirl with a serious addiction to buying books. 

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…

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

  • Genre: YA Gothic/pseudo-historical fantasy
  • Where I got it: Advanced reading copy sent to the bookstore
  • What I thought: You might not know this, but I have been praying for a Gothic, steampunk reimagining of The Phantom of the Opera with a little bit of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle thrown in. And that is exactly what Sarah Fine delivers. I loved this book. Very creepy, very visceral, very smart retelling.

Bloody Jack by LA Meyer

  • Genre: YA historical fiction
  • Where I got it: Free books from work!
  • What I Thought: Not sure how I haven’t read this book before, because it is everything I love. Voicey historical fiction with a smart ass protagonist who does the right thing in spite of thinking herself cowardly. Also cross dressing. And sass. Did I mention the sass?

And now, meet Kylie and her bookshelves! 

Working at a bookstore became the catalyst for a book-buying problem—well, some (i.e. my coworkers, family, and friends) would say problem. I say “I just really like books” and everyone else says “but Kylie, you have like fifty that you haven’t read.” Except for my dad who gently reminds me, “Kylie, you have to pay rent.” The most important thing here is that I don’t consider the entire bookshelf of unread books a problem. I think of it as an investment.

Bookshelf1

Everything on this bookshelf is unread.

I’m building towards having my own library one day when I’m a homeowner. I’m talking like a Beauty and the Beast style library that I will present as a grand gesture of love and friendship…to myself.

Beauty and the Beast

While I’m slowly plowing through my investments, I have a shelf full of read books that hold some of my favorites.

Bookshelf2

This is my shelf of read books and textbooks.

I’ve compiled a list of books I’ve loved that have made it from the unread shelf to the read shelf in the past year:

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: This book is gorgeous. I want to live inside of this book. I have a grand plan to run away from home and join the Night Circus. I think I would make a good mime. I’d even help clean up after the lions or something.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami: This is the first Murakami book I’ve ever read and from it, I learned that I love his writing. I want to read anything and everything he has ever written. I just don’t want to run. Like ever.

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak: This book is full of smart and funny stories. Reading this collection has solidified my giant crush on B.J. Novak. (No, but really, B.J. if you’re reading this: wanna take me on a date sometime?)

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: Someone out there gets me and every other girl who spent the better part of her teenage years writing fanfiction at a time when fanfiction was still fanfiction and not—well, I’m sure you’ve all seen the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer by now.

Matilda by Roald Dahl: This book and every adaptation of it hold a special place in my heart. To this day whenever I eat cereal, I put on Send Me On My Way and try to use my mental powers to help me eat it. (It only works sometimes.) I just really relate to the voracious reader in Matilda but also, I want magic powers.

I highly recommend all of these books. Read them. Go. Go out and buy them right now—or if you don’t have an addiction to investing in books like I do, borrow them from your library. This option is probably better if you have to pay rent.

Kylie PhotoKylie M. Brien is a writer, reader, and bookseller who lives in Boston and has great aspirations to travel to Wonderland, Oz, and Hogwarts but settle down in Neverland (most likely she’ll be a pirate). You can follow her blog. And occasionally she tweets. 

Thanks for tuning in! Join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf.  Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive.

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Project: Bookshelf with Anna-Marie McLemore

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 Anna-Marie McLemore, whose magical debut novel, THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, comes out next year (and guys, you’re going to want to put this one on your “buy the moment it comes out” list. Or maybe your “will sell my soul for an ARC” list. It’s infuriatingly beautiful.) 

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…

The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde

  • Genre: YA urban fantasy
  • Where I got it: Let’s just say through creative connections.
  • What I thought: My love affair with the Kazam Chronicles has been no secret, and this one, the third, might actually be my favorite out of the bunch. My only complaint was that there was not nearly enough quarkbeast.

The Broken Lands by Kate Milford

  • Genre: YA historical fantasy
  • Where I got it: Free bookshelf at work. Man I love that free bookshelf
  • What I thought: I liked this one a lot. It’s very vivid, and the history and magic are both very alive and well drawn. But I just never felt it. None of the emotional connection I really wanted. I will, however, be picking up its sequel, The Boneshaker. 

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

  • Genre: Middle grade historical fiction
  • Where I got it: So I bought myself a copy of this with the intention of having Lois sign it at the Susan Bloom Awards. But me, being a forgetful moron who was totally caught up in everything else going on, totally forgot to have her sign it. F.
  • What I thought: I had read this book before, many years when I was in elementary school, and it was one of the first books I remember really loving. Reading it as an adult, I’m even more impressed with how tight and powerful this book is. What a great story about empathy, love, and courage. Bravo, bravo Miss Lois!

And now, meet Anna-Marie and her bookshelf! 

lepetitprinceWhen Mackenzi asked me to join in on Project: Bookshelf, maybe I should have mentioned that I don’t have one.

I have a dresser that I keep a few books in. A freestanding counter in my kitchen that I store some books under. But I don’t actually have a bookshelf.

Two years ago, I was working part-time, the Boy had just gotten out of school and was looking for a job, and our apartment search was getting a little desperate. For many of the places we saw, we did not meet the income requirements. For a few, we were told in thinly veiled terms that we could apply, but they would never rent to us. I don’t think there’s anybody else like you around here. Or, You’d probably be happier somewhere else. Or, what do you mean, you’re married?

We knew what they meant. The Boy is transgender, and did not pass as a biological male.

AMbookshelfThen we found a tiny but adorable studio apartment, and with it, a property manager who didn’t seem to the mind the look of us the way so many others had. A week later, we were moved in, and it was just as well that we had no bookshelf since we didn’t have the wall space for it.

So I only unpacked a few of my books, slipped some into a free space in the cube storage unit we used as a dresser, found a place for a few in the kitchen, and tried to settle into the feeling of not knowing where our lives were going next.

A few months later, the Boy, thankfully, got a job. We might have been able to move somewhere a little bigger, somewhere with enough space that the Boy and I did not have something just short of a romantic interlude every time we wanted to get by each other at the dresser or the kitchen sink. But we’d gotten attached to our tiny but adorable apartment, our neighborhood, the sound of the chickens that lived down the block.

lovespeaksitsnameHalf my books are still in boxes. I rotate them in and out by mood, by season. Every March, I pack up my old set of The Chronicles of Narnia, like folding away a favorite winter coat. My Allende and my Saint-Exupéry come out right around the time the first crocuses are breaking up through the cold ground.

At first I saw it as an annoyance to dig through boxes every time I wanted to reread Sophie’s World or pull out the book of poetry I’d bought in Bloomsbury. But then I grew to like it, this minimalism of only having on hand the books I needed and wanted. It made it easier to take in all the power and beauty of all those words, just a few at a time.

One day, the Boy and I will have a bookshelf, a whole one. We’ll display all our books at once. But for now we’ll enjoy our little apartment, and the rhythm of putting books away and taking them out, rediscovering their pages like meeting up with old friends.

AMbookshelfbiophotoAnna-Marie McLemore writes from her Mexican-American heritage and the love for stories she learned from her family. She lives in California’s Central Valley with a boy from the other side of the Rockies. Her debut novel THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a YA contemporary love story with a magical twist, will be released in 2015 from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. You can find her on Facebook or Twitter @laannamarie.

Thanks for tuning in! Join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf.  Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive.

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Project: Bookshelf with Susan Dennard

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 I am SO EXCITED to have one of my favorite authors, Susan Dennard, here to talk about the ongoing conundrum of what to do with books when you move. Susan writes amazing steampunk zombie novels, the newest of which, Strange and Ever Aftercomes out July 22 from HarperTeen! 

Also, there might just be a giveaway attached to the end of this post, because Susan’s books are so great I want to share them with everyone. 

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…

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

  • Genre: Gothic Classic
  • Where I got it: So maybe this one technically isn’t a Project: Bookshelf book, because a friend lent me her copy…but it was still on my bookshelf, and I hadn’t read it. So….counts?
  • What I thought: I’m really into Romantic/Gothic monster books right now, so this was perfect for my mood. Dark, creepy, atmospheric, and so much better than the play!

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

  • Genre: YA fantasy
  • Where I got it: Free books shelf at work
  • What I thought: I unintentionally read this series out of order. Whoops. But even backwards, they are outstanding. If you’re looking for smart British humor with a fantasy twist, this is that book.

Historical Heartthrobs by Kelly Murphy

  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Where I got it: Gifted
  • What I thought: This book is awesome. Very tongue-in-cheek biographies of historical figures that are tight and interesting. Also I appreciated that they didn’t just feature the good guys (because let’s face it, John Wilkes Booth was crazy, but also a stud) and highlighted some lesser known historical hotties (hey there, Ada Lovelace).

Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden

  • Genre: YA contemporary
  • Where I got it: The Great Simmons Book Grab of 2014
  • What I thought: So I was prepared to not like this book. Way outside my comfort zone subject-wise, abrasive narrator, voice that hits you in the face and it hurts. But then about seven pages in, there was a Lion in Winter reference. Lion in Winter is one of my great loves, and I will follow any book that references it to the end of the earth. So I stuck it out. And while this was not totally my cup of tea, I liked it.

And now, meet Susan and her bookshelf! 

So, I wish I had some super cool bookshelf to share with you all. Or even better, I wish I had a library worthy of Belle and the Beast, but the truth is, I’m super disorganized and super lazy. How does that equate to my bookshelf? Well, I’ll explain.

In the last 2 years, I’ve moved 4 times. Books make up (no joke) the bulk of my moving boxes. For the first 3 moves, I actually went to all the trouble of unpacking all those books, arranging them nicely (by genre!)…only to then have to frantically re-pack said books and move to another new house*. (See the carefully arranged books in our tiny condo? Even my dog, Asimov, was impressed.)

Reading nook

My husband and I finally bought a house one year ago, and in that time, we’ve renovated the crap out of it. SO much work and SO many weekend trips to Home Depot. One of the many, bright-eyed ideas we originally had was to do an Ikea hack of Billys (built-in shelves are, obviously, every reader’s DREAM). We bought the Billys, we set them up…

And then a year passed. No “building them in” ever actually happened (and in our defense, there were much higher house priorities–like building a freaking kitchen). My books stayed packed in our basement, and my shelves became the perfect cubbies for receipts, dust, and cats who insist on climbing things they can’t get down from.

Well, about a month ago, I decided I really wanted at least a few of my books out for perusing. So after 3 back-and-forth basement trips, I had 3 (out of 7) boxes in my office. I unloaded the books…and then ran out of space before I was even through box 1.

Crap. Okay, I thought, back in the condo I had books vertically. So I, yet again, turned all the books vertically. This got me through 2.5  boxes. The other half-box got returned to the basement (where it is now a favorite place for cats who insist on shredding boxes).

As for the books actually on the shelf…well, look for yourself. There is no rhyme or reason–I’ve just got stuff squeezed wherever I can fit it. The only slightly organized spot is the middle shelf with my special Star Wars, Nancy Drew, and Hardy Boys collection (half of which are–you guessed it!–still in a box).

Bookshelf3

So that, my friends, is why my bookshelves look like a disaster and why most of my books remain in the basement. Funnily enough, we’re now considering moving again, so hey! Maybe I just saved myself a few hours by never unloading those boxes. And double hey! Maybe in our next house, I can finally get those Billy built-ins. ;)

*This makes me sound like I’m being evicted or doing something nefarious that forces me to flee. Nope, sorry. Alas, I just keep picking homes that the owners decide sell, so then I’m forced to move out. Again.

SusanDennardSusan is a reader, writer, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She used to be a marine biologist, but now she writes novels–and not novels about fish, but novels about kick-butt heroines and swoon-worthy rogues. You can learn more about her crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on her blogtwitter, facebook, or newlsetter. Her Something Strange and Deadly series is now available from HarperTeen, and look for her new Truthwitch series from Tor in 2015.

And now, to celebrate the release of the release of Susan’s third book, Strange and Ever After, I’m giving away a copy of the first book, Something Strange and Deadly, as well as an ARC of Heir of Fire, the new book in the Throne of Glass series by Susan’s critique partner and bestie, Sarah Maas.

strange 2heir
Want these beauties to be yours? Just click the link below and fill out the Rafflecopter!

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Giveaway ends 7/25.

Thanks for tuning in! Join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf.  Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive.

 

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Project: Bookshelf with Rebecca Podos

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 I am hosting none other than my fabulous agent, Rebecca Podos, who is not only an agent to the stars but an author with her debut novel, The Mystery of Hollow Places, coming out in 2016. What’s so awesome about her library? Let’s just say it’s a little Gorey…

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…

Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu

  • Genre: YA Contemporary
  • Where I got it: Purchased for myself, since this is published by the imprint that will publish my novel and I am trying to familiarize myself with their list
  • What I thought: This book was outside my usual genre, but I really loved it. It was complicated and messy and sort of riveting. Also I loved the exploration of both online ethics and young women coming into their sexuality.

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

  • Genre: YA….adventure? Spy novel? Thriller?
  • Where I got it: Snagged off the free books shelf at work
  • What I thought: This book had a little bit of Chuck, a little bit of Taken, a little bit of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and I loved every page of it.

Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan

  • Genre: YA magical realism
  • Where I got it: ARC from the bookstore
  • What I thought: This is the YA brothers book I have been searching for! Not a YA sibling story that actually ends up being about a love interest. Not a sibling story that really doesn’t have anything to do with siblings other than two of the characters happen to be them. This book was really truly about these two twin boys, and I adored it for that alone. Plus it was so creepy and gut-wrenching and heartfelt. The plotting could have been a little tighter, but the two boys at its core and their relationship are just outstanding.

And now, meet Rebecca and her bookshelves!

1

This is what my library looks like from the doorway, with my back smashed up against the hallway light switch so I can photograph as much of it at once as possible. Welcome. Let us begin! Because my bookshelves are tentatively organized by genre, that shelf on the right is a sliver of my Anthologies/ YA section. Unsurprisingly, this section is the biggest – I almost never get rid of a YA book, am always collecting new ones, and spend my pennies on childhood favorites (shout out to the amazing Book Barn in Niantic, CT, where you can find a copy of Number the Stars inside a gutted vegetable stand.)

2

This is our Adult bookshelf. Notable pieces: an extensive Stephen King section (Bachman books too), Lots of undergrad Eggers, the copy of On the Beach I read one million billion times in high school, and my husband’s unlikely Anne Rice collection. He and I actually combined our bank accounts before we combined our libraries; my main objection was that he was going to displace so many of my books with his Anne Rice. So we got a bigger Adult bookshelf. Marriage is a compromise.

3

My library is the tiniest room in the house – and yet it just had to have the litter boxes in it – so there are clumps of books all over to maximize space. This is the favorite-childhood-fantasy-series-and-favorite-grownup-fantasy-series clump. They hang right next to my Bob’s Pit armchair for easy access.

4

Here’s the Literary Journals/ short story collections/ graphic novels section. It’s pretty slender – a weird mix of Bradbury/ King/ Gaiman/ Proulx. That empty bottom shelf is an access tunnel for the cats to get to their litter boxes, and I have to keep it that way, so I must carefully ration the collections I bring on.

5

This is definitely the jewel of the room, accumulated through library sales, book shows and probably e-bay. It’s the Edward Gorey section! Within two seconds of meeting me, it’s pretty obvious that Edward Gorey is my favorite illustrator (I don’t always permanently affix pictures to my skin, but when I do, they’re Edward Gorey drawings.) If I had to pick one out as the treasure among treasures, it would be The Curious Sofa: a pornographic work by Ogdred Weary. It is not pornographic, but it is suggestive:

6

picRebecca Podos is a graduate of the MFA Writing, Literature and Publishing program at Emerson College, whose debut YA novel THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES will be published by Balzer & Bray in 2016. She’s also a literary agent representing Young Adult and Middle Grade at Rees Literary Agency in Boston, and is thrilled to represent books by talented clients like Mackenzi Lee!
Note from Mackenzi Lee: I did not bully her into writing that last line.
Join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf.  Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive.

 

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Project: Bookshelf with Anna Staniszewski

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, Anna Staniszewski, queen of the quirky middle grade novel, joins us to celebrate the release of her new book, The Prank List, which is out nowAnna’s is a home with more bookshelves than people, one of which is a shrine to what I think is the greatest movie franchise of all time. Which movie? Read on to find out…

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…

Lincoln’s Graverobbers by Steve Sheinkin

  • Genre: YA nonfiction
  • Where I got it: Won in a book design contest in one of my classes
  • What I thought: So if you know me at all, you know I am a sucker for stories from history that nobody ever tells. This is one of those stories. So cool, so interesting, and really well written and well presented. Fantastic read.

That’s it. Light reading week for me. So let’s not waste anymore time–here are Anna and her bookshelves! 

I’m generally a pretty organized person, but you would never know it by looking at my bookshelves. There is a bit of a method to the madness, though. This, for example, is my “teaching bookshelf.”

bookshelf 1

These are many of the books I use when teaching courses on writing and children’s literature (with a few titles from grad school thrown into the mix). The top shelf is my particular favorite because it’s full of books on the craft of writing. These are the books I come back to over and over if I find myself stuck with a project or in need of inspiration.
And here we have what I think of as the “owl shelf” (for obvious reasons).

bookshelf 2

It’s currently weighed down with many of the books I’ve picked up at conferences and other recent events. I’m hoping to make some serious progress with these books over the summer, much like Mackenzi’s bookshelf challenge!

Here is what I consider my “overflow shelf” since it’s the newest addition to our shelf family.

bookshelf 3

One section is dedicated entirely to picture books. (It bothers me that picture books are a totally different size from other books, so I like to put them on their own.) And below that is my “Polish shelf” which includes some of the books I grew up with. This one by Jerzy Ficowski (the title translates to A Branch from the Sun Tree) is a collection of Polish Gypsy folk tales that I was obsessed with when I was young.

bookshelf 4

You might have noticed some photos displayed in the middle of the bookcase. Those are collages that my husband and I made for our wedding a few years ago, so we could showcase some cute and embarrassing pictures of ourselves from when we were young. And in between them is one of my prized possessions: the award I received from the PEN New England Discovery Award committee back in 2009–the illustration was done by Lois Lowry!

bookshelf 5

Now we move on to what I’ve dubbed the “public bookshelf.” This one stands in our living room so we actually have to keep it in some kind of order.

bookshelf 6 (1)

It’s full of some of our prettiest books, and it also serves as a temporary dumping ground for library books, recently purchased books, etc. It’s also where I like to keep a stack of my own novels so that I can look at them sometimes and grin like a fool.

bookshelf 7

Finally, we have the messiest (but arguably the coolest) shelves in the whole house. These are full of books from years and years ago that my husband and I don’t read very much anymore, but on top of those shelves is pure gold.

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Yes, that is a Lego Star Destroyer. It was a wedding present to ourselves, and my husband and I spent hours working on it. Above it is another prized possession–a Polish movie poster for The Empire Strikes Back that we received as a wedding gift.

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And what Star Wars room would be complete without a Star Wars pop-up book? (And a Transformers one, for added fun.)

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So to sum up: I’m messy with a purpose, I like to keep embarrassing photos of myself kicking around, and I’m a huge Star Wars nerd. Clearly, bookshelves reveal all!

Anna StaniszewskiBorn in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. Currently, she lives outside Boston with her husband and their crazy dog. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, daydreaming, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series and the Dirt Diary series. Her newest book, The Prank List, releases on July 1st from Sourcebooks. You can visit Anna at www.annastan.com.

Happy book release to Anna and The Prank List and thanks for checking out Project: Bookshelf!

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Join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf.  Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive.

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Project: Bookshelf with J. Anderson Coats

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’re hosting J. Anderson Coats, whose book, The Wicked and the Just, should be on the reading list of everyone who loves historical fiction. Or Wales. What does she have on her bookshelf besides some creepy-ass candles? Read onto find out! 

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…

Us Conductors by Sean Michaels

  • Genre: Adult historical fiction
  • Where I got it: Purchased for myself after the author did a reading at Porter Square Books, complete with a theremin demonstration by a local thereminist. What is a theremin, you ask? Aside from being the first electronic instrument and the subject of this novel, it is the weirdest music making device you will ever come across. You can find video here, and I encourage you to watch and be mystified.
  • What I thought: This book is stunning and haunting and I’m so glad I read it. The language is beautiful and poetic without ever feeling trite. However, like so many adult books in this genre, there are huge stretches of time where I felt like nothing was happening. It wasn’t happening beautifully, but I still got a little weary. It read very slow. But still highly recommended!

Marco Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz

  • Genre: Tween contemporary
  • Where I got it: Picked up during the great Simmons book grab of 2014
  • What I thought: While the emotional landscape of this book is impressive, there was too much going on. Too many characters. Too many emotional journeys. Too much wrapping up of those emotional journeys. In the end, it felt muddled, and the emotional impact was lost in the amount of it. Also the ending was so corny! Lots of over the top eye rolling was happening on my end.

Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde

  • Genre: YA fantasy
  • Where I got it: Snagged from the free books shelf at work
  • What I thought: This book is so funny! Contemporary fantasy in the style of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. And Jennifer Strange is much like her fictional sister, Thursday Next, in her unfailing practicality.

And now, meet J’s bookshelf! 

I’m a bookshelf decorator. As in, my home has a lot of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves to spare me needing to paint the walls a nice color or purchase art or really expend any effort whatsoever when it comes to decorating.

2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #0 Decorating I2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #0A Decorating II

I’m also a librarian by profession.

You’d think this would mean my books are organized in some way.

But they’re not. By and large, they’re organized in one of two ways: 1) order of acquisition; or 2) size.

2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #1 Order of Acquisition2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #2 Size

There are some exceptions. One of them is a small but growing collection of books by people I know*:

2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #3 People I Know

*If I know you and your book isn’t here, it’s probably because I gifted it to someone. Please don’t throw things. :)

Another is a two-shelf unit across the hall from my bathroom known as the medieval bookshelf.

“Medieval bookshelf” is somewhat of a misnomer, as there are books about street ballads, historical artisans and craftspeople, and folklore that live there. But it is where all the books I use for research live, and they are organized by place and/or subject. Some of my most favorite things live here, notably a copy of Brut y Tywysogion (Welsh: Chronicle of the Princes) that came from Japan of all places and cost something like 17,000 yen.

2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #4 Medieval Bookshelf

Another is my husband’s textbooks from back in 2006 that haven’t been read since but apparently have been legacied onto this shelf:

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(The creepy-as-hell candles need to be regifted STAT)

Also, here’s another legacy. When my son was little, he was allowed one shelf in the living room to keep whatever books he wanted so he didn’t have to keep running to his room to bring his favorites. He’s sixteen now, but this is what was left on the shelf from the last time it was used:

2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #6 - Kid Shelf Legacy

(And yes, Skepticism and Animal Faith was placed there by him, at age ten or so.)

And here’s why we’re about due for another bookshelf:

2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #7 - Overflow

Being surrounded by books is comforting, which is why I’m not keen to impose an order. They remind me of people I know, people I love, so it really doesn’t matter where they are as long as they’re easily at hand.

Coats - Author Photo 200J. Anderson Coats is the author of historical fiction for young adultsthat routinely includes too much violence, name-calling and pettyvandalism perpetrated by badly-behaved young people. Her first YA novel, THE WICKED AND THE JUST, was one of Kirkus’s Best Teen Books of 2012, a 2013 YALSA Best for Young Adults (BFYA) winner, and a School Library Journal Best Books of 2012 selection. It also won the 2013 Washington State Book Award for Young Adults. 

 Thanks for tuning in! Join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf.  Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive.

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Project: Bookshelf with Amitha Knight

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’re joined by Amitha Knight, a fellow Boston-area kidlit writer and Susan Bloom Discovery Award winner! She’s here to tell us about her bookshelves, and one special book that stands out. 

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…

Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

  • Genre: YA historical fantasy
  • Where I got it: Thieved. But I won’t tell you from where.
  • What I Thought: Oh this one started out so strong. The writing and the setting are so, so pretty, but pretty isn’t everything. It lost steam about halfway through, and the plot drags, with too much of it is packed into the last eighty pages.

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne

  • Genre: Middle Grade Steampunk
  • Where I got it: ARC picked up from the bookstore
  • What I thought: I think my expectations were too high for this one, because it did absolutely nothing for me. Unobjectionable writing, but I had zero emotional investment in anything that happened. The world was underdeveloped, characters were flat, and there was none of the imaginative charm factor I was hoping for. The prettiest thing about this book is the cover.

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

  • Genre: YA fantasy
  • Where I got it: Purchased for myself to complete the trilogy
  • What I thought: I really love this series, and while this wasn’t technically a bad ending, it just left me sort of unfulfilled. So much of what could have been done….wasn’t. Argh. I’m beginning to think there’s no such thing as a good way to end a series.

Guys, I am in such a reading slump! I am not liking anything I have picked up recently!

….And on that vaguely depressing note, meet Amitha and her bookshelf! 

We have several bookshelves in our house: my writing/research bookshelf in my office, my kids’ bookshelves in their rooms, a scifi shelf, and not to mention the growing pile of books at my bedside table. But our largest bookshelves sit in our living room, where we can see them, admire them, and be appalled at what a haphazard arrangement of books it is.

Amithasbookshelf

Once upon a time, our bookshelves were organized by author with a few categories separated out (my books from India that don’t have barcodes, his scifi collection, and my rapidly growing children’s literature collection), because my husband, the son of a former librarian, downloaded a program that allowed us to scan in our books and organize them. So we had all our books in order and cataloged on the computer…

…And then we moved. In our haste to unpack and feel moved in, we thought we’d just empty the books onto our shelves and then reorganize them later. That was a few years ago now and of course, “later” still hasn’t happened. Ah well.

Dragon

As far as the books themselves, I go to a lot of book signings and have numerous signed books from children’s authors (Shannon Hale, Gene Luen Yang, and Neil Gaiman, to name a few of the more famous ones), but one of the books I love the most is a book I tracked down and bought used online: a copy of The Secret Garden. This book isn’t particularly valuable (and I was dismayed to discover that it is abridged), however this specific edition has a lot of sentimental value.

Secret Garden

The Secret Garden was one of my favorite novels as a child almost certainly because I fell in love with this specific book cover. I remember checking this book out from the library and thinking it was one of the most beautiful books I’d ever held. Obviously, I had to return the book, but for a few years afterward, whenever I went to a bookstore I would look for this specific edition of The Secret Garden, just to see if it was just as pretty as I’d remembered. Many years later, I tracked it down online. Interestingly, the thing that had fascinated me the most—the sundial—was actually on the back of the cover, when in my mind it had been embossed in gold and on the front of the book, instead of the girl. While the actual cover (which is still lovely) isn’t as amazing as my memory of the cover, just looking at it brings back one of my very favorite reading memories of rocking in our backyard hammock over summer vacation and being so caught up in this story that I never wanted to put it down. Little kid me would be so excited to know that I found this book. Grown up me thinks it’s pretty cool too.

broAmitha Knight is a full-timer writer, a doctor, and a mother of two. She was named a winner of the 2012 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award and received a Letter of Merit for her writing from the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in 2011.  If you’re interested in children’s author signings, she maintains a calendar of events for the Boston area (also on Facebook). Follow her: Twitter / Google Plus /Goodreads

 

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Project: Bookshelf with Heather Marie

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’re joined by the fabulous Heather Marie whose novel, THE GATEWAY THROUGH WHICH THEY CAME, comes out this August from Curiosity Quills Press. She is here to share with us the story of a hard-won bookshelf and the volumes that populate it.

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…

Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

  • Genre: YA Zombie Post-Apocalyptic
  • Where I got it: A graduation gift from the MT
  • What I thought: This book, sadly, didn’t work for me. It was by no means a bad book, and I thought the zombie world building was excellent, but overall the characters didn’t resonate and their emotional arcs peaked too fast for me.

This was a light reading week for me. Some other things happened and I was distracted, plus the new job has me reading a lot of manuscripts at work, leaving me not wanting to read when I got home from work. I promise I will do better!  

And now, meet Heather and her bookshelf!  

I’ve always dreamed of having a room filled to the brim with books. Over the years I’ve collected hundreds of them, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t seem to hold onto them. Either I didn’t have the space, or I was moving for the hundredth time and had to donate them to local stores and friends. It always made me incredibly sad parting with them, especially when I’d become so dependent on the comfort they brought me. There’s something about the colorful spines with their elegant script. The beautiful covers that you could stare at for hours. I love the feel of the pages between my fingertips, and the crisp sound of the paper with each turn of the page. But most of all, I love plucking a book off the shelf, curling into a ball on the couch, and absorbing its words until the late hours of the night.

I’ve moved so much these last few years, which meant my book collection suffered dramatically. I went from two mini bookshelves, to none. Then I went from several boxes  stuffed into storage, to only a few with the books I couldn’t part with. As time went on, I told myself that I’d build my collection again. I begged and hoped someone would help me purchase another bookcase to display all the wonderful books that meant so much to me.

I knew I couldn’t afford a bookshelf. It was never something I’ve been able to fit into my tight budget. But last Christmas brought me the best gift, when my adorable husband went out and got me the perfect bookshelf. I nearly cried when I saw it. It came in this huge box and weighed a ton. I sat next to it all night and silently hoped we would head home soon to assemble it. No one in the room knew how attached I’d become to this gift, or maybe they did. I certainly didn’t hide my excitment. By the time we got home, which was pretty late, he asked if I needed help and I said no. For whatever reason, I wanted to put it together on my own. So I did.

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It took me all night.

When it was done, I dragged all the boxes out from storage and sorted the books on the shelves in no particular order. It didn’t matter to me where and why, it just needed to be.

When I stepped back and observed, my heart danced in my chest. I wanted to hug my arms around it and never let go. It was much taller than I thought, which meant more books! There was so much space needing to be filled, and there still is. But at the time, I knew it wasn’t complete until I added one particular book.

Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver was a book I read in high school. It stuck with me all these years. There were times when I couldn’t even remember the title, and I’d find myself on the Internet scouring Google in hopes of finding it. And when I finally came across it, I promised myself I would buy it as soon as I could. But I never did.

Last year, out of the blue, I stumbled upon the book on the For Sale shelf at Tower Records. It was so random. In fact, I was struggling so much at the time financially, that I couldn’t even afford the sale price. My husband could see on my face how much the book meant, and, you guessed it, he bought it for me.

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I haven’t read this book since that first time in my 12th grade English class. And to be honest, I don’t even think I need to. I think we all have a book like this. Something we’ve read that changed us so much. Something that made you feel like nothing you’ve ever read before. A part of me thinks that reading it again will change the way it made me feel all those years ago, and all the years after. It’s something I don’t ever want to lose; that feeling of overwhelming emotion that one single book has brought to me.

I don’t know. Maybe someday I’ll read it again. Maybe to myself when I’m all alone and needing that comfort, or maybe to my future children when they’re ready. But, to me, just having it on my new bookshelf is enough for now. And maybe it always will be.

Heather-AuthorPhotos-3-WEBSIZEHeather Marie lives in Northern California with her husband, and spends the majority of her time at home reading. Before she followed her dreams of becoming a writer, Heather worked as a hairstylist and makeup artist for several years. Although she enjoyed the artistic aspect of it all, nothing quite quenched her creative side like the telling of a good story. When the day had come for her to make a choice, she left behind her promising career to start another, and never looked back. Visit her online on her website, Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter

Thanks for tuning in! Join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf.  Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive.

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Project: Bookshelf with Katja Nelson

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, I’ve got my good friend and fellow writer Katja Nelson telling us about the war on her bookshelves. 

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…

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

  • Genre: Young adult historical fantasy
  • Where I got it: I bought it as my admission ticket to see Sir Terry himself speak in New York City two years ago. As a result, it is signed. It’s one of my favorite books I own for that reason, but it’s sort of perpetually sat on my to-read list.
  • What I thought: This book was so great. Sir Terry’s trademark humor and heart, mixed with some great historical Easter eggs and some wonderfully imaginative additions. So great.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

  • Genre: Adult fiction
  • Where I got it: It was a “thank you” gift for being a World Book Night giver
  • What I thought: I aggressively disliked this book. Partly because I just expected it to be better from one of the Arrested Development writers. I did not laugh once in this whole book. I found no emotional connection in it. The characters were all annoying and I despised them. Especially the teenagers. Has this woman ever been around a real teenager? Ugh. I get it’s a satire but….no. This book just made me angry.

And now, meet Katja and her bookshelf! 

The books on my shelves are at war.

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See? It’s a showdown between children’s fiction and literary fiction. I’ve got Karen Russell’s Pulitzer-Prize Honor novel Swamplandia! locked in battle with Kate DiCamillo’s Newberry-winning Tale of Despereaux. And Bruce Coville’s Into the Land of the Unicorns hovering uneasily over Grapes of Wrath and Moby Dick. There’s The Illiad duking it out with The Westing Game, Don Quixote against The Golden Compass, Ironweed versus The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

All my life they’ve been at war. Growing up, I read children’s fiction nonstop, especially fantasy (I think children’s fantasy is very different from genre fantasy, and I like it much more than genre fantasy). I loved stories that glimmered like dwarf-made metal and shimmered like fairy dust. (I was especially fond of unicorns). But because there weren’t any fantasy stories at home, I’d bring home scores of them from the library (the books in Bruce Coville’s Magic Shop series were some of my favorites). In fourth grade, my dad gave me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone over Christmas, and I loved that book so hard I had read it ten times until I could read the second one. It was everything in one book that I loved: unicorns, magic, orphans, dreams. And it was funny too! I became a Potter evangelist. To everyone in my class I unashamedly testified of The Boy Who Lived. (I still do this, which is probably why I somehow ended up with three copies of it.)

The stuff ten-year-old me was writing was a reflection of my reading habits. There were a lotof unicorns in my books, along with plenty of magic and hordes of orphans with hitherto-unknown special powers. There were attics with secrets, and dreams that were more than dreams, and also some elements of Cardcaptors tossed in for good measure.

Like other kids who love reading, I often had to be sneaky, for fear some grown-up would pounce on me and command me to “make myself useful” or “go outside and play.” I learned to feel guilty about spending my time reading. (I also learned that people are more hesitant to interrupt you if you read in the bathroom.) (I’m pretty sure this is why the bathroom is my favorite room in the house.) But my guilt about reading was compound by my parents’ well-meaning nagging about reading The Classics—by which, of course, they meant boring, non-fantastical tomes that felt heavy and plodding and old, filled with dust and American wars and shabby clothes. But I didn’t want to read about kids whose lives were grim and sad and poor and rarely funny. I remember my mom suggesting I read Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, and I got about a chapter in before I became so utterly bored that I did that thing I’d seen on TV, where the reader hides one book behind the other, like so. (I’m almost positive that my mom was not fooled by this.)

And I kept up all that fantasy reading and fantasy writing and fantasy evangelizing until high school, when I finally did what my parents had been telling me to do for years: I traded in my Weird Fantasy Books That I Should Be Slightly Embarrassed to Be Seen With for Socially Acceptable and Academically Impressive Classic Novels. And I stopped writing fantasy.

But they weren’t bad, those SAAICNs. In fact, I was surprised by their beauty. I was surprised by how much they resonated with me. I enjoyed some of them so much that I even started buyingthem (with a combined feeling of intellectual superiority and Benedict Arnold-ish guilt). But if anything, the classics made me less of a socially acceptable person, because now I had all these crazy ideas about relationships and religion and the nature of the human experience, all topics that made me not so fun at parties.

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My English major made me worse. I read a lot of literary fiction there—the only acceptable sort of literature inside the academy. But those books were beautiful too. And because I was reading literary fiction and writing literary criticism about it, I fell deeply in love with language, which meant feeling betrayed and fascinated by its slipperiness, by the necessity and impossibility of meaning-making. But I also felt that I was doing a good thing, reading Real Literature and writing literary criticism about it, instead of wasting my time with children’s books. Even though I was learning to question the literary canon, to ask what assumptions we’re making when we call some books Great Works of Art and others Merely Popular Scum That Is Undeserving of Our Attention and Will Never Stand the Test of Time, still I felt that I was finally making good use of my wordsy mind, that I was making my parents proud by studying The Classics. The decision to pursue an MA instead of an MFA partly grew out of feeling that writing literary criticism about literary fiction was superior, career-wise, to writing children’s fantasy. Children’s fantasy was something I could savor as a guilty pleasure, but not something I could take seriously, intellectually or vocationally.

And then, the summer before I started my MA, when I suddenly had oodles of time in the evenings after work, I realized something was missing from my life. Yep, it was fantasy! I missed kid characters. I missed unicorns, and magic, and orphans, and dreams. I missed the lightheartedness of fantasy, its playfulness. So I went back to my local library. And I checked out armfuls of kidlit. And I started to read it again. And then I started to write it.

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It’s only now that I’ve started buying children’s books again that I know I’m finally taking children’s literature seriously again. Because now instead of only books that are the very most upstanding Classic Novels, there are more children’s books. There’s the Harry Potter shelf, of course—the nucleus, the heart of my book life. But there’s also Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina and Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy and Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

In my own circuitous way, my writing, my life, has been improved by my meandering path through fantasy and literary fiction. My time with literary fiction has changed the way I see kidlit. I treasure its linguistic economy. I see now what’s at stake in children’s fantasy. I see what’s important about battling dragons. I’ve been There and Back Again, and I think both kinds of books are essential. Both do irreplaceable work. They teach me to love better. They teach me to be honest, kind, and brave. They teach me about dark times and about hope. East of Eden taught me about agency; The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles taught me about creativity.

So it’s not a war on my shelves. It’s not even a truce. It’s a freaking love fest.

nelson{e}_59 (1)Katja Nelson is a writing and rhetoric teacher at Brigham Young University, where she is pursuing her MA in English Literature. Her favorite Muppets are Kermit, Beaker, and the Swedish Chef.

Thanks for tuning in! Join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf.  Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive. 

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