••• The International Writers Magazine - 22 Years on-line - Lifestyles
Wherever They Fit (and They Will)
My life one book at a time ...
I have a bookshelf—a less than exciting fact, I know. This being the Age of Zoom, it seems that everyone has a bookshelf background, and they are more than happy to show off their treasuries on national television.
I understand the sentiment. My shelf is the subject of my unwavering affection, a statement confidently made because I have no children and I haven’t been alive long enough to attentively curate anything else.
One of my favorite things to do, besides read the books, is rearrange the shelf—probably doing so more often than is considered healthy. If the books are pulled down too soon after the last time, my mom squints at me a little harder than usual.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asks. “Haven’t you already done that?”
I’m quick to reassure her that everything is fine, that this time is going to be awesome, that I’ve already made a playlist, and would she like to help?
It’s a stress-relieving puzzle, an exercise in problem-solving, an introduction to record-keeping, an adventure through my evolution as a reader. And it’s fun.
The latter answer is, of course, true, but the former justifications are necessary, lest you squint at me like my mother.
I am nonsensically fond of the warm assurance and familiarity that comes with analyzing my collection. I bask in the confidence, the comfort of the habitual check and recheck of an author or date before depositing each book in a pile or finding it a new home on the shelf. I cherish the memories that come with each volume.
Great Expectations contains the story of Pip as well as my ninth-grade self and my earnest attempts at reading Charles Dickens. The damaged spine of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban recounts the odyssey of hands it has passed through, from my brother’s, to my own, to half of my ballet school before a doting pair taped it back together. Far from the Madding Crowd is still marked with makeup, remnants from its debut performance during an expedition across the stage as a prop in The Nutcracker. Les Misérables voyaged with me across the Atlantic as I studied abroad in Switzerland.
Stories that have been read to me or that I have read to others hold tokens of family and beloved teachers. Long-forgotten bookmarks and hall passes serve as soft reminders of the journeys these books have taken between slumbers on my shelf.
Every time I rearrange, I remember. I am selectively systematic when it comes to my books. I do try my hardest to sort the shelf with some semblance of sanity. At some point, whatever strategy I’ve invented dissolves into “wherever they fit.” Often, I cave after days of sleeping on the living room floor because my bed is caked with homeless books.
The bar for success is low, but difficult to achieve.
I once attempted the traditional alphabetical by author arrangement, and though excited for the challenge, I ran into trouble. A few of the books were too tall to fit where the English alphabet dictates they should dwell, and I realized that—regrettably—I don’t know, off the top of my head, the author of every book. To find books in my own library, I would need a catalog, which isn’t to say that I don’t have one, but needing an administrative index is an inconvenience.
Once I sorted them by color, a system that the Internet has shown to be esthetically pleasing. The process was thrilling, but my result was anticlimactic: I have a lot of blue books. However, short of my beloved set of Harry Potter novels, I don’t recall the color of each volume. Is The Secret History black or white? That information is not featured in my catalog.
Nevertheless, a trusted solution prevails.
It is a mix of real genres (classics, dystopian, thrillers), authors (Rick Riordan), and categories that I’ve invented (“You have the first book, but not the rest of the series” or “These were on sale at the book fair”). And, of course, a healthy mix of “wherever they fit.” And they’re easy to find.
One day I will know someone who will come to love the books as much as I have, who will pass them on to whomever they meet, who will share the stories and add their own. But until then, the memories remain with me.
The collection grows, so every rearranging is a little more challenging than the last, the method to the madness falling a little closer to exclusively “wherever they fit.” They do fit, or they will fit, and not just because I refuse to believe otherwise. Here the tomes will live, however they must fit—despite my mom’s fond squinting—to continue to tell their tales with every check and recheck.
© Lauren Curry 3.15.21
Lauren is a sophomore at the College of Charleston in Dr Devet's Advanced Composition class.
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