I’m ashamed of my bookshelf, which is a lot like my purse, in that every few months I clean it out with the intention of keeping it organized and then I immediately just start cramming stuff into it. Sometimes, the same stuff, like receipts and postage stamps and, well, books. (I have a big purse.) I’m so ashamed that I almost took a picture of my husband’s neatly organized bookshelf instead, but then you would all believe that I could read German and was Medievalist with fairly broad-ranging scholarly interests, and neither of those two things is true.
My bookshelf is full mostly of books that I’ve used recently, but not so recently that they aren’t still scattered in the living room, my office at school, the bedroom, or the back seat of my car. It’s where last year’s books go to live, until I need them again, and they move back to the living room, office, car, bedroom, or car or until I realize I forgot I already owned them and and bought another copy, in which case one of the copies has to go and live at the public library or we will drown in books. (Although you may notice that there are two copies of Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost, and both of those stay. One is for rereading, one is for lending. You would also notice that there were two copies of Abigail Thomas’s Three Dog Life, Dorothy Alison’s Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, Sara Pritchard’s Lately, and Dinty W. Moore’s Between Passion and Desire, except that apparently I’ve done that thing again where I lend out both my lending and my rereading copies of most of those books, and so they aren’t on the shelves at all. It’s time to go back to The Athens Book Center and restock, I guess. Because, let’s face it, the difference between lending a book and giving it to someone is negligeable. Really, lent books just go to live in other people’s living rooms, offices, bedrooms, and cars.)
There are also those books that mark me as a graduate student: Oxford companions to things, textbooks I’m teaching from, textbooks from which I am being taught. And those books that mark me as a writer: journals and anthologies in which I’m published and (more, so many more) copies of journals in which I would like to be. There are one or two books that I was meant to review and haven’t yet, but let’s not notice those, okay? I’m doing my best. Graduate school is hard.
Sarah Einstein is the author of Mot: A Memoir (University of Georgia Press 2015), which was awarded the AWP Series Prize in Creative Nonfiction, and of Remnants of Passion (Shebooks 2014). Her essays and short stories have previously appeared in Ninth Letter, Fringe Magazine, PANK, Sixfold, The Fiddleback, and other journals, and been awarded a Pushcart Prize, a Best of the Net, and Notable Essay status in Best American Essays. She has been anthologized in Southern Sin by In Fact Books, and her work appears in the upcoming anthology Writing Into the Forbidden, to be published by Ohio University Press in 2014. She lives in Athens, OH, where she is a PhD student in Creative Nonfiction at Ohio University.
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