I don’t remember ever making a conscious decision to use it like this, but growing up, I realized that I only allowed my bookshelf to house my most-loved books. A book had to have earned its place on my shelf—captured my heart and my imagination in some spectacular way. Anything short of that went to the basement.
As a result of this buildup of my favorite books over time, my various bookshelves tell a kind-of-chronological story.
Each book reminds me of a certain point in my life when I look at its spine nestled among the others, even though the books may not be strictly organized in the order in which I read them. I can see evidence of my growing love for fantasy in The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit; my adolescent years (where the books all have kick-butt high school heroines); and the point in my life where I discovered my passion for rock music and the stories behind it.
The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye are beloved holdovers from my high school sophomore-year English class, where, like all of the best educators, my teacher transformed these routine reading assignments into lifelong favorites of mine. You can see, in my collection of memoirs by (mostly women) actors and comedians, where I became interested in who the people I watched on my television screen really were—not only their filmography but how they impacted the world beyond a movie set.
And then there are my ever-present (and ever-growing) piles of books I want to read or re-read, stacked on the floor after I ran out of shelf space. These are old and new books, books I’ve borrowed from friends and books of my own. These paper towers contain everything from books of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tom Hanks to Dave Eggers’ The Circle and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. No matter how much time I spend reading, these piles never seem to grow smaller, but I’m okay with that—it means I always have something new to throw myself into. Tellingly, there’s a beige plastic bag sitting on my floor at this moment, partially enveloping my recent purchases of Circling the Sun and The Age of Miracles.
Oh, well. My floor has been home to my cluttered array of books for so long, I think it’d feel bare without them. One day, maybe I’ll be able to even out my ratio of books purchased to books read—but I doubt it.
Riley Steiner is a senior at Miami University, where she studies Creative Writing and Media & Culture. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, she enjoys baking, cheering for the Green Bay Packers, and spending way too much money at Half Price Books. Her creative work is forthcoming in the Oakland Arts Review.