Project Bookshelf: JoAnna Brooker

My bookshelf is a white built-in in my new house. It was one of the first things I set up to organize my mind with.

The top shelf is the brain shelf. I keep my personal journals since my freshman year of college and a photo album of my childhood here. I appreciate this bookshelf as proof of my existence as a corporeal being.

The three middle are my book collection. The first shelf contains satire from Stephen Colbert, Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino which will rip your brains out with a surgeon knife and keep digging,  and books about feminism and technology such as Technologies of Gender and Alice Doesn’t: Semiotics & Cinema by Teresa De Lauretis, and Feminism/Postmodernism by Linda J. Nicholson. This shelf is also where my intrigue with Heather Havrilesky, Mindy Kaling and Angela Carter begins to show. I have every book Mindy Kaling has ever written.

The second middle shelf has two Nora Ephron books: I feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, and the rest of Heather Havrilesky and Angela Carter’s books fill out this shelf.

In the bottom book collection shelf we round out the 7 craft books that have been staring us in the face this entire time. And here is where we find memoirs from Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and two short story collections from Flannery O’Connor. Some Gabriel Garcia Marquez and poetry books sprinkle out the rest of my collection. The last shelf is my collection of 2010s DVDs and Sims games.

My bookshelf reflects my mind in that it deeply craves logic and structure outside of the one which I’ve been taught, which is why I’m drawn to books about feminist theory and magical realism and comedy, because to me each of these rhetorical concepts depend on the ability to see the world differently.  I love macabre, brutally honest storytelling by women learning to navigate the patriarchal world we live in. Flannery O’Connor and Angela Carter reflect that impulse: to keep the beautiful prose alive as we learn to live in the violent now.

I am fascinated by cultural studies, academic theory, poignant essays, free verse poetry, sharp memoir, any story that touches at the chord of a feeling and keeps strumming it until it hums. Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes is a perfect example of my story and word ethos: words and stories are magic we can absorb into our own lives. Use that medicine wisely.


JoAnna Brooker is a graduate from the University of Tennessee, where she studied Journalism and English. Her work has been featured in The Knoxville Mercury, UT’s Daily Beacon, and occasionally on stage. She can be found on all social media platforms @cupofjoanna.

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