Project Bookshelf: Ada Wofford

Memoirs of a Bookcase


I was assembled in China. I made the violent journey to America by sea and eventually ended up in a Target in South Jersey. I sat content on my shelf, dreaming of my life-to-be in the corner of some nice, middle-class family’s living-room. Holding a handful of books and various nick-nacks—at least that’s what the picture on my box had promised me. But instead, I got Ada.

One afternoon, about six years ago, this freak of a human strolled in and started eyeing me up and down. She didn’t even ask for assistance like she was supposed to—just manhandled me into a cart and rolled me up to the register. Even the cashier asked if she needed help, but Ada insisted that she didn’t. She took me home and assembled me on the floor of her parent’s living room. It was obvious she had no idea what she was doing but I was put together nonetheless. Once assembled, she dragged me into her room and began filling my shelves. Back then, she was into collecting old video games. She filled my bottom shelf with PlayStation 2 games, my three middle shelves with books, and my top shelf with CDs—everything from The Stooges to Bach.

Then she grew bored of collecting video games and just started hoarding books. My God! I can barely hold my recommended weight, let alone what this maniac has done to me. Every day, more books were stuffed onto my shelves. Then she moved. I was disassembled partially, stuffed in an SUV, and then put back together in a new room. Books were feverishly replaced. She has no system, no order. And it’s ironic because she’s a librarian, but with me, she’s a pure anarchist. She’s even brought in two smaller bookcases to help me out but they’re just as over-booked as I am—it’s pure madness here!

There are antique books she has no desire to ever read, she just thinks they look cool.

There’s a book on parasitology she only bought because upon seeing it for sale at a library, she realized she didn’t even know such a field existed and felt obligated to own it.

 There’s the antique primer she once read on acid, tearing up at a poem that turned out to be a list of characters for a play!

There’s the battered collection of William Carlos Williams’ poetry she used to carry around, literally everywhere she went.

There’s the copy of Howl, in which nearly every word is underlined because she thinks ALL OF IT’S IMPORTANT!

There’s a book on trees, a book on interior design in the ‘40s, a book on the symbols of Judaism, an antique book on ships, there’s everything! There’s no rhyme or reason to the collection that occupies my shelves, and I fear there never will be.

*          *          *

I am old now. My cheap paneling is stained and has bubbled from humidity. But I’m happy to be of use. The type of home I dreamt of one-day living in would have dumped me in the trash years ago. But Ada didn’t buy me for decoration. She didn’t buy me to impress her friends. She bought me to hold her most cherished possessions, along with whatever sort of wine she’s drinking that week. And that’s the best life any bookcase can ask for.


Ada Wofford graduated Summa Cum Laude from Fairleigh Dickinson University with a BA in English literature and is currently pursuing her master’s in library and information science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a contributing editor to The Blue Nib literary magazine and has been published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Burial Day Books, The Yellow Chair Review, and more. She’s also the founding editor of My Little Underground, a music review blog written exclusively by musicians.

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