Project Bookshelf: Graphic Design Intern Steve Sampson

I hope I’m not the only one guilty of only having read half of the books on my shelf. I heard somewhere (on twitter, maybe) that a bookshelf is more representative of what a person wants to be rather than who they really are.

Regardless, my shelf right now is at a fun place because I just moved into a new apartment and got rid of 3-4 reusable shopping bags worth of books. I was excited to trim down and start over. I love this nifty shelf built-in under the kitchen counter. 

Most of the books I find myself drawn to are ones that remind me of friends (and some that still belong to friends, oops). There are recommendations by teachers & those found through favorite author’s favorites — and the special ones that mark moments of time in my life.

Hemingway’s Snows of Kilimanjaro still has a menu from my favorite Vietnamese restaurant shoved in as a bookmark. The Old Man and the Sea once lived by my bathtub at my parent’s house — a fun, though short-lived, nightly ritual.

In high school, I really didn’t read that much, but somehow, I still identified with literature. My English classes and teachers were so special to me. Me and Ms. Bouldin were like this *Fingers crossed Emoji.* And the books that stuck, really stuck. So much so, that I really thought I was Holden Caulfield for a while.

One day in my drawing class, my professor read Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainier Marie Rilke, from start to finish, while we drew freely for three hours. Soon after, I bought what I could find of Rilke’s and now read it in my professor’s voice.

 In another class, we made our own personas inspired by Fernando Pessoa and made work through those characters. So, I was ecstatic when I just recently found a copy of The Book of Disquiet in the totally wrong section at a used book store in Knoxville. 

I love bookshelves in general, though. They always become like little shrines to me — and I am forever peeping on other peoples’ shelves. The one in my studio at school is a little more cluttered with non-book objects, as pictured.

Among the knick-knacks and soup cans are various art books and some favorites like Flannery O’Connor and J.D. Salinger, along with more recent poetry obsessions like Sylvia Plath, Fred Moten, and Cameron Awkward Rich. I love it when there is a story or context behind how I came to find a particular work or author, and I can’t wait for that next special one to grab me.


Steve Sampson is pursuing his BFA at the University of Tennessee, in the department of Painting & Drawing. When he is not hiding in the art building, he can be found writing, hiking and playing music with friends.

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