If we were talking about music, I would seem a lot more organized, my Virgo sun evident from the start. CDs, records, and even cassettes, all collected in one spot, neatly arranged and organized alphabetically by artist, and chronologically within each artist’s discography. Even bootlegs and live albums have their place. 45s have their own stack. The sleeve of whatever record is currently on the turntable is displayed in a special place on the wall.
I wish I could say the same thing about my bookshelf, but I just can’t. In fact, even my sock drawer is more organized than books on most days. The majority of my books find themselves housed in four shelves across two sets of cabinets—the same cabinets that hold my school supplies, my knickknacks, and even the aforementioned sock drawer. Though, some books spill their way into a stack on my night stand, my writing desk, my closet, and anywhere else with a flat surface.
Books go where they fit, without rhyme or reason. Size sometimes plays a role, meaning that occasionally a set of hardcover books will end up next to each other on the shelf or that a collection of novels reprinted by Penguin will fall side by side, but even that isn’t always guaranteed.
Poetry collections, do, often end up in one section on the shelf, partially due to their generally similarities in size but mostly because those are the books I read the most and therefore find themselves in a section of the bookshelf frequented the most often.
And school plays a part in all of this too. In my dorm room, a small selection of favorite books and current to-reads sit nicely on a shelf next to my record player. But trips back home for breaks mean that some books must be returned and new books must be taken with me, a rotating catalogue. Additionally, as each semester comes to an end, there are the select class-required textbooks and novels that have stuck out as worth revisiting and those books, too, must wrestle for their space on the shelf.
The closest I’ve ever come to having a designated section of books in my collection was a stack of signed books—my high school English teacher’s YA novels, books from Barnes & Noble with a “signed by the author” sticker, a book found a garage sale that happened to be penciled in by its author, poetry collections from readings, etc. But even this didn’t escape damage for long. As I rotated between home and college, most of my poetry books—many of which were signed—went with me. And as I was fortunate enough to land more and more print publications in various journals and anthologies, I needed a place to house those books as well. The remnants of this once tidy collection can be seen above, guarded by a plastic velociraptor and Prince Albert in a can—both rusted and suffocating.
Quinn Carver Johnson was born and raised on the Kansas-Oklahoma border, but now attends Hendrix College and is pursuing degrees in Creative Writing and Performances studies. Johnson’s poetry and other writings have been published in various magazines and journals, both in-print and online, including SLANT, Nebo, Right Hand Pointing, Flint Hills Review, and Route7 Review.
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