No, I’m not a hoarder. I just can’t help myself. I buy used, I buy indie, I buy books, and I buy often. I am also the person that will offer to take a box of used books off your hands before you even list the contents, and I’m someone who has been given a line in the household budget spreadsheet just for books. My husband gets it. I’ve moved houses upwards of thirty times. I’ve donated clothes, thrown out particle board furniture when it splintered, but I’ve never given away a book. Right now, in a storage unit in England, around three thousand books sit waiting to be shipped to me. In my two-bedroom apartment in Lafayette, Louisiana, four bookcases hold the mass I’ve accumulated since arriving in America in 2018. I’m actually meeting someone from Facebook tonight to buy an extra bookcase, as my novels have overrun their shelves; stacks are now lining my bedroom floor.
I began writing fiction, so I have tons of novels and short story collections. Favorites include both of Brit Bennett’s novels because let’s face it, she’s freaking great, and everything I could get my hands on by Jhumpa Lahiri. I’ve found that I reach for fiction for deeply-drawn female characters—women who are flawed and complex. I’m in my MFA program for poetry though, so amongst the tomes, you’ll also find sweet skinny volumes like Camille Dungy’s Trophic Cascade and Terrance Hayes’ How to be Drawn, as well as gorgeously thick collected works by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Eudora Welty. I tend to seek out poets because of their use of form (or lack thereof) and I’m particularly compelled by confessional poetry, which I think can be seen in my own poems. I do also have some academic works, craft books, anthologies, and, of course, a wealth of literary journals. Lately, though, I’ve been most excited about nonfiction work. Perhaps my favorite book in this apartment is Persona by Elizabeth Ellen, which plays with form and reality in a unique and sexy way. There are memoirs and journalist collaborations, too: Small Animals by Kim Brooks, Ordinary Light by Tracy K. Smith, and She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey.
Tucked away in the spare bedroom you’ll find the books that don’t technically belong to me—they’re all about coding and scary math and belong to my husband, a quiet and patient engineer. So much is missing from this book collection—many of the gaps will be filled by that shipping container. In there I’ll find (with glee) all of the books of my childhood—the complete works of British children’s writer Enid Blyton and dog-eared paperbacks of the What Katy Did series. There are duplicates copies of those little green Penguin Classics, and former library books still clasped in their plastic covers. Basically, it seems you can move me anywhere, but I’ll always end up with full bookshelves and a to-be-read pile that comes up to my shoulders.
Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review and she also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others.