One thing to know about me is I am an extremely tidy individual. I always seem to be organizing my desk, sweeping the floor, or unscrewing my standing fan in order to properly dust it. It’s annoying, but there are worse habits to have. I remember once being told “if you want to keep a clean house, don’t own any books.” Despite the accumulation of dust the books gather, they have stayed (and grown) over the last few years.
While I am slowly flirting with the idea of audio books, I still have a decent amount of hard copies that get read with tea, shared with friends, or reread to spark inspiration. My favorite thing about physical copies are the notes scribbled in the margins either from myself, a previous owner, or from friends who have borrowed them. I have a strict rule that if someone borrows a book of mine, they have to underline favorite passages or interact with my notes in some way (long live my annotated copy of Titus Andronicus that has pages of detailed notes).
My bookshelf is essentially a junk drawer of the things that represent my interests. It consists of a lot of poetry, including my favorites: Amy Gerstler’s Nerve Storm (I loved this one so much, I named my pet dumbo rat after it) and Diana Khoi Nguyen’s Ghost Of. I have books spanning topics like palm reading, fairy tales, Fleetwood Mac, and the history and evolution of human monogamy. I have a plethora of literary magazines, some of which include my favorite subscriptions, like 32 Poems, Fairy Tale Review, and Ecotone. With the next year being dedicated to my thesis, I will be diving back into reading poetry. However, I have taken a decent break this summer to read books outside of my typical genre. Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life read like butter and also had me openly weeping on the patio of a coffee shop. Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House is next up on the docket once the heartbreak from finishing A Little Life passes.
We all have a list of books we return to if we are feeling lost or uninspired. Maggie Nelson’s Bluets is one of mine. Bluets is the book I read when I want to feel held yet also relish in my heartache. I am reminded of a younger self when rereading this one. I see poetry lines in the margins from when I read it in college for the first time and was working through fresh wounds from a breakup. Next to these are more recent notes, having reread it for a hybrid workshop last year, a workshop that inspired a list essay on the color red. Everything Matters! by Ron Currie Jr. is another favorite. This science fiction book was first introduced to me some years ago in high school. I read it again in college and again during the pandemic, and it’s a powerful reminder that every aspect and detail in life is important in a way that doesn’t seem to be a cliché. I’m looking forward to finding the next book that makes it on this list.
I’m always looking for new books to add to my collection and will continue to dust them weekly. My goal within the next year is to buy a bigger shelf.
Ryleigh Wann (she/her/hers) is an MFA poetry candidate at UNC Wilmington. Her past experiences include reading poetry for Ecotone, editing with Lookout Books, teaching creative writing, and working for the Parks and Recreation Department in Michigan. Her writing can be found in Rejection Letters, Flypaper Lit, and Kissing Dynamite Poetry, among others.
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