Project Bookshelf: Finnegan Angelos

I am anti-bookshelf. 

Just kidding, but it’s true that I don’t really have one. I’m not sure what kind of writer that makes me, or what it says about my reading habits, but what’re you gonna do? I actually did buy a bookshelf a couple of years ago, in an effort to change my ways, but it has been overtaken by an impenetrable army of personal wellness and YA—neither belonging to me. Only a few of my older books stay mixed in with my family’s collections on the shelves, whereas my more recent additions find themselves sporadically tossed around my mom’s house. As backwards as it is, that’s how you know I really love them. 

Crowded single bookshelf, all books leaning to the right and barely fitting.

I was, as a lot of us were, one of those kids who read roughly eight books a month. I have no idea how I managed to do that, but I’m surely not at that sort of peak level anymore. My biggest reading-for-pleasure periods are my breaks from academia, summer, and post-Christmas, where I basically only consume fiction. I’m not entirely sure why that is. Listen, I’m a nonfiction writer. I should own more essay collections, at least one Sedaris book, but I consider the score balanced with my New Yorker subscription and all of my birdwatching guides. Not to mention an impressive amount of Glennon Doyle-adjacent memoir.

Unfortunately, my most beloved books go without photo evidence, as I keep them on the puja table in my dorm. Expect a ton of Mary Oliver and Walt Whitman, Jenny Slate’s Little Weirds, The Bhagavad-Gita, Be Here Now, and a handful of other books centered around self-actualization and/or the general premise of wonder. That little collection of mine has become a scrapbook bible. 

A short stack of books on a side table. Featuring "Small Things Like These" by Claire Keegan, "Oh William!" by Elizabeth Strout, "Detransition, Baby" Torrey Peters, "Memorial" by Bryan Washington, and "Birdfeeder Guide" by Robert Burton and Stephen W. Kress.

In my room, about twenty books are arranged in perfect alignment—Jenga style—all resting and leaning together with a fairly out-of-tune mandolin seated right on top. The whole thing hasn’t tumbled once. This genius creation was, of course, the doing of my partner, who took what was previously a single five-foot stack on the floor and dispersed it atop the record player that, at sixteen, I was sure I would use. I was wrong. 

It’s crazy I know, and incredibly telling, but I kind of like the mess I’ve created; I don’t think passions are supposed to be tidy things. In fact, all of my passions come with a little disaster, free of charge. When I cook, I need an eight-person team to help me get the kitchen all clean again. When I write, all of the pages of my once-blank notebook get covered in illegible strings of black pen, then subsequently scratched-out black pen. I leave instruments all over the house, on every surface. Everyone is “mad” at me all of the time because when I create, with unthinkable love—it can’t be contained.

Trust me, I’ve tried.

Young white man with curly hair and mustache looks into the sun in front of a lush forested background.

Finnegan Angelos is a self-proclaimed east-coast-love-struck-queer-awakening poet and essayist originally from northern Baltimore County, Maryland. His work has been published in the Beyond Queer Words Anthology, Thistle Magazine, and FRANCES, among others. He loves his dog, hibiscus tea, and the banjo.

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