Project Bookshelf: Amber Alexander

I’m really bad at letting go of things and despite my best efforts to try not to be, most people would describe me as a maximalist. I hoard memories and never delete any photos on my phone (I’m up to about 88,000 with pictures spanning from 2015 to the beginning of 2023). This idea of holding onto things, perhaps reminding me of simpler times, perhaps reminding me of the hard times I didn’t think I’d make it through, reflects itself on my bookshelf, too. 

Reading has always been an escape for me. It filled the void of not having friends in my classes to talk to and being able to immerse myself somewhere else. It also helped with all the car rides I took going from one house to the other every other weekend after my parent’s divorce. 

Much like my own thoughts, my bookshelves are only slightly organized, filled to the brim. I have several bookshelves scattered over the house, books stored inside the bottom of my TV stand’s storage, no doubt intended for DVD cases (or when I used it as a kid, good ol VHS tapes)—even books stacked in dangerously high piles I haven’t organized since they came home from me after the summer library sale. I still have books in boxes from my last move.

Just like my own personality, my books represent the weird complexities and paradoxes. I have a few poetry books mingling with Franz Kafka, series that shaped my early love for reading (The Hunger Games, Harry Potter), and Norton Anthologies I used in one class that I’ll never be able to give away. 

I haven’t actually finished The Lost Writings but it’s followed me faithfully from bookstore to apartment to bedside table. I’ve been interested in reading more Kafka ever since we read “The Metamorphosis” my senior year of high school and considered myself to be the only one open minded about it; it was probably then and there that cemented I was meant to be a Literature major. 

Some books on my shelves haven’t been read, let alone touched since I placed them there. Books I bought because they reminded me of someone, once again symbolizing my inability to forget or let things go that I really should. 

An early edition of The Hunger Games I found in a Half Price Books clearance section is pushed back with books about Harry Potter I bought on Ebay with allowance in 2011. I impulsively bought a collector’s edition of Michelle Remembers a year after a professor mentioned it in a class and its influence on what we were studying. A copy of Twilight, not my original copy, but a copy I got just to have the larger sized version. I bought Fan Art for a creative writing assignment and only read the first two chapters. 

An ode to my love for theatre shows itself in pocket-sized Shakespeare and books about Alexander Hamilton (a purchase influenced by Lin Manuel Miranda and my immense interest in American history). 

In another bookshelf sits a book of poems by Rita Dove whose lineation inspires me to dig deeper in my own work, a few books from one of the hardest semesters of college (yes, Spring 2020, which featured Wieland and Laura). A copy of The Outsiders—again, not my original copy but a book near to my heart. Counting by 7s, a book I bought because it had been sitting at a used bookstore for six months and I was intrigued by the annotations someone left behind. 

My bookshelves, as they stand while writing this, are not completely representative of what I tend to read, or what’s important to me now. In fact, I’ve probably been putting off cleaning and reorganizing my bookshelves for at least 7 years. But the mess, the clutter, represents me well. The eclectic nature of how I view my life mirrors itself here. I’m not ashamed to say Twilight got me into reading and creative writing when I was 10 and lead me to discover the greatest escape I’ve known—how could I possibly have the heart to get rid of them now?

My bookshelf made me think, question the world, imagine a new one. I thank it for becoming a vessel to hold all these small parts of myself and all my inconsistencies. 

Amber Alexander holds a BA in English with research distinction and triple minors (Creative Writing, Professional Writing, and History) from The Ohio State University. They plan to pursue graduate level studies in the near future and currently works in higher education. She has previously worked on the Editorial Staff for Cornfield Review, where she has also been published. Alexander earned multiple awards for poetry, prose, playwriting, and creative nonfiction while an undergrad.

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