The shelf came from my mother. It’s a heavy, sturdy piece, pulled from a dumpster in her retirement community. There are rings on all the shelves from the many glasses of Coke she set on it when she owned it.
The top shelf is home to vintage, hardcover books, as well as anything I’ve recently purchased and haven’t read yet. Half this shelf holds copies of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry. Since high school, Edna is the writer I always look for first in a used bookstore.
The second shelf has writing books on the left side of the basket. As you can see, I have a thing for spies and espionage. To the right of the basket are poetry books, plus a signed first edition of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Once Upon a River, which is the book I always tell people is my favorite when they ask. (When you have a used bookstore/online book business, people ask you this question a lot, and it’s a tricky one to answer.) Next to Bonnie Jo is a copy of Amy Hempel’s short stories. I always keep these two books together. I remember reading them the first time and thinking “Oh! I can write about my life! My redneck, northern Michigan, backwoods upbringing can be written about in a universal, literary way!” Whenever I’m stuck in my writing, I turn to these two books for inspiration.
In the basket are all the zines, artists’ books, and chapbooks I’ve purchased over the last few years. I have so many favorites. Whenever people come over to my house, I pull the basket out to show them.
The third shelf from the top holds my Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings books, as well as a few nonfiction books I’m fond of. There is a Harry Potter snow globe I got when I was eleven, featuring Harry catching the golden snitch. The shelf below is a mix of contemporary fiction and nonfiction, as well as all my Jane Austen books. You could say I have a thing for Jane – my cats are named Jane and Austen.
The shelf second from the bottom holds the heavy art books and more vintage hardcovers. The bottom shelf is a mess of kid’s books, both vintage and contemporary, for when my friend’s kids come over.
My mother passed the shelf on to me when I opened a used bookstore a few years ago. In the bookstore, the shelf held all the poetry books. It sat by the front window and had a gorgeous philodendron on top; easily my favorite shelf in the shop. Now, it sits next to my favorite window in my house, and holds the books I love the most.
There is something magical about keeping all your favorite books together, a little out of order, placing them by how they feel, how they connect to the books next to them.
How do you shelf your books? Tell me in the comments below!
Danielle Alexander is a writer and the owner of Grey Grey Books, an online and pop-up shop that sells used books, zines, and handmade journals in Michigan. Her writing has appeared in The Bandit Zine’s Love & Heartbreak Issue and The Aquinas College Sampler, where her poem “Mother” received an American Academy of Poet’s Honorable Mention. She has self-published two poetry chapbooks—Sunlight Gets Through (2016) and Chasing Rabbits (2016); two collaborative artist’s books, We Sit Together, At the Table (2015) and White Walls: Entelechia (2015); and recently self-published Ten Lists: A Workbook for Anxiety (2017). Danielle holds a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in English and Creative Writing from Aquinas College and will be pursuing an MFA in Nonfiction or Poetry in 2018. Her work can be found at reygreybooks.com.