Project Bookshelf: Stephi Cham

I have a library in my childhood home—sort of. It’s a partitioned area above a home office, and it consists of one huge bookshelf with about 20 spaces and an assortment of musical instruments, but it’s one of my favorite spaces in the world. It holds treasured memories in the form of treasured books. In elementary school, I’d borrow 10 books every two days from my school library and read them all, then return for more. I couldn’t get enough of reading; I still can’t.

Book cover of SUMMER BIRD BLUE by Akemi Dawn Bowman. White sketches of a bird on a flower looking up a bird in flight, on a backdrop of an ocean wave.

My love for literature has always been an eclectic mix; next to the collection of Jane Austen and the Brontë Sisters is the space with Akemi Dawn Bowman’s Summer Bird Blue and Leah Johnson’s You Should See Me in a Crown. My love for fantasy takes up most of my shelf space as it does my life, and it shows—in childhood favorites, like Erin Hunter’s Warriors series, to my teenage obsessions, like Marie Lu’s Legend, to reads from the past few years, like Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House. My shelf holds fictional tales of mystery, crime, science fiction, horror, romance, family, and nonfiction reads about a little of everything: with one glance, I see a biography of Mozart’s sister, studies from Dr. Oliver Sacks, and narrative history books on Russia and Haiti.

Book cover of CRAFT IN THE REAL WORLD:Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping by Matthew Salesses. Outline of hand holding pen on solid purple background.

A whole shelf alone is dedicated to reading for my work, because as much as experience is my greatest teacher, I believe in reading deeply and widely both past and current knowledge. Someone told me once to do my best until I knew better, and I always want to know better. So my books on music therapy implementation and theory span my shelves, and my favorite reads on writing and editing follow me every time I relocate. I’m constantly revisiting craft books, like Matthew Salesses’ Craft in the Real World and Gail Carson Levine’s Writing Magic, the book that first inspired me to be a writer at age 11.

Nowadays, if a paperback or hardcover copy of a book ends up on my shelves, it’s almost a sure sign that I love it. I want to hold on to the stories that inspire me, teach me, and call out to me. If there’s a book I know I’ll always remember, I want to be able to sit and reread parts of it anytime, revisiting it continually like an old friend. I suspect that my full bookshelf may be the one constant anywhere I go. No matter how my shelf evolves with me, it will always reflect my life: filled, always, with well-remembered and well-loved stories.

Stephi Cham holds a BM in Music Therapy with a Minor in Psychology from Southern Methodist University. She is currently working toward her MA in Publishing at Rosemont College, where she manages the publishing program’s communications as a graduate assistant. She is a freelance editor and the author of the Great Asian-Americans series published by Capstone Press, and her work has appeared in Strange Horizons.