Am I what I read?

In “The Polysyllabic Spree,” Nick Hornby writes, “All the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal. … But with each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not.”

It’s an arguable point, but one I identified with immediately. My bookcases are stuffed to overflowing with books I haven’t yet read, and I’m always acquiring more. I’m admittedly, unabashedly a book hoarder.

Sometimes those piles of books paralyze me. I’m so excited by the choices that I can’t decide what to read next. That’s been the case quite often in recent months, and even more so since I returned from Book Expo America; a tidy pile of advance reader copies now lines one wall of my bedroom.

It’s not just that I can’t decide what to read first. If only things were so simple! I’ve also run out of space in which to store all of these books. I have books in my living room, books in my kitchen. I’d store books in my bathroom if there were only a bit more space. I tuck books into the nooks of my secretary-style desk, and I pile books artfully on the shelves of end tables.

There’s a method to my madness, with genres sorted by room and shelves. But my bedroom is now out of control. The bookcase holds Alabama books and writing books, and my most treasured books top my dresser. But I’ve got borrowed books tucked beneath the head of my bed, and books I intend to mail to my nephew at the foot. (Books meant to be mailed to Mom are in the backseat of my car, because who needs logic?) Recent acquisitions were perched atop and nestled beside my typewriter, but that space has overflowed. Now, they’re stacked between my dresser and the wall and, as I’ve mentioned, lining one wall of my room.

I know it’s a bit crazy, but I’ve made my peace with the disarray. If it’s good enough for Nick Hornby, it’s good enough for me.

These are the books I’ve acquired in the six weeks since and including BEA.

  1. Dangerous by Susan Fast
  2. The Objects of Her Affection by Sonya Cobb
  3. Straight White Male by John Niven
  4. Liberty’s Torch by Elizabeth Mitchell
  5. The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
  6. What Do You Do with An Idea? by Kobi Yamada (Read it, loved it, glad he gave me a copy for my nephew, too.)
  7. On Immunity by Eula Biss
  8. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talleh
  9. We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
  10. Neverhome by Laird Hunt
  11. King Dork Approximately by Frank Portman
  12. The David Foster Wallace Reader
  13. Reunion by Hannah Pittard
  14. The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
  15. The Great Escape by Andrew Steinmetz
  16. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  17. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs
  18. Epilogue by Will Boast
  19. Letters to a Birmingham Jail
  20. Soldier of Change by Stephen Snyder-Hill
  21. File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents by Lemony Snickett
  22. Chakra Meditation by Swami Sadadananda
  23. Mo’s Mustache by Ben Clanton (Read and ready to send to my little nephew!)
  24. Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
  25. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
  26. So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan
  27. Terminal City by Linda Fairstein (Picked up for my aunt, still sitting in my bedroom. Oops.)
  28. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
  29. Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow
  30. The Republic of Imagination by Azar Nafisi
  31. The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton
  32. Goodnight June by Sarah Jio
  33. Wild Idea: Buffalo & Family in a Difficult Land by Dan O’Brien (I actually had to leave my copy at BEA because I couldn’t carry any more books, but I re-acquired it at Church Street’s Book Hangout last week. Hurrah!)
  34. The Elements of Style Illustrated by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (Purchased at The Strand)
  35. Writers on Writing (Purchased at The Strand)
  36. Love, Loss and What I Wore by Nora and Delia Ephron (Purchased at The Strand)
  37. Only As Good As Your Word by Susan Shapiro (Purchased at The Strand; this was the one book I bought that I didn’t set out to find. What a happy surprise! I have enjoyed Susan Shapiro’s work in the past, and while on the flight to New York I read a Writer’s Digest article that mentioned her.)
  38. Still Writing by Dani Shapiro (Purchased at The Strand)
  39. The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta (I found this in a freebie pile at the office–we receive more books than we can possibly write anything about–and snagged it because the commercials for the new HBO show had been creeping me out. I’m about halfway through and intrigued.)
  40. Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers (Also found in the freebie pile in the office. I’m intrigued by Eggers and I would, of course, like to have a career in which I too can write across a variety of genres and find success.)
  41. My Conference Can Beat Your Conference by Paul Finebaum (SEC! SEC! SEC!)
  42. The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson (A library book, but one I’m likely to end up purchasing for myself.)
  43. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone (Also a library book, but worth mentioning.)


Filed under Autobiography, Reading

6 Responses to Am I what I read?

  1. Beverly Taylor

    I can definitely sympathize. The last time I changed houses, the movers said, “Lady, you have more books than you do furniture!”

  2. Mandy Shunnarah

    This is my life, too! I cannot resist the allure of a library book sale, so I go and get enough reading material for a year or so at a time. And I do this, quite literally, every chance I get. When I moved, I forced myself to only bring books I hadn’t read yet (don’t worry, my already read treasures are safe in my parents’ house), so I thought I’d have plenty of space to stock up on new books. Not true! The shelves (note the plural) are stuffed and brimming over, and now my closet is threatening to spill out. Long story short, I absolutely relate. And I’ll totally take that Jonathan Tropper off your hands if you want to make some room. 😉

    • Sorry, the Jonathan Tropper is a keeper–at least until I read it once! 🙂 But it’s autographed and personalized, so if I were to pass it on, you’d get a book with my name written inside.

  3. Hi! I’m so glad my novel found its way into your pile o’ books from BEA. I was born in Tuscaloosa and I still have lots of family down in Alabama, so I’m hoping to get down there for a book event some day. In the meantime, enjoy The Objects of Her Affection!

    • Sonya, please let me know next time you’re headed this way! I’d love to help connect you to my local bookstores and/or reintroduce you to some of the greatest things in the area. Roll tide!

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