Shelf full of Promises

Posted: 22 February, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Some of you older followers may know that my first post of the year is sometimes a list of books I plan on reading. We’re a little over a month into 2015 so I thought I’d put up this year’s version which puts me four months ahead of last year and I’m only about three weeks behind on doing the actual reading.

For the selection process this year I did something a little different. In the past I’ve just sat down and scrawled out a list of books that came to me off the top of my head. I have a tendency to forget what they were and instead read a bunch of other random shit and by then end of the year I’m writing a nearly identical list as the one previous (I’m not going to post the link, but if you want to dig through the archives you can compare the last few years of them, please don’t).

The first year I put 52 of them on the list thinking one book per week made sense. Since then I’ve culled that number and tried different ways of figuring out what is a reasonable reading goal for a year. This go round I have something a little less abstract in mind.
One shelf

[Trigger warning: I’m about to talk about the arranging of books for a few paragraphs, you may want to skip ahead]

I thought of it after I got a crate of books out of storage in Texas and had to rearrange my bookshelves (also a new addition to my office).  When you move an average of three times a year, throwing stuff out or giving it away or just leaving it behind becomes more and more appealing. Bookshelves are out of the question and heavy as fuck boxes of books are not the easiest thing to schlep about. For an avid reader like myself, this separation brings about a special Sophie’s Choice style of agony. I limited myself to one box of books. the ones that made the cut fell into the following categories: Reference (things I read bits of often for whatever reason, like Grimm’s Fairy Tales or The Bible), A-list Favorites (those things you can reread at anytime in any mood; you can quote them extensively; start them at any point, and they’ll make you happy. For me these are things like, All the Pretty Horses, Ender’s Game, American Gods, and Cat’s Cradle), and Aspirations (things you own and absolutely, positively, will read very soon, even if you don’t. Those for me were, The Master and the Margarita, A Farewell to Arms, and Grapes of Wrath).
When I moved into The Blanket Fort (my new place), I cleared out a family members attic for furniture and ended up with three bookshelves, shelves that were mostly empty when after my first few weeks. I went to Texas for Christmas and pulled a bunch of the books out of storage and asked my mother to send what she could to me later. Since then every month or so I get a small box full of books to fill my shelves.
The problem with the shelves though is that the heights are irregular. They’re fixed and I don’t feel too much like boring out new settings to readjust the height (not now at least, though every time I rearrange them I think I might have to do that sometime this summer)they’re three levels apiece and the top of each is arched so larger books will fit dead center but not much farther off. So setting them up by category didn’t really work (this shelf is all plays except for the five volumes that are collections of plays those are across the room). Then a friend of mine who was over drinking and watching me spend 4 hours arranging and rearranging, told me her books were divided into books she’s read and books she en’t.

which got me thinking.

I look back on books I’ve read like a journal. what I’ve underlined or notes scrawled in the margins. Not just the stories but the objects themselves tell a story, one only I understand because it’s one written in the black spaces between lines and at heading of each chapter.
I remember exactly when I read  House of Leaves because I had a tiny room with a desk and sat on the twin bed built into the wall and shut off all the lights except the clip on lamp that shone directly on the pages and the whole world outside those twisted coloured words disappeared. I read On The Road while on a train from Amsterdam to Antwerp then finished it on the way to Florence and was out of reading material and had to ask my friend whom I was visiting to borrow something for the trip back to Cork. He gave me Soul Music my first Discworld novel.
My copy of Ender’s Game has an inscription in the front cover, it was from someone who felt I needed it at the time and I was getting my ass kicked in the locker rooms at school on a weekly basis. It was the first book that made me reread it immediately after  I finished it and I don’t know how I would have survived middle school without it.
Sophie, my girlfriend at the time, gave away part of The Sun Also Rises which very much tinted my reading of it. Spring, senior year, and we broke up by prom so that narrows it down.
I read Grendel with a south African accent in my head because it was given to me by a teacher after I turned in a story that reminded him of it. I went straight outside and lay down on the grass and started in on it until dinner.

After sorting them this way, I found the stack of ‘books I haven’t but have strong desire to read’ filled just about one shelf.
One shelf of books, I like the sound of that. It’s a solid amount. now my books will be sorted with a system called my life. The card catalog will be my memory


Anyhoo, here’s this year’s list:

[note: I didn’t feel like typing anymore, so I’m in my office, dictating the contents of the shelf to the computer, I trust you’ll enjoy the interpretations]

Fear and loathing on the campaign trail of 72 – Hunter S Thompson
The Ginger Man – JP Donlevy
Trigger Warning – Neil Gaiman*
The grapes of wrath – John Steinbeck
Dracula – Brahms Stoker
Grendel – John Gardner
As ever – Allen Ginsberg and Neil Cassidy
Rum diary – Hunter S Thompson
Peter Pan – J and Barry
Stranger in a strange land – Robert a Heinlein
Pulp – Charles B Caskey
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
Iron weed – Will yam Kennedy
The stranger – come out
Sudden fiction – various
Beloved – Toni Morrison
Jailbird – Kurt Vonnegut
Bell cantor – and Pratchett
Wizard of yurt see – Ursula K Le Guin
Blind Willow sleeping woman – Harkey Murakami
God bless you Mr. Rosewater-  Kurt Vonnegut
The handmaidens tell – Margaret Atwood
Joan of arc – mark Twain
Sometimes a great notion – 10 Cassie
The Master and Margarita – Macayo Boga cough
A clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
Strange wine – Harlan Ellison
The Dharma bums – Jack Karabakh
Travels with Charlie – John Stein back
White noise – Don Julio
A farewell to arms – Ernest Hemingway
Such a – Cormac McCarthy
Trainspotting – Irvine welsh
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest – can Cassey
seize the day – Saul Bello


*Trigger Warning is not actually on the shelf. apparently I preordered last year. I got particularly drunk with my flatmate who brought home a growler full of Manhattans. I don’t remember much, I’m told I spent most of the night singing “Black Velvet Band” over and over. But in the morning it was morning, there were two hundred dollar Amazon gift cards in the trash and for the next few months I received irregular surprises from the fairies of the interwebs the latest of which was Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman & the latest edition of Saga.

** I want to throw American Splendor on the list as well for reasons I’ll mention next post, but it doesn’t fit on the shelf due to it’s size & as a result doesn’t have a place in the order, but it will be in the first third I think due to temporal issues.


Post Script, If I end up in Grad school, this list gets shot to hell

  1. […] This is my reading list for 2015 […]

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