Book Shelves #53, 12.30.2012 (Final Entry)

Book shelves series #53, fifty-third—and final!—Sunday of 2012: In which I take a few photos at random.

I somehow managed to squeeze 52 weeks of shots out of all the book-bearing surfaces of my home (—oh—I did one week from my office).

For the last in this series (yay!) I simply walked through the rooms of the house, took a few shots, and then put them in digital frames.

For the most part, my method was thoughtless, although I did grab a pic of a bookcase new to our house (second pic, top left) that dominates my son’s room.

I also took a pic of Perec’s essay collection because one of his essays inspired this (awful, awful) project.

From that essay, “The Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books”:

We should first of all distinguish stable classifications from provisional ones. Stable classifications are those which, in principle, you continue to respect; provisional classifications are those supposed to last only a few days, the time it takes for a book to discover, or rediscover, its definitive place. This may be a book recently acquired and not read yet, or else a book recently read that you don’t quite know where to place and which you have promised to yourself you will put away on the occasion of a forthcoming ‘great arranging’, or else a book whose reading has been interrupted and that you don’t to classify before taking it up again and finishing it, or else a book you have used constantly over a given period, or else a book you have taken down to look up a piece of information or a reference and which you haven’t yet put back in its place, or else a book that you can’t put back in its place, or else a book that you can’t put back in its rightful place because it doesn’t belong to you and you’ve several times promised to give it back, etc.





So, what did I get out of doing this project?

1. Photographing books is difficult—I mean physically. They all reflect light differently.

2. Doing a regularly-scheduled project is difficult.

3. I have too many books.

Okay. That’s it. Finis.

Book Shelves #52, 12.23.2012

Book shelves series #52, fifty-second Sunday of 2012: In which, in this penultimate chapter, we return to the site of entry #1.

The first entry in this project was my bedside nightstand. This is what it looked like back in January:

This is it this morning:


This is the major difference:


The Kindle Fire has changed my late night shuffling habits.

Here are the books that are in the nightstand:


I read the Aira novel but completely forgot about it, which I’m sure says more about me than it.

Have no idea why this is in there:


But it’s a fun book. With pictures! Sample:


Finally, Perec’s Life A User’s Manual—this is one of my reading goals for 2013. It seems like a good way to close out this penultimate post, as one of Perec’s essays inspired this project

“Every library answers a twofold need, which is often also a twofold obsession: that of conserving certain objects (books) and that of organizing them in certain ways”

—Georges Perec, from ”Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books” (1978)


Book Shelves #51, 12.16.2012



Book shelves series #51, fifty-first Sunday of 2012


I am very ready for this project to be over. Two more weeks.

At this point, I’ve photographed all book shelves (and other bookbearing surfaces) in the house, but clearly the book shelves aren’t stable.

I mean, structurally, sure, they’re stable.

But their content shifts.

So this week (having three weeks left to fill), I go back to a sitting room in the front of the house where I like to read.

Above, resting on this cabinet, some current reading, including the latest DFW collection and Chris Ware’s Building Stories.

Below, a coffee table (first photographed in #7 of this series):



As usual, a few coffee table books, plus several review copies that I need to look at sometime next week:


One of the coffee table books is by Thomas Bernhard:


To the right of the case, a bin of books—mostly review copies that come in that I plan to write more about:



Book Shelves #50, 12.09.2012


Book shelves series #50, fiftieth Sunday of 2012

There are fifty-three Sundays in 2012. I ran out of book shelves last week.

Here are some shelves/books from my office (work).

One wall is floor-to ceiling shelves—the whole wall—but most of the space is filled with files, folders, and professional books.

I tried to picture some of my favorite stuff—dictionaries, guides, and anthologies that remain inspiring.


There is also a little corner where I keep stuff I read in my office—review copies or other books that I work with when I have a spare hour.


Here’s a shelf (double stacked, as you might be able to see) that gets constantly shifted around. There are a couple of books about usage here that I like to bring into the classroom.

Of course, the best usage guide is Strunk & White’s classic:


This illustrated copy was a gift from some dear friends.




Joseph T. Shipley’s The Origins of English Words: A Discursive Dictionary of Indo-European Roots is a favorite.

Interior sample:


Book Shelves #49, 12.02.2012


Book shelves series #49, forty-ninth Sunday of 2012

Unless I’ve somehow miscalculated, this is the last book shelf in my house. It’s difficult to describe the room it’s in—sort of like a storage corridor that serves as an attic (my attic is tiny) with an ersatz workshop. Kids paints and art supplies dominate the top shelf; photo albums and year books the bottom. The middle holds all sorts of books that I can’t bear to get rid of, including a coffee-table history of MAD Magazine which is one of the first books I can remember begging my parents to get me.

There are also many, many back issues of MAD:


Also, lots of old books with out of date info, like a book about Jacques Cousteau, a book of Indian recipes which is more of a cultural guide, and this book of my home state:


Several old music zines (I should probably donate them to a zine library).


I have several dozens of these history packets called Discovery that I loved as a kid—they’d come with a booklet that illustrated the historical event in context, including opposing viewpoints, and they also had cool activities and games. I think they really helped me to learn as a child, and I can’t bear to get rid of them. Apparently Dennis Miller sat for the portrait of Guy Fawkes in the second issue.


The Science in Science Fiction probably deserves its own post it’s so wonderfully weird and silly.


Although this is the last shelf in my house, I said I’d do these posts each Sunday of 2012—and there are four more. I’ll visit the bookshelves in my office, the books in my car, take another look at the books on my nightstand (where I started) and then do a review post. Then I will never, ever do anything like this again.


Book Shelves #48, 11.25.2012



Book shelves series #48, forty-eighth Sunday of 2012

Another doublestocked shelf: The front stack (on the right) are all books I’ve been intending to read at some point, or been reading slowly or piecemeal. Behind and to the left: Lots of old hardbacks—some Yeats, some H.G. Wells, Arthurian legends, and Shakespeare-related texts. A totally misshelved and out-of date Lonely Planet guide (why is it there?). Some Asimov. A few faves:



Book Shelves #47, 11.18.2012


Book shelves series #47, forty-seventh Sunday of 2012

So this is what happens—books pile up. Okay, maybe that sentence is missing a clear subject: I pile books up.

This stack mounded on my record player over the last week; I intended to shelve about half of these:


My shelving solution is woefully short-term (more double stocked shelves).

Anyway, this shelf is mostly other media, including DVDs, a few records, and playing cards.

Of note (perhaps) are the three illustrated volumes on the left that I’ve had forever.


The illustrated Kidnapped features art by N.C. Wyeth:


The illustrated Kipling was actually my father’s:


Have you read Adam Novy’s novel The Avian Gospels? It’s good stuff.


Like many bibliophiles, I’m a sucker for plain Penguins:


Book Shelves #46, 11.11.2012


Book shelves series #46, forty-sixth Sunday of 2012

Another double-stacked shelf. This one even has a stack of drifters.

This shelf is at my eye/arm level, and looking at it this way, I see that it gets a lot of shuffling—I can see where I started certain projects for the site.

I can see books that are in line, so to speak, for either proper shelving or for reading.

The mounding stack on the shelf below is a bit out of control, although most of what sits there comes from other places (I kinda sorta wrote about those here).

Below: Unsorted stuff that I’ve been reading of an afternoon:


This is the front stack—books that need proper shelving elsewhere, books that I’ve read (and sometimes reviewed here) in the past few months, or meant to read, or in some other way consulted or read from:


The far right side of the shelf—again, a very mixed bag. I think I originally intended to properly shelf everything here and then got sidetracked:


Moving left:


And here’s what’s behind the front stack—okay, I can see now the edges of an idea I had for shelving; I also see where I just abandoned that idea:


This whole project I blame on an essay by Georges Perec, collected in this one:


This is one of my favorite book covers:


More covers I like from this shelf:


Book Shelves #45, 11.04.2012


Book shelves series #45, forty-fifth Sunday of 2012

Yon shelf, murky, dim:


Homeboy on the end, once my parents’,  tschotchke of time in ’80s South Africa, used to work as a bookend, now he just hangs out on this double-booked shelf.


Front layer:


Back layer, including a number of volumes (to be clear: Chabon, Martel, Diaz, Eugenides) I should just trade in.


(Also: I hate this project and wish I’d never started it).

Book Shelves #44, 10.28.2012


Book shelves series #44, forty-fourth Sunday of 2012

Not a particularly beautiful shelf—it sits between a TV and a soundbar; houses an unused Wii, an analog clock, and a picture of my kids. The books camouflage cords and wires.

You can see the whole shelf in the top pic. The big pic on the right: a Kokeshi doll set on Henry Miller volume that was a gift from a friend years ago in high school.

To the left: Bukowski, Miller, Anaïs Nin. Then, a section of stuff you can’t really see, including an extremely tattered copy of A Passage to India.

Lower right: Mass-market paperbacks that were especially important to me over the years and as a result have managed to hang around—even in cases where they were replaced by handsomer volumes. Usually obscured by the clock. Includes stuff by Borges, Carson McCullers, Hemingway, Twain, Chopin, Richard Wright . . .

Book Shelves #43, 10.21.2012


Book shelves series #43, forty-third Sunday of 2012

Kind of a hodgepodge shelf—some literary biography, a few now-redundant collections, some literary criticism, art books, etc.

Tracy Daugherty’s Donald Barthelme biography Hiding Man is on the far left; I reviewed it a few years ago, taking note of my favorite part, the so-called postmodernists’ dinner.

Next to it is Susan Sontag’s Reborn, a collection of early journals that I also reviewed.

Next to these two is Sara Davidson’s Loose Change. My aunt gave me a box of books years ago (lots of Asimov and Octavia Butler) and this was in here.

I knew about it because of a long essay in a 2007 issue of The Believer.


I picked up Penguin’s The Essential James Joyce in Jimbocho, an area in Tokyo known for used bookstores.

I recall paying maybe ¥100 for it. It comprises a few selections from Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, some of  Joyce’s (totally unessential) poetry, and the entirety of Dubliners, Exiles, and Portrait. I’ve kept it because of sentiment (and  I like the cover).