The Books in your Living Room

bookshelfSo Portland is the most book buying city in the US. Or maybe we’re the most literate city in the US. Or was it that we’re the greenest book recycling city in the US? No, I think it was that we’re the most gourmet, bicycling while having a tiny paperback poking from our messenger bags city in the US. I think that’s what The New York Times said anyway.

And not like I need to make this leap for this post to be relevant to Portland, but I choose to because it’s leap day and I want everyone to be happy that I’m posting about Portland. Can it be leap day all the time so I can post about things that are interesting to me in the hopes that they’re interesting to about two of you out there, Portland or not? I guess not.


I was reading Bookslut today and there was a great link to this article about the books on your shelf. One guy says the books on the living room shelves ought to be all books you’ve read. (I think he’s being ironic in his column, but there’s no fun in talking about books unless we’re all going to be extremely serious and check our senses of humor at the door.) One guy says, pishaw! Bookshelves are to display the books that we haven’t read in the hopes that the people reading the spines will think we are the type of people to read these tomes.

I was a bookseller for five years. My partner was a bookseller for twelve years. We have a lot of books. Have we read them all? God only knows. All I know about the books on my shelves is that they’re a lot like bunnies — they reproduce whenever I turn my back and they are dirty, dirty, mind-warping things. That’s like bunnies, right?

As for the books on that shelf, I haven’t read four of them. A few I have read, one of them is by a former teacher, three are by favorite authors, one I read in an afternoon, one is by Kelly Link who I wished I loved and I try to love but I just don’t, and two books are by me, while the others are collections in which you’ll find my short stories.

So, what’s on your shelf?

5 Comments so far

  1. divebarwife (unregistered) on February 29th, 2008 @ 4:09 pm

    So I think the books should be either ones you have read – or ones you are actually kind somewhat planning on reading. Having ones out simply for "decoration" or look impressive is as silly as buying jeans because of the label on the butt..but hey – people do that!

    I will admit though – I am guilty of hiding my "secret pleasure" books behind the "hey look I’m reading this books."

    Oh – and a question. Why do people who work in bookstores call themselves book sellers? It’s not a term you hear from people who sell clothes, or furniture, or records… not being snotty. Just wondering?

  2. lorenzo (unregistered) on February 29th, 2008 @ 4:10 pm

    Hooray for Kav and Klay! I’m reading it now.

  3. melissa lion (unregistered) on February 29th, 2008 @ 4:27 pm

    DBW — I have no idea why booksellers are called that. I know that there’s a patron saint of booksellers and that once you’re a bookseller, you’re always a bookseller — I can’t step into Powell’s without straightening. I also know that booksellers use the term bookseller to (snottily) separate the wheat from the chaff as in, so, are the cashiers booksellers? Shyah right! But I think it’s just a term for the occupation like cashier or professor or doctor. Bookselling, like being a butcher, used to be a profitable, serious occupation. It’s not profitable anymore, unfortunately. But it still is serious — I had to take a book test at my first bookstore job. I missed three and my bookseller partner never lets me live that down.

    Lorenzo — Michael was working on that book while he was my teacher. I loved K&K, but I loved Werewolves in their Youth way better.

  4. setya (unregistered) on February 29th, 2008 @ 5:26 pm

    Turning around and looking at the shelf directly behind my head I find amongst many….
    Soul Mountain — Gao Xingjian, Blankets — Craig Thompson, Fortress of Solitude – Jonathan Lethem, Motherless Brooklyn — Jonathan Lethem, The Depford Trilogy — Robertson Davies, Housekeeping — Marilynne Robinson, Jonathan Ames — I Love You More Than You Know, 3 Russell Banks books and one of my all time favorites…Angle of Repose — Wallace Stegner.

    I’ve read them all and love them all. I have not purchased a lot of books since moving here but the library and I have become great friends!

  5. sabernar (unregistered) on February 29th, 2008 @ 5:43 pm

    This is easier than listing:

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