Bookshelves reveal so much about a person. All my life I’ve loved libraries and bookstores. The stacks of books, big and small, comfort my spirit, so I’ve created a mini version in our home. I have a very eclectic combination of titles, so I’d like to share my bookshelves with you.
As an English major, I collected Norton’s Anthologies at Colorado State University, books three to four inches thick, forty years old, and I still can’t let them go. They feel like good old friends. While at the university, I added to that collection Milton and individual Shakespeare plays I studied in my upper level classes. I have one Louis L’Amour book, Sachett, which we read in my Shakespeare class when we were reading Julius Caesar, comparing the two characters. I’ve revisited the Shakespeare’s plays over the years when I’ve wanted to renew my acquaintance with a specific play. Also, I have kept The Iliad of Homer and The Odyssey of Homer.
Because I studied the classics, I added Ernest Hemingway’s short stories, Walt Whitman’s poetry and T. S. Eliot’s poetry. This summer, I focused on Hemingway’s writings after watching the Ken Burns’ document. I read The Sun Also Rises and A Moveable Feast to sample one of his novels and his memoir, but I’ve labored long on his short story collections. It fascinates me how he can take a single moment in time and write it to the fullest. At the university, I studied Charles Dickens, and I’ve stored his books in our storage shed.
I love poetry. On my poetry shelf, I have several books by my favorite current poet, Mary Oliver. I also have several poetry collections, and a slim Emily Dickinson book highlighting her special poetry. I also have a local Mexican poet, Jimmy Santiago Baca’s book, Martín & Meditations on the South Valley.
Being in the Southwest, I love reading books about Native Americans. I have two classics, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Black Elk Speaks. Surprisingly, you won’t see my favorite author, Tony Hillerman’s books on my shelf because my husband has them on his. Several years ago, I collected the Don Coldsmith’s Spanish Bit Saga series with rich stories about the Plains Indians dating back to the Spaniards coming here.
One of my favorite educational professional development workshop was the Latin America Database Workshop, and I gathered a nice collection of Latin writers like Eduardo Galeano and Rigoberto Menchú.
Over my years in recovery, my bookshelves dedicated to this vital part of my life have grown, but my mainstay is Alcoholics Anonymous. I have many other books addressing alcoholism, codependency, family of origin issues, and incest.
Because of my wide reading in recovery, I met Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, and stockpiled several of her books on my bookshelves. My favorite is When Things Fall Apart. I also learned about Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet, in my recovery wanderings and have a collection of his poetry.
One of my largest collections is my religious books. I have an assortment of Bibles, commentaries and study aides. My favorite commentary is the William Barclay’s The Daily Study Bible Series on the New Testament. I read one of these daily.
Included in my religious collection is C. S. Lewis’ The Narnia Tales, which I reread last summer after a forty-year break. How delightful that was to revisit Narnia and get reacquainted with Aslan.
As a middle school English teacher, I collected so many books over the years to have available in my classroom for my students, but I have given most of them away. I kept limited books from teaching years like Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl and books about her life. Also, I have all the Harry Potter books, but they’re in my husband’s library. I will never forget seeing a small sixth grader carrying around his copy of one of the Potter books and it was almost as big as he was!
My professional library of books addressed class managing and other education topics, and you guessed it—writing! But I gave most of them away, except for Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequality, a book telling the sad tale of the inequality of education across the United States.
As a writer, I’ve gathered writing books for many years. Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones heads my list of Nat’s, but I have several of her books. I used that book in teaching writing to my middle school students, changing my attitude towards writing. It freed me up to see myself as a writer, and many of my students did the same. Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way changed my life many years ago with her tool, Morning Pages. I still do them every morning.
To date, I also have an extensive digital library on Kindle, iBooks and Kobo. I joined the digital world with reluctance at first. But now, I enjoy using my iPad to read a book, especially when we’re traveling.
Recently, as I looked at my bookshelves, I saw several books I bought, put on the shelf and never read. I decided it was time to read them, so I’m working my way through those titles right now.
In conclusion, I hope you’ve enjoyed your travels through my personal library. What you see here is a wide range of interests and flavors—that’s me! I believe in diversity and a multitude of possibilities.
What do your bookshelves look like if you have a personal library? What are your favorite books?
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