Metatalktail Hour: Bookshelves! April 27, 2019 5:33 PM   Subscribe

Good Saturday evening, MetaFilter! This week, bookmammal (eponysterical) wants you to "Show us a picture of your bookshelf/bookcase! Tell us what you’re reading now! Make a book recommendation! Have a cool story about attending a book signing or meeting an author? Tell us about it! Let’s talk books!"

As always, this is a conversation starter, not limiter, so tell us everything that's up with you! And hit me up with future topics!
posted by Eyebrows McGee to MetaFilter-Related at 5:33 PM (108 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

My favourite book signing story is that I was going to see Zadie Smith speak, and assuming she would sign copies of her then-latest book, Swing Time, I thought I’d be original and bring one of her older novels. I had actually forgotten the book I wanted signed at home, and so, I went back and got it and, as a result, didn’t make it in time to be in general seating. Good thing there was an overflow room. I stood in line, ended up behind an attractive woman against my wishes (despite my attempts to slow-roll it and not standing next to her). What happens in book signings is that someone walks the lineup asking your name and spelling, and writes it down, and puts the piece of paper inside the book so that the author doesn’t spend time listening to people spell their names. It would emerge from this person that I was the only one with The Autograph Man, one of her lesser known novels (one I think about a lot because she has the best read on Americans I can think of). By the time I got to her, I hadn’t thought of anything to say, but gladly she found it drôle that she was autographing a book about someone who seeks out celebrities’ autographs.

There’s that and the time I got Arundhati Roy to sign my Kindle, after having printed out the book cover of her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Yes, I was the only one, and she laughed.
posted by sillygwailo at 5:52 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]


You do not want to see my bookshelves; they need a major reorganization. But the books are my comfort objects and they are the main feature of my apartment. They were moved to Canada slowly, in small boxes in the trunks of cars, because I couldn’t wait for my visa to have them.

I’m waiting for my ... date ... at the bar I’m the restaurant where he works. It’s so ... normal!
posted by wellred at 5:57 PM on April 27 [4 favorites]


I picked up a paperback copy of The Peloponnesian War years ago in a free book exchange near my college dorm, and only recently started on it. It's quite a good read! Moving speeches, fascinating historical analysis, and thrilling battles leave something for everyone.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 6:27 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]


I read Philosophers Flight by Tom Miller this week, and was delighted with it. I thought it had been around a while, but it was just published in 2018. It's concerns a young man trying to break into an "Old Girls Network," line of work in 1910ish. I believe you will enjoy it.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:43 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]


I'm only just getting started with A Colony In A Nation, which I'm reading in tiny sips here and there because parenting.
posted by Jpfed at 6:45 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]


There are two things I've learned from keeping chickens: you can never have enough hay, and you can never have enough milk crates. Milk crates are lovely, since they make perfect nesting boxes and carrying baskets, and in a pinch can function as a serviceable stepladder, stool, cage, grate, etc. Better still, you can get them for free if you're clever! So we have dozens of them around and use them for many things.

Now, I have a policy of only keeping books that I've read and would re-read or reference. Otherwise, I give them away. In the past, that's kept the stock of books from getting too big... but I haven't had adequate leisure time or energy for the last mumble and consequently my customary stack-of-unread-books has grown so large that my bookcase has needed to grow, and grow, and grow.

I'm sure you see where I'm going with this: milk crates and two-by-fours are a magnificent modular shelving system. Consequently I have half a wall of old favorites, and another half a wall of I'm-sure-I'll-have-time-to-read-this-someday, for which I hope someday actually arrives. And if it does, I can put the milk crates back to some other use.

(Yes, I wash the milk crates after pulling them from chicken duty, don't worry.)
posted by ragtag at 6:48 PM on April 27 [7 favorites]


I have several 'favourite' books. I love the "Great Brain" books. I read them as a child and read them to my kids when they were young. I just reread them a few years ago. They just hit the spot with me. On the surface they are just fascinating stories for a preteen child. They are about growing up in a different time. Lots of freedom for the kids. They take place in Adenville Utah. There are also subtle (or not so subtle, YMMV) underlying moral lessons about helping your fellow citizens out, about right and wrong. The characters are mormon. I am Jewish. The lessons were mainly about the 10 commandments without ever mentioning the 10 commandments. I also related to the fact that there were three boys in the family as mine has. When I first read them, I wanted to be Tom, The Great Brain. As I got older and reread them, I realized I wanted to be his younger brother who narrates the stories.

I also love the book Reminiscences of a Stock Operator. It is the story of Jesse Livermore. I love the autobiography (two parts) of Bernard Baruch. Little known fact, Bernard Baruch is one of the greatst short sellers of all time.

I gravitate to non-fiction, most biography and autobiography. Inspirational stories, stories of perseverance against odds be they physical limitations, societal limitation (discrimination) or any limitation. Along sort of similar lines, I love stories about people overcoming government or institutional red-tape, ignorance or simply bad behavior.

When not reading non-fiction, I love a good/bad Nelson Demille book or a spy novel. Good summer beach reading.
posted by AugustWest at 6:48 PM on April 27 [8 favorites]


Hello, my name is Homo neanderthalensis and I have a problem. Not pictured is my side bookshelf filled with Star Trek paperbacks. My current read is Orleans' The Library Book, which as soon as I finish I'll put up on FanFare. As you can see, I've got a bit of a backlog.

I got a few new April plants and sowed a new shade bed for lettuces and turnips, because I lost 80% of my planted turnips to cabbage fly. Just today I've noticed the cauliflower looks peaky, and low and behold they have some cabbage fly maggots too. I squished what I could and I'll spray neem oil for a few days but it's not great. Of course cauliflower are not turnips, turnips are all root so cabbage fly maggots are devastating while with proper care cauliflower can survive infestation, especially since these are quite big. But it's annoying. On the aphid front I did a little Biological Warfare on them, placing some ladybug eggs I found on a dill stem into the sun gold plant. Which seems several days later to have solved my aphid problem. My dreams of a reusable homemade trellis system were dashed so I just staked up the beans the old fashioned way, stakes and netting. Next year... next year... Finally, everything is flowering right on time, or a little early, which is always encouraging to see. Local cat puts her butt on my squash however. The cats were all out today, I saw Endgame this morning and returned to a feral cat party in my backyard. As both beasties look to be tipped I'm happy as a clam to have them- they'll chase off the nastier kind of vermin. It does put the kibosh on my plans for a bird feeder though, as I won't put song birds into kitty peril. At least they've stopped sitting (and shitting) in my beds and pots. Some of my mint cuttings have taken, so I'll be able to give some nice potted plants as gifts in May. I'm going to have to scour the roots of all my brassicas tomorrow, but It's necessary work. Bleh maggots.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:49 PM on April 27 [8 favorites]


I read a lot, or used to, but my bookshelves are surprisingly bare. If John Waters came home with me and looked at my shelves he'd probably just leave in disgust. Then my wife would ask me why I brought home John Waters and showed him my books.

I used to keep all my books. I had shelves and shelves of them and when I moved I'd move boxes and boxes. Then one day someone in some comment on Metafilter said something about how books need to be read. They weren't being read sitting on my shelves.

So I gave away almost all of my books. First I told friends and family to "come get 'em", then I donated the rest to the local library so they could sell them in the book fair.

I've done the same thing a couple of times since. I did switch to a Kindle for a couple of years but lately I've found myself coming back to real books.

Now my shelves are mostly just reference books, cookbooks, guide books (good lord so many guide books), books that I love so much I decided to keep them, the complete set of Peanuts, and a few others.

The rest of them are out in the wild, being enjoyed by someone else.
posted by bondcliff at 7:01 PM on April 27 [14 favorites]


Milk crates are also great for LP storage and toting, back when people bought and hauled records. Luckily, my father-in-law built us a proper vinyl cabinet.

But back to books ... The books I've kept are an odd mix of comics and graphic novels, anime art books, and a lot of Terry Pratchett, plus other fantasy and sci-fi. My wife's collection is mixed in, making us looked like more balanced readers. We have rediscovered the local library, and with it, the free book bin, so my side table has an odd mix of local plant books, biographies, and a guide to beers of the world.

My current library pick is All Strangers are Kin. So far, very interesting journey of the Middle East through a personal study of Arabic.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:13 PM on April 27 [3 favorites]


You can see part of mine in this photo, though the main star is the owl jewelry box that bondcliff secret-quonsared me in 2016. I have three four-shelf bookshelves in a row, with more books on top. I have a separate skinny four-shelf bookshelf with mostly cookbooks and grad-school textbooks on psychology. I think I'm going to move the textbooks to work, because the cookbooks need more room.

I just finished Island of the Sea Women by Lisa See about Jeju Island in Korea in the 1930s and beyond, and it was good, but I read Freshwater by Akwaeke Ezemi a few weeks ago and I cannot get my head out of that world. It is one of the most extraordinary, life-changing novels I have ever read.

I stopped at the library today and picked up The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe by Marija Gimbutas (which is something I want to read based on a rabbit hole I went down after reading Freshwater) and saw that Kate Morton has a new novel, The Clockmaker's Daughter, so I grabbed that, too.

I also hiked just under 10 miles today in just under four hours, with an elevation gain of just under 1600 feet. It was gorgeous, and I am tired, and I'm going to go eat all the carbs.
posted by lazuli at 7:51 PM on April 27 [9 favorites]


Homo neanderthalensis--I LOVED The Library Book!
AugustWest--I remember reading the Great Brain books when I was a kid! I also remember liking the illustrations a lot because they were so different from anything else that I'd seen in kids' books.

I've got nine bookcases of varying sizes throughout my house, but this one is my favorite. It's in my loft, and there's a big overstuffed chair in the room by a large window, and I love to read there. As you can see, my lovely cat, Phoebe, enjoys books as well and often uses them as furniture.

I also instantly zero in on bookshelves in movies, TV shoes, or photos to see if I can identify any titles. If I actually see a book that I own-BONUS!!!! (The downside is this often causes me to miss some major plot points in whatever I'm watching)

I read a lot of different things, both fiction and nonfiction. Right now I'm reading a young adult novel called I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez and so far it's very good.

In other related news--I started my new job at the public library two weeks ago and so far, so good! Lots to learn, but very interesting and it feels really satisfying to be there.
posted by bookmammal at 7:52 PM on April 27 [15 favorites]


I'm down to one shelf at the moment. A couple of the books are here to stay, two will be finished in the future, and the others are waiting to find new homes.

I just finished Sybille Bedford's A Legacy, which I didn't love as much as I expected to, yet I'm planning on trying again with one of her other books. I'm currently reading A Letter of Mary and The Travelling Cat Chronicles and I know the cat book is going to make me cry at some point--I've been taken in by Japanese animal books before, but this time I'm prepared.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:52 PM on April 27 [3 favorites]


I love having so much possibility on the shelves, and I am comforted to know that there's a book for whatever mood I'm in.

Current bookmood: Douglas Adams, "The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time," alternating with the Mueller Report.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:06 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]


I'm finally reading Metafilter fave Come As You Are, which is indeed quite good.

My bookshelves were designed and built by moi, and they are beautiful. Mostly they hold cookbooks because whenever space constraints make it time to triage books, the cookbooks always win.

Today I went to a weightlifting clinic where I learned that I'm a pathetic weakling. I'm kind of invigorated by this discovery! I thought I was reasonably strong from all my other activities and am amazed to see how very wrong I was. It's exciting to have a big project ahead of me!
posted by HotToddy at 8:09 PM on April 27 [3 favorites]


My current read is Orleans' The Library Book, which as soon as I finish I'll put up on FanFare.

I finished it this morning. Eeeeee!

My shelves look a bit like what you'd expect (that's at my dad's house, but my shelves at home resemble those). I've been putting my booklist for 2019 on Twitter partly because I love blabbing about books and partly because it keeps me from slipping into some easy/trashy Dan Brown, and reading things that take a bit more effort (to locate, to read, to stay reading). I even like Dan Brown's books okay, but I know there are books I will like better if I only go get them. I've been loving the Expanse series lately. I really like good, long stories right before bed that aren't too sadistic and where the main characters more or less like each other. Before that it was the Murderbot Diaries. Making time for serious reading (like good chunks of reading time, not SRSBZNS reading) was a decision I made a few years ago and it was a good one.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:10 PM on April 27 [4 favorites]


Homo neanderthalensis--I LOVED The Library Book!

My mother read it first and now it's mine to read- I'm about 60 pages in and yeah, it's good. I suspect unlike some of my other fanfare posts which were liked but didn't garnish a ton of comments, this one will probably have quite a few comments, its got a bit of a positive buzz around it, which should generate discussion. Also your shelves, and cat, are incredible!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 8:11 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]

The characters are mormon. I am Jewish.
I could have sworn that the main family is Catholic, which is why they have alcohol in their house, which scandalizes all the Mormon neighbors. I loved those books, too. I should re-read those books. Of all the books I read as a kid that were set in the America West, I think those have the highest potential to hold up. I'm scared to re-read the Little House books and Caddie Woodlawn, because I loved them but highly suspect I'd be horrified by them now.

I did one of my periodic attempts to read romance novels, and nope, still don't like romance novels. I'm halfway through Alyssa Cole's Once Ghosted, Twice Shy, and I think I'm going to give up. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's just not keeping my interest. I do like that the romance is between two women, which is a nice reminder that the genre is not as relentlessly heteronormative as people think.

Next up is In the Morning I'll Be Gone, which is book three of Adrian McKinty's Detective Sean Duffy series, which are crime novels set in Northern Ireland in the '80s. And I'm doing the Zombies, Run! 5K app, which is kind of making me want to read something by Naomi Alderman that is not about running away from zombies. Maybe I'll see if the library has The Power.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:33 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]


My thing is that I love non-fiction books - reference books, especially, and textbooks - so for me it's not so much the piles of fiction I haven't gotten around to (although, sure, I do have those too), it's the fact that I want to learn about all the science I didn't get to in school so I have a dozen astronomy books and half a dozen earth science books and biology, and a bunch of geography textbooks (all very different - did you know there are about a hundred different approaches to teaching geography these days?) and so many art history books (along with catalogs from most of the museum exhibits I've been to, and the Sister Wendy book I got at the Friends of the Library book sale, and - ) ...

and I love cheap used books SO MUCH that Friends of the Library book sale days are basically personal holidays for me, and I go and buy another few hundred books I don't have room for -

but honestly, they make me really, really happy. I know it's ridiculous to have literally thousands of books, especially since I can only actually get to a few hundred at any one time, but I just love having all kinds of Japanese grammar references and textbooks and Teach Yourself books while I'm learning Japanese, and the Hitchhikers Guide series in Italian, and a ton of scores for reading along with classical music, and Patti Smith's Just Kids, and the Da Capo Best Music Writing books, and the Dorling-Kindersley pocket books of Reptiles, and a growing collection of the Very Short Introductions, and Jorge el Curioso Monta en Bicicleta, and Geology in the Service of Man, and Eleanor Cameron's The Green and Burning Tree.

None of which seems to prevent me from having a dozen books out from the library at any given time, as well. I get much of my fiction from the library; I'm less inclined to want to keep that around. When I find a book I really, really like and want to own, I'll ask for it for my birthday, which is how I've gotten The Last Samurai, Black Hole Blues, and A Land by Jacquetta Hawkes.

I have also had the great good fortune to go to a LOT of book signings (mostly through San Francisco's City Arts and Lectures series, which I used to go to a lot); I commented a couple of years ago about meeting director Abraham Polonsky and the special inscription I got. I also got a kiss from Tom Robbins at a book signing.

I love books.
posted by kristi at 8:41 PM on April 27 [6 favorites]


I collect UFO books from the pre-Communion era.

I keep buying copies of Flying Saucers- Serious Business. It's a disease. I cannot help myself.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:08 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]


I sometimes fantasize about a book loft/storage bed, the kind you see on YouTube where the bed is high atop the shelves, and the area beneath is used for a desk and sitting area -- no doubt for reading and writing and contemplating more books.
But I'd need a 14-foot ceiling to really make this work.

And I have discovered Kindle. Actually, I got the Kindle Fire for the holidays, plugged in a library book under the tutelage of my youngest (oh, the tech-savvy abilities of our children!) and spent a glorious 20 minutes reading a book I could have checked out from down the street. Which I did later. And promptly let the the battery die down in the Kindle in the box.
Fast forward four months, and I started the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch, beginning with Midnight Riot. Unfortunately, the first book is only available from the library on ebook (yes, this irritates me immensely), so back to recharging the Kindle and downloading the book.
And this led to much frustration and a few choice words as I tried to figure out why I couldn't find the darn book. It was downloaded, right? Ugg.
Luckily, my children got the tech-savvy gene from their father, who showed me how to swipe-right and get the ebook. Simple, huh?
Not so much.
Just rechecked... yeah, the magic is still there. I feel like Harry Potter with his first sorcery book, hoping that the kitchen doesn't blow up.
This could seriously interfere with my crocheting schedule.
posted by TrishaU at 9:09 PM on April 27 [3 favorites]


Here's my bookshelves.

I finally purged all but the books I felt were important and I think this about 500. I pulled that number out of my ass.

I relentlessly organized them not only by topic but by height. No idea why.

The left side chosen topics were:
(top shelf)
left: sewing books including my mom's textbooks from her undergraduate Home Economics program
right: years of back issues of both Burda and Threads

(second from the top)
left: Russian language textbooks, Russian novels, and short stories, books that the Russian inspection team brought to my dad's base in England back in 1989
right: Everything I've found so far by Nabokov

(third)
both sides: science fiction

(fourth)
both sides: kids' books that I've loved for decades

On to the right side...
(top shelf)
left: financial advice books
right: a bunch of random stuff

(second from the top)
(left side)
my collection of fiction and non-fiction books about San Francisco
(right side)
short stories and compilations of short stories

(third from the top)
(left side)
comics, Mad magazine, Peanuts, Get Your War On, Maus, etc.
(right side)
more humor

(fourth from the top)
(left side)
fiction
(right side)
poetry
posted by bendy at 9:12 PM on April 27 [8 favorites]


Tucson, 1995, I was visiting Tina, and met for the first time this mope she ended up marrying for a few years, we went out to eat somewhere downtown, came out and I for the first time saw what a bitty town Tucson was then, they actually had ppl to roll up the sidewalks at like 7:23 PM, so there's not much that we're going to get into, Tina says let's go to this one place and we did.

We were sortof loud and calamitous whenever we walked in the place but quieted down fast, a woman was reading from a collection of short stories she'd written. She was a good reader, a great voice, about as intense as you'd figure a writer ought to be, and dressed just so, plenty of Tucson but a sense of The New Yorker, too, if you catch my drift. Not being dumb, I bought that book, and asked her to sign it, screwed up my nerve and asked how to write her, and she looked at me, deep.

I drove trying to find that address but no luck, a day ticked by, another. I don't know how I finally caught her but I did, and we walked in the blazing afternoon on the U of A campus, where she taught, and I had to leave, flight to catch, and she turned to me, brown eyes mottled gold caught in that sunshine, she came in, kissed me, backed up, and she looked at me, deep.

I looked out that plane window as I flew out, knowing something big was going on, wondering what it might turn out to be.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:15 PM on April 27 [4 favorites]


Currently I'm alternating listening again to The Killer Angels by Michael Sharra and The Dispatcher by MetaFilters own John Scalzi. Audible books. I find a beautiful place to sit when on the bicycle ride, dump the pack and the helmet and sit back and listen. I love it.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:26 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]


My daily working books. We've moved several times in as many years, so I've trimmed my work books down while stuff was stored, so these are (most of - apart from garden history) the essentials, and many of them are heavily scribbled in and Postit-ed.

Freshwater Mussels which I did my first fanfare recently is the best nature book I've seen in years.

We've finally got the makings of a garden again, a bit overgrown, too many trees, e.g. washline was in a pool of shade from a walnut (and also had a very buttercuppery lawn). It's had too much chainsaw care in the past so bit trick to remedy.

The tree had potential so my aim is to train it to a lollipop form - as thin as possible, here is stage one - , a promising start and the washline now sits in a pool of sunlight. Tree canopy is about 6' thick, target is 3'.

The main trick is to not own a chain saw, and keep on standing back and looking - a hand-pruning saw helps with this!
posted by unearthed at 9:50 PM on April 27 [3 favorites]


Library sale today, two stand out. 'The Zombie survival guide,' and Hitchens: 'Arguably'
posted by clavdivs at 10:00 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]


I can't seem to get on Goodreads thanks to a bug with my Amazon account, but a while ago I used Amazon's wish list function to make a list of everything I'd read in 10 or 15 years, and I think it's filled with amazing stuff you should read, too:

Books Stellar Has Read
posted by twoplussix at 10:33 PM on April 27 [3 favorites]


I read voraciously and love re-reading books, so my house is full of them - every room except the bathroom has at least one shelf of books, and two rooms have big bookshelves. If I haven’t read a book in the last couple of years I put it away and see if I miss it. A friend borrowed several of my favorite books and then moved to Beijing, and I miss some of the books as much as I miss the friend.

A sampling from my living room bookshelf: a book of clay and glaze recipes, a field guide to wild mushrooms, a book giving historical evidence that pirates were all doing it with each other, Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, a Spanish-English dictionary, Susan Choi’s novel about Patty Hearst, a novel a friend of a friend wrote about the aftermath of Argentina’s dirty war, a cookbook from the 1940s that belonged to my grandma, two books of Joy Harjo’s poetry, multiple novels by Scarlett Thomas, a book about the Jane Collective, a young adult novel about roller derby, a history of radical practices in social work, The Bone People, and three different compilations of essays by feminists of color. Plus a children’s book Nikki McClure wrote about the farmers’ market, a stuffed dromedary, a stack of issues of Harper’s that I need to finish reading, a Lite Brite, and a sea creature floor puzzle. Um, I take pride in not organizing my books.
posted by centrifugal at 10:33 PM on April 27 [5 favorites]


OK, I want a list called Books Centrifugal Has Read, too.
posted by twoplussix at 10:43 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]


Currently reading Egil’s Saga along with the Saga Thing podcast (I learned about Saga Thing on here on Metafilter, so this is your fault). Egil is a psychotic Viking poet from a family of werewolves with authority issues. It’s a fun read.

And speaking of authority issues, I’ve also just started No Is Not Enough by Naomi Klein because I heard it described as ‘cautiously hopeful’ and I could use some of that, these days.
posted by rodlymight at 10:46 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]


My bookshelves are stuffed full enough that they didn't even stir in the biggish earthquake we had last summer, knock wood for future tremors. Most of the fiction is SF, mysteries, or YA; I don't seem to get along with straight literary fiction for some reason, although there are exceptions. The non-fiction includes (in English) lots of collections of letters and diaries, mostly from the general neighborhood of WWII; some Studs Terkel and related works; books about (a fairly random selection) Deaf culture, ESL classrooms, Lubavitch girls, Balanchine, translation, West Point, New York City, Iran, and sex, among other things. The Japanese non-fiction covers a lot of pre-WWII stuff as well as (for instance) trains, Korea, Osaka, Finland, and women's history.
The oldest book I have is a copy of The Cheerful Prisoner, by Toshihiko Sakai (socialist, publisher, writer, feminist, father), published in Tokyo in 1911. This means that as of next Wednesday, it will have seen five imperial eras.
posted by huimangm at 10:52 PM on April 27 [5 favorites]


I just started re-reading Shikasta on my Kobo last night. I do almost all of my recreational reading on that and almost all of my work reading on paper. The Kobo is my "bookshelf" at home. Everything else is at the office pretty much. Which is kind of sad. I've always had a ton of books around the house wherever I have lived, but these days with a small apartment and a large office (yeah me!) it just doesn't make sense.

It's mega-Golden Week 10 Day Holiday Extravaganza in Japan now, but I have to go in to work Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, so it's just a block of not much going on without really being a holiday. A lot of students will be absent and campus will be quiet. But, right now it also means that Tokyo is calm and restful. It is a beautiful sunny day, so Mrs Gotanda and I went out for tan-tan men and then she went to her work and I went out for a meander. Stopped in the Hara Museum for a bit. It's one of my favorite places in Tokyo and I am already preemptively sad that it is closing the end of next year. Enjoying it while I still can.
posted by Gotanda at 11:12 PM on April 27 [4 favorites]


Here’s an extract from a book review I recently wrote for a a well-researched and most interesting book titled ‘Tatau: A history of Samoan tattooing’. It was published by Te Papa Press last year and is a contender for a major NZ book award (see the link at the end of this post, which has info about other great books too).

‘The history of tatau has…been one of both continuity and disruption, with social, cultural and technological change coming from within Sāmoan society as much from the outside world.’ (p.298)

If you know nothing at all about tattoos or fa‘asamoa (Sāmoan culture, values and traditions) this excellent book will lead you into a whole new world. It focuses on Sāmoan tatau – the lines and motifs that form Sāmoan tattoo designs – and the ceremonies and rituals that accompany the process of receiving a tatau, often considered as a rite of passage for young people. Authors Sean Mallon and Sebastien Galliot are joined by other contributors, including poets, academics and historians, to describe the complex history and symbolism of tatau over the past 3000 years. Collectively they explore and explain the multiple influences on tatau practices, which include politics, geography, sexuality, genealogy, gender roles, art, literature, health and safety, religion, science and (latterly) social media.

Mallon, a writer and Te Papa curator, is of Sāmoan and Irish descent. His deep interest in the topic was sparked by an ‘early and vague’ memory of his grandfather’s tatau. Galliot is a French anthropologist who has carried out extensive research on traditional tatau and lived in Sāmoa while completing his PhD. Both authors have developed complementary and in-depth knowledge of tatau history and contemporary practices.

http://www.ockham.co.nz/news/2019-ockham-new-zealand-book-awards-finalists/?locale=en
posted by The Patron Saint of Spices at 11:35 PM on April 27 [3 favorites]


An old photo I had handy of some of my shelves in the state of sorry disorganisation they were in about 8 years ago. I've since had to part company with several of those books (among them, alas, the first edition of the Codex Seraphinianus you can see on the left).

Just now I'm half-way through novel called A Touch of Mistletoe and pondering putting together an FPP about Barbara Comyns, its author.
posted by misteraitch at 11:46 PM on April 27 [5 favorites]


I used to keep all my books. I had shelves and shelves of them and when I moved I'd move boxes and boxes. Then one day someone in some comment on Metafilter said something about how books need to be read. They weren't being read sitting on my shelves.

I did the same, but I can’t remember if it was spurred by a comment here or just pushed by life in general. Occasionally I miss a book that we no longer have, but mostly I appreciate having less stuff.

These days I do my leisure fiction reading on a kindle; I like reading on paper better but having every ebook in the public library available at my fingertips is nice, and the kindle is much better for traveling.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:46 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]


I have only one author for whom I am a total completist, and for some reason that is Stephen R. Donaldson, of Thomas Covenant fame. I've read everything he's ever written, short stories, all his series, his detective novels written under another name, even a few essays that I came across.

He recently published the second novel in his new series, which I just started reading. I don't read books nearly as much as I used to, so this is sort of a moment, that I'm reading a book. I'm interested to see how the story from the first book develops, and he sort of fudges it with setting this new book 20 years later. But that might also make it really interesting.

He's a ridiculous author to have read everything he's written, really. (And I've read most of it more than once.) But somehow his authorial sensibilities resonate with me, and so that's what I'm reading right now.

I just noticed Pynchon's Bleeding Edge sitting on my partner's shelf earlier today and realized I hadn't read that yet. So maybe that's next? Although Pynchon sometimes feels like work. Against The Day wore me out on novels that feel like work. *sigh*
posted by hippybear at 12:30 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]


The one signed book I have is Higher Order Perl, mjd even gave me a little group theory problem to solve that I've put off for ages with the hope that by the time I get back to it I'll be able to answer it. The "wouldn't want to lose them" books are things that I scavenged. A '78 K&R The C Programming Language and a '84 BSD 4.2 Unix User's Manual. Then there's the whole shelf of Japanese language reference books (it helps when you're doing work for a book importer). On the Fantasy/Fiction side... a whole bunch of Ian M. Banks (some of the latter ones not read because... there will be no more once they're gone) and almost all of Steven Brust's Dragaeran books that's I've been following since the '80s.

I don't read books that much anymore, eyesight went a bit wonky and made it a bit more of a chore. sigh
posted by zengargoyle at 12:50 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]


I don't really have a bookshelf so it's like, to quote Ghostbusters,
RAY STANTZ: Symmetrical book stacking, just like the Philadelphia mass turbulence of 1947.

PETER VENKMAN: You're right. No human being would stack books like this.
The latest things I've read were the 1930s science fiction short stories “Parasite Planet” and “The Lotus Eaters” by Stanley G. Weinbaum. As racist and sexist and colonialist as you might expect but having read bits of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Barsoom stuff, or for example his The Land That Time Forgot and some other early pulp sci-fi, these short stories had a surprisingly modern feel to them by comparison.
posted by XMLicious at 1:10 AM on April 28 [4 favorites]


I used to be a massive book hoarder, and so I'm not allowed to collect books any more. These days I have even had to inform or warn new friends with variations of "Please don't judge me by my lack of books, I do like books and I do read, I'm just not allowed to collect them any more."

At one point I must have had 1500+ books, and it wasn't like I was collecting serials or something. Lots and lots of fiction, reference books, text books, big books, little books all kinds of books.

It was probably approaching a non-metaphorical ton of books. For someone who doesn't drive and has been homeless a whole lot, this... this was actually a huge fucking problem, because at one point I had like 20-30 milk crates full of books and not a whole lot else.

I used to have a whole lot of classic and very classy HMCO editions and prints that had been gifts from my grandfather. Most of it was fairly heavy Western lit classics. Red Badge of Courage, Mutiny on the Bounty, Soldiers and Civilians and so on. Some Tolkien, too, including a lavishly illustrated copy of the Hobbit. I had some really nice books.

I also had a lot of really crappy swapmeet thrift store books.

I also had a whole lot of very well loved books, including paperbacks that had been so well read they were' just loose pages held together with a rubber band.

The end of my book hoarding days is actually really emotional and poignant. Warning: Onions.

So, I'm moving yet again, and my life long friend is rescuing me once more, and he and his partner are picking me up and driving my weird self to San Francisco to go live on a bus.

1,000 miles away my grandmother is in hospice and I know she's probably not going to make it through the week, and my grandfather, the giver of so many of these books, had passed over a decade previously. I wasn't able to go see her but I was at peace with that as I had lived with her as a caretaker for a number of years, and made my peace a long time ago. She wasn't really there for the last few years as she was a survivor of a few strokes, and even when I was her caretaker when she was a lot more lucid she was mainly of the vocal opinion she should have gone a while ago. Yeah, my family is pretty stoic and reserved, go figure.

And so I had found, much to my surprise, that I had made a decision. I wasn't going to move all these damn books yet again.

Further, not only did I want to carry all of those damn books, I decided that the future that I wanted to live in and inhabit had nothing to do with anything that could be found in most of those books, especially the heavily patriarchal Western lit crap that didn't really have any useful relevance to my present or future life. I decided I didn't really like some things about my very patriarchal Mormon grandfather, either, even if we shared a love of books.

I decided to stop carrying these heavy, old and currently pretty personally useless books and ideas around specifically to make room for new ones, because in less than 24 hours I was about to move into a very anarchic, chaotic and wild music and arts oriented community space and I was hungry and thirsty for drastic changes in my life.

And so we put most of my books in my friends van and drove them to the nearest Goodwill and unceremoniously dumped them on their loading dock. Not all of them, but like 90% of my collection that had been moved and carried so many miles.

Fifteen minutes later I got a text from my mom telling me my grandma passed away.

But I already knew. I felt it the instant I started putting crates of books down on that Goodwill loading dock. I don't know how I knew, but I did. I remember distinctly thinking and feeling "Welp, I guess this is it. Goodbye, grandma and grandpa. I'm doing something different, I guess."

It felt like a great weight lifted from my shoulders, and I haven't regretted that decision to this day.

Today I do have some books again, and they're some of my most used and favorite possessions. And they're mostly nature field guides and recent gifts, and I almost always have at least one of them in my bag at any given time.

I have the excellent MacKinnon/Pojar Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. I have the Golden Field Guide Birds of North America. I have another field guide for trees of North Amerca that I can't remember the proper author/title.

I also have my autographed copy of LeGuin's The World for The World is Forest. I have the Buckminster Fuller autobiography "I Seem To Be A Verb" which was a loan - not a gift - from an older artist friend who passed away many years ago.

And last, I have a super rare copy of The Kid's Future Whole Earth Catalog, inscribed to me on my birthday by my grandfather in 1979. It's the last and only book of his that I kept.

And of all the books I've ever owned, that one is likely most responsible for who I am today because it's filled with very accurate descriptions of many future technologies we're either using or exploring today, especially stuff like clean/renewable energy, sustainable living and permaculture, modern homesteading and even advanced technologies like modern global telecommunications, genetic engineering and biotech. It blew my already curious mind wide open and has lead to many, many good and interesting things.

And I like this small collection of books just fine and it suits me very well. I can spend hours with the MacKinnon and Pojar field guide. I just spent most of the day just laying in a grassy, sunny patch in the cedar grove trying to identify any and all plants I could see around me, including all the random sedges, grasses and asters. Doing plant ID successfully for some of these is remarkably challenging. I don't know why more people aren't more into it, it's like the best ARG except it's just reality.

I also don't see any plants at all as "weeds" now. They're good plants, Brent.

Speaking of which, in other local news it turns out this place has trilliums all over it and they're popping up and actually flowering all over the place and they're amazing. It's might actually be more rare than having wild orchids show up. If you ever see these rare three-lobed beauties, please do not disturb them or pick them! This usually kills off the whole trillium plant.

I have also taken down the humming bird feeder because there's so many flowers out that they were just ignoring it. And I want them to get to work pollinating all of those berries. It also looks like it's going to be a really good year for blueberries, bilberries and salal, likely due to all the snow we got this year. But they're just dripping in flowers and they're already forming berries.
posted by loquacious at 2:16 AM on April 28 [14 favorites]


I just finished The Out-of-Sync Child, a book on sensory processing difficulties. I found it sort of meh, truthfully; some bits were helpful, some felt awful handwavey. However, that constellation of issues has come up for me in raising Little eirias, and this seemed like a reasonable place to start my reading.

We have two large double bookcases: one for fiction, which lives in the guestroom, and one for nonfiction and assorted other nonsense, in the living room. They are both half-sorted messes right now, sadly.

My kid’s school requires all parents to volunteer around ten hours a year, and I get my volunteer hours in at the school library, helping the librarian re-cover and reshelve books. I LOVE THIS! — it is the most relaxing hour of my month. It is also a great perch from which to observe the inner workings of the school.
posted by eirias at 4:11 AM on April 28 [4 favorites]


When I worked as a bookseller at the big London bookshop, back in 2010, David Sedaris came on a book tour. That was the first time I saw him speak live, and he was fantastic. I got to manage the signing queue afterwards (I was the person with the post-its getting the correct spelling of people's names) and to hear him chat with every customer (which is such exemplary author behaviour). Finally after the last person's book was signed, the events manager asked if I would like a book signed, which obviously I did. He signed it "Thanks for touching the money", which I think maybe he does for a lot of booksellers, but I still really loved it, and I think about it pretty often, as I continue to touch the money.
posted by featherboa at 4:58 AM on April 28 [4 favorites]


Book stories, huh? I got nothing.

I suppose I could tell you what I'm reading.

Sabrina, by Nick Drnaso. It's devastatingly good. You should read that one. It pairs well with Jason Lutes' Berlin.

Just finished Truth in Advertising by John Kenny which had great moments.

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood, which I liked, very vulnerable and funny. I'm eager to read more from her.

I recently read this, The Trouble with Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power, by David Shields. It wasn't for me. Also vulnerable, but a bit too needy and reductive.

I do, however, recommend Hanif Abdurraqib's Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest. There is no one writing better about music and culture right now than Abdurraqib. His poetry and twitter stream are also pretty amazing.

Just got an early copy of this new David McCullough book The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West. Very much looking forward to plunging into that.

Also reading The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution by Ann Travers.

I'm about halfway through Jeff Tweedy's Let's Go (So We Can Get Back) which I kinda love so I'm taking it slowly.

Also recommend The Ultimate Cartoon Book of Book Cartoons .

Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History which I have in the bathroom and read from time to time.

And I finally went back to finish Pat Shipman's fascinating The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction. I'm not sure I'm convinced yet, but she's giving me a lot to think about.
posted by Stanczyk at 5:01 AM on April 28 [3 favorites]


I'm currently going nuts because I've mislaid my copy of Ali Smith's Winter and I'm dying to finish it. I would just download it, but my hard copy is a gift from a friend and I've been enjoying the feeling of reading this physical book that she gave me. We often give each other books that fit a holiday, significant date or season. This weekend in Chicago would be a perfect time to finish Winter. So to speak.

Book signings? My favorite was probably Anthony Bourdain. It seemed like someone had forgotten to publicize a change of venue for that signing, but anyway a friend and I were the only ones at his table at the LA farmer's market. It was more than ten years ago but he already was famous enough that I was surprised he wasn't being mobbed. He was just kind of a quiet island in the market. It was also a surprise to me how mild and polite he was, with a careful way of speaking-- much like he came across on TV towards the end, but in those days I guess I expected him to be rude or something. He signed our books and drew that picture of a skull and a dripping knife that was his trademark for a while. After he died, I realized with a pang that I'd had the books signed for friends and gave them away and had not gotten a single one for myself. I do treasure his Les Halles cookbook which for some reason seems to not be in print? The recipes are all traditional standards but I think it is some of his best writing. But I wish I had a book signed for me.

Nigella Lawson was also very kind and personalized everyone's books. The guy in front of me was fairly awful and condescending to her. He asked her which recipe in the book was her favorite and then started turning away while she was still answering, going "Yeah, yeah." He'd asked her a question and couldn't be bothered listening to the answer. I thought, wow, Nigella Lawson gets that treatment too and she doesn't seem the least bit surprised by it. But she was lovely to everyone.
posted by BibiRose at 6:45 AM on April 28 [3 favorites]


I am moving, and we've been looking at new places. There's been more than one place that we've had to remove from our list of possibles because it just couldn't accommodate all of our books. Places that have a lot of windows mean that you either need half-sized bookshelves, or cover up the windows with shelves.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:48 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]


I just finished reading Praise Song For The Butterflies by Bernice McFadden this morning and YOU GUYS. YOU GUYS, OMG. This book is SO GOOD. I highly recommend it, though it does spend a lot of time discussing the life of the main character being forced into ritual servitude, so it’s a hard read at times and not for everyone.
posted by obfuscation at 6:49 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Other than my cookbooks, the books I own haven't been touched in a while, nor do I have any real emotional attachment. I should probably Kondo-ize them. My local library is amazing (and about 5 blocks away), and I enjoy getting value out of my taxes, so I patronize it quite a bit. Right now, I'm reading The Space Between Us, which is pretty good so far. I also have a couple of self-help books which..eh. The covers always make them sound way more promising than they actually are.

So. Y'all. I had a Tinder first date this week, and it was almost too good. We met on Weds night, turned dinner into this 4-hour-long thing, met again Fri night, same deal, and will be having brunch together this morning. At the end of Date 1, he invited me to go to a wedding with him next weekend, and I didn't immediately recoil. I am -not- looking for a relationship and 100% do not fall for guys immediately, but this one has my head spinning. There is a real, very strong connection at all levels (emotional, intellectual, physical attraction), and everything just feels right when I'm with him in a way that's never happened to me before. It's intense and kind of scary, but in the best possible way. And, it's mutual and took both of us by surprise. We spent a lot of Date 2 talking about our feelings. Who does that??? On Tinder, of all places?? Gaaah. So, we'll see -- one date at a time, nobody's in any hurry, but man I think this could be something good.
Oh, and he's the first Tinder guy I've met who knows what Metafilter is (but isn't a member (yet)).
posted by Fig at 7:08 AM on April 28 [24 favorites]


And speaking of authority issues, I’ve also just started No Is Not Enough by Naomi Klein because I heard it described as ‘cautiously hopeful’ and I could use some of that, these days.

I almost picked up the audio version at the library today (I have a long commute). Is it worthwhile?
posted by lazuli at 7:20 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Thank you for giving me the opportunity to show off this bookcase, which came from my grandmother's house in 2003, (same grandmother that had a really old can of corned beef), then hung out at my mother's house for fifteen years before arriving at my place. My grandfather was a librarian at the U of C and took this bookcase from them at one point. It's a little unbalanced, but it holds so many books and is so great. I love it.

(half of the books shown there are not mine - atheism and magic are more Mr. Dinty's domain)

My grandfather had a substantial personal book collection, including 700 books that were published in the year 1900. He died when I was four, and when I was in high school I helped my grandmother go through and dust and categorize them all. I remember a personal chapbook for a deceased love one, a manual on gymnastics from the early 1900's, and a get rich quick scheme involving chickens. It was a pretty good summer.

The books ended up getting sold to Larry McMurtry for his book town in Texas.

I started the year off with a challenge that has gotten increasingly more byzantine - for every book I purchase, I have to read two more books I already own (library books don't count, getting a book for free counts as already owning, special dispensation for heavily discounted books on a limited time, if I don't purchase a book in a month I can buy one, ect. .. ). I've actually been keeping to it? To the point where I've been able to preorder books from authors and counting that as my purchased book. My holds section at the library is starting to look pretty substantial, but most of those are Hugos related. I did just finish Amberlough and am making myself wait for the library copy of Armistice . . . after finishing the 50 page sample.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:45 AM on April 28 [5 favorites]


I‘m stuck in the 3rd Volume of Das Kapital. Send help!

A Manifesto For Social Progress was an interesting read - basically, developing a new third way approach to reforming capitalism.

I recently read my first fiction book in about, oh, five years (Ralph Ellison‘s Invisible Man) and loved it. Still happy with my decision to be very very picky with fiction when I used to basically live in mindlessly-read novels that didn‘t make me think. Nonfiction forces me out of my escapism (not that there‘s anything wrong with escapism, but...).

I go through books like crazy but am not a book collector and my shelf space is limited. The only stuff I really hang on to are my old books that I brought over from Germany, including my old children‘s books, because they‘d be hard to replace. Everything else is in ugly stacks around the house and gets lots of turnover.
posted by The Toad at 7:50 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]


I used to like the idea, from Italo Calvino's "Hypothetical Bookshelf," of allotting a generous fraction of your ideal bookshelf for books you haven't read yet. (I can't remember his suggested proportion--and I can't lay my hands on The Uses of Literature right now, ironically.) But that doesn't fit in my space or budget anymore. I still hang onto many books that I'm unlikely to reread--a rule of thumb I now use is, would I happily lend this to friend or other visitor? And then I try to lend them out when I can.

When I first moved in with my girlfriend (now wife), we were both grownups living alone, and we both had big collections of books and deeply set patterns in purchasing & arranging them. Merging our books was on par with merging our finances in difficulty level, emotional weight, and eventual stability. It was hard! And dusty! When we finally moved into our first new place together, we sold or donated about 1200 books; we still have about 90 feet of bookshelves spread around the apartment, lots of it two books deep, not counting the in- and out-stacks of library books, all for the most part peacefully eddying near each and into each other, with little pools suddenly arranged alphabetically or by Mohs scale of SF hardness (me) or by height/color (her) or by chewability/bedtimeness (youngest per flower). Our shelves seem like a multiple-exposure photograph of who we want to seem to be and who we really are.
posted by miles per flower at 8:01 AM on April 28 [8 favorites]


And speaking of authority issues, I’ve also just started No Is Not Enough by Naomi Klein because I heard it described as ‘cautiously hopeful’ and I could use some of that, these days.

I almost picked up the audio version at the library today (I have a long commute). Is it worthwhile?


Might have to get back to you on that, I'm still in the opening chapters. But if you like Klein's other work, it's definitely of a piece.
posted by rodlymight at 8:25 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]


rodlymight: I learned about (_____) on here on Metafilter, so this is your fault.
If these aren't words to live by for All Things Metafilter, I don't know what is.

Meanwhile, I just wanted to remind our stalwart library enthusiasts that we librarians are absolutely brutal when it comes to weeding the shelves, and books do go out of print (even the first book in a series, which is just a criminal offense), so hang onto those copies if you think you ever will want to re-read them. Out of print is sometimes available, but you may have to pick your jaw off the floor when you see the prices.
And that's another plus for ebooks -- the dog can't chew on it.

So fiction that I've read... I just finished The Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen. Nice, charming, a bit of murder and mayhem but not gory or shocking. I could see this as a sitcom on PBS paired with The Last of the Summer Wine or with a rerun of Murder, She Wrote.

Non-fiction... I'm doing an armchair study of the Mother Road, Route 66 with various guidebooks. Spring has sprung and all that. Less Grapes of Wrath and more ghost towns and greasy spoons.

The iris have gone berserk and are keeling over or leaning against their sister stalks and blades. This time I will remember to lift, cull and replant the rhizomes, rather than letting them be out of sight, out of mind in the side yard (lots of blades in a little space, no mowing needed.) So another non-fiction study is all things bulb related, with emphasis on perennials that don't attract gophers or deer and can tolerate decades of neglect.
posted by TrishaU at 8:45 AM on April 28 [3 favorites]


I used to be a massive book hoarder, and so I'm not allowed to collect books any more.

Ha. Ha. Er. Um.

Anyway.

Shelfies include the Sherlock Holmes books, some Victorian religious periodicals, and mostly Dickens. This is what my current library space looks like (I'm afraid there are yet more books in the house and in my university office...).

Meanwhile, the plans for House the Trilogy include running a beam under the floor that will serve as my next library/office space, as I would prefer that the books not fall into the basement.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:46 AM on April 28 [4 favorites]


Wanted to give a shout out to the memory of MovableBookLady. Her name and contributions so often brought a smile. Such an interesting voice.

My story: I met Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen fame a year or so ago. She and I had gone back and forth by email a few times over the years about different things. And then she thanked me in the acknowledgments of her most recent book! Which ... was insanely great. It's weird to say and probably has to do with impostor syndrome, but being thanked in her book was pretty much more meaningful than my own book coming out, which happened around the same time. It's like, it's easier to rationalize away that I managed to write a few books as a fluke or something, but harder to explain away her thanking me in her book unless . . . I had actually been helpful?

Anyway, I went up to her and said, "Hi, I'm Dan. I'm the guy who wrote 'Will It Waffle?'"

She tried to process what I said and after a few seconds looked at me and said, "What?" I sometimes mumble/whisper when I'm nervous and I didn't want to be seen shouting at her book signing, "IT IS I! I WROTE 'WILL IT WAFFLE?'!" (I would never walk around shouting that in any circumstance, much less at someone else's book signing.)

Anyway, after I repeated myself more clearly she was very gracious and we had a quick chat and it was cool to have met her in person finally.
posted by veggieboy at 8:56 AM on April 28 [9 favorites]


I've just started a MOOC so am reading Jean-Jacques Rousseau at the moment. Damn, that dude was wrong about a lot of stuff. I mean, I know I'm benefiting from all the people who have learned about the world since he was around, but he is so wrong about facts.

These are two of my bookcases, I have another four, and that's an old photo so the shelves are lot fuller today.

The last fiction I read was Kameron Hurley's The Light Brigade, and it was great. Highly recommended.
posted by Fence at 9:13 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]


We have a fair amount of books, and after six years of marriage they are sort of blended on the shelves although I still know exactly which ones are mine. There's a great chapter in Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris about combining your book collections where they argue about how their books should be ordered on the shelves and it truly spoke home: I used to work in a library, Mr Catseye used to work in a bookshop, and it turns out there are irreconcilable differences here we are never quite going to overcome.

Currently reading:
Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men (previously on Metafilter)
James S. A. Corey, Cibola Burn (fourth book of the Expanse series).
posted by Catseye at 10:03 AM on April 28 [4 favorites]


I've collected Harlan Ellison and Samuel Delaney, but not read everything I have. My best author signing story (which might have been told here before):

My wife and I went to a Matt Ruff reading in 2007 or 08, for the just-then-released Bad Monkeys. We were big fans of his, and went to see him whenever we could. Anyway, at the beginning of the reading, Ruff pointed out that Ted Chiang was in attendance, and said something about how Chiang was the only person who made Ruff look prolific (on account of Chiang not producing lots of published work). My wife, who was an even bigger fan of Chiang's, was super-excited the whole reading to be so close to this author she loved. Afterwards, I suggested that we could ask him to sign a book, so I ran upstairs (I think this was at the basement of Elliot Bay Books), and bought a copy of Stories of your Life and Others, which we already had, but needed something for him to sign. Anyway, after Ruff's reading we went up to Chiang and said we were huge fans of his, and could he sign this book, and he did. We knew he didn't like being the center of attention, so we tried to keep the interaction short, so just took the signed book and left. It was only once we got outside to read what he wrote, which was (and is) "David and Leslie, sorry I don't write as fast as Matt Ruff. -Ted Chiang"
posted by Gorgik at 10:16 AM on April 28 [9 favorites]


I used to like the idea, from Italo Calvino's "Hypothetical Bookshelf," of allotting a generous fraction of your ideal bookshelf for books you haven't read yet.

Which brings to mind the opening of Calvino's If On A Winter's Night A Traveler, which is about navigating a bookstore in order to buy a copy of If On A Winter's Night A Traveler. And then, of course, the entire book is about trying to read If On A Winter's Night A Traveler, a process which is met with complications.
posted by hippybear at 10:23 AM on April 28 [4 favorites]


I'd have to tidy and dust to take a picture of our bookshelveses, so nah, but picture:

Me: three billies at about 105% capacity
biscotti: one bookshelf downstairs at about 85% capacity, three bookshelves upstairs at about 110% capacity.

We basically stopped buying physical books in 2011 in favor of ebooks but would have another couple of billies full of them.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:28 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]


Recent reads: just finished Marlon James's Black Leopard, Red Wolf for the second time (it's for my SF/F book group--I usually read those quickly once, then again more slowly just before the meetup). It's a tough read--intensely violent, and steeped in trauma--but also mindblowing & great fun on several levels. There are some long sections that feel like a bunch of buddy cop movies and noir detective movies and getting-the-gang-together-for-an-audacious-heist movies all rolled together as one, with the homoeroticism hinted at in some of those genres moved squarely (gloriously, satisfyingly) into the limelight. Still--a challenging read.

Also just read Ann Leckie's Raven Tower and now wishing I'd waited until the sequels were out, as I want to keep going with them!
posted by miles per flower at 10:35 AM on April 28 [4 favorites]


Bookcase and my plant, Robert. I confess I have been rereading Carlos Castaneda, just finished The Art of Dreaming. One takeaway, if you don't enjoy your dream, change it.
posted by Oyéah at 10:52 AM on April 28 [5 favorites]


All my books are in boxes in the closet, which feels like sort of a metaphor for life being put on hold while I sort things out.

My move here would have been easier if I’d just gotten rid of my books (I have somehow accumulated hundreds over the years), but I could only manage to part with about 50 or so. I ended up bringing about 7 boxes in total. It’s mostly nonfiction, mostly stuff I keep as reference or haven’t read yet.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:12 AM on April 28 [4 favorites]


So, Dr Bored for Science and I have a significant collection (I make it five full-width, full-height bookcases, and another bookcase and more across weirder Ikea furniture). Probably well north of 1000 volumes, with a lot of SF/F, cookbooks, judaica, and psychology/vision science.

My parents have a rather more extensive collection. If it's any fewer than 10,000 books, I'll eat a sock. One of the major reasons they bought the house I grew up in back in 1992 was the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in four of the five second-floor rooms. In the intervening 27 years, they've had the basement and attic redone, which has, of course, included installing as many bookshelves as possible. They're nearly all full.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 11:16 AM on April 28 [8 favorites]



And I finally went back to finish Pat Shipman's fascinating The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction. I'm not sure I'm convinced yet, but she's giving me a lot to think about.


So a word of warning about this book- fascinating hypothesis, immediately invalid as we know that dogs were domesticated after the neanderthal was extinct. Its a work of speculative fiction, posing as anthropology, and is completely a-scientific.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:19 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]


Years ago, I found a first edition of Tripmaster Monkey in a used book store and immediately bought it. Imagine how excited I was to later attend a lecture by Maxine Hong Kingston and have her sign it afterwards!

Count me as another person who loved the Great Brain books, even though I was a girl. Such vivid descriptions of how people lived. And John had an interesting take on the lives of the local adults, no less so than he did for the kids.
posted by Knowyournuts at 1:15 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


The vintage macrame (my mom was really into it in the 70s - she made it) hanging on a corner of my bookshelf.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:32 PM on April 28 [4 favorites]


Books are my favorite! I read A LOT. I even sneak ebooks at work (shhhh), and if I have, y'know, actual work to do, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts while I'm doing it. But despite all that and despite treating the library as a second home, I still have a lot of books.

Part of the reason for the sheer enormous quantity of them is because I moved into my grandma's condo a few years ago and still have a lot of her books here. I went through her books (and my books) as brutally as I could at the time...but she has really good taste! So even though I gave maybe four book-filled boxes away, I still have shelves and shelves of them left.

And I get sentimental about my books. I remember reading them and what was in them, and I don't want to get rid of them. They're like souvenirs to imaginary places that only exist between those two covers.

Here are pictures of some of my bookcases! Not shown: bookcases of accounting/statistics/business textbooks (I need these for CPA exam studying, but they are hideous), a really boring cache of cookbooks (never use them -- not a big cook), and all the boxes of textbooks and shelves of children's books that live at my parents'.

I can't believe that people are mentioning The Great Brain upthread-- I loved those books as a kid. My favorite book at around that age (8 or so?), though, was Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. I must have read it ten times.

Since last summer, I've been reading a lot of SFF. The Expanse novels were all I could handle for months and months, because they're so long and there are so many of them! But honestly, I'm an omnivore. If there are words, I probably want to read them.

Right now, I'm mostly trading off between The Feral Detective by Jonathan Letham (physical book) and the Sisters Brothers (ebook) (and really good but really brutal!) by Patrick de Witt. I guess they're both westerns, in a way.
posted by rue72 at 1:33 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


Far fewer books than we used to have. I'm lying on my bed looking at our bookshelf now, and among the books is a small knit octopus made by Mrs Pterodactyl. THANKS, MRS. P!

Had a good weekend, but very busy. Our church played host to the annual gathering of the Alliance of Baptists, a progressive faith community with about 140 churches in their membership. I was busy with various volunteer duties all weekend.

One small piece of good news, especially in light of disappointing developments from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Methodists, is that the Alliance affirmed a broad, inclusive stance on sexuality and identity yesterday. (They've long been a welcoming and affirming body, but their recent statement of affirmation is much stronger and more explicitly inclusive than anything that's been seen previously.) If you're into this sort of thing, it's a good read. It's at the top of this list.

Per the link above, the Alliance has published the statement online, but I haven't seen it anywhere else yet. I imagine there will be some ink in the coming week.
posted by duffell at 2:33 PM on April 28 [4 favorites]


TrishaU: Meanwhile, I just wanted to remind our stalwart library enthusiasts that we librarians are absolutely brutal when it comes to weeding the shelves, and books do go out of print (even the first book in a series, which is just a criminal offense), so hang onto those copies if you think you ever will want to re-read them. Out of print is sometimes available, but you may have to pick your jaw off the floor when you see the prices.

I was in love with Daniel Pinkwater's writing as a kid (and still am, really). I borrowed Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy From Mars multiple times from my local public library, which is lurking behind the macrame owl on my shelf in this picture. When I was back home for a visit after I had gone off to university, I wandered by the same public library one day and they were having a withdrawn book sale. There on the table was that same copy I had read over and over again, which had been (sadly, IMO) withdrawn.

As a result, I was able to acquire it for the cool price of one dollar, and it's sitting in my bookshelf something like thirty years after I read that copy for the first time.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:39 PM on April 28 [7 favorites]


That book is a fave of mine also. While it's true about libraries and weeding there is also a pretty good ebook lending market for books of a certain age. (i.e. books where the publisher is unlikely to go after anyone for lending them in a quasi-legal fashion, so check out places like Open Library (or ask your librarian) if your library finally does weed your childhood fave.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 3:08 PM on April 28 [5 favorites]


I should also note that the framed Toronto map behind the owl was a Secret Quonsar gift from Mefite bystander.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:15 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Daniel Pinkwater! I loved Lizard Music.

Did you guys read Robert Cormier? I didn't know what to think of his books when I was a kid, and still don't know what to think of them now. I Am the Cheese seriously gave me nightmares. *shudder* Very post-modern nightmares, but still.
posted by rue72 at 4:01 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


I have a near constant shuffle of books in and out of my house, from the library and from advance reading copies, from friends who work at publishers or distributors. In order to keep the amount of books to a minimum (I have a pretty small house) I have a rule that if you want to borrow a book from me you can never ever give it back. Which works out pretty well for all parties. So I only have a few shelves of books, and they’re pretty random.

I always have one book upstairs and one downstairs that I’m reading, and just this year I finally embraced ebooks - though not all books make good ebooks, to me. I read exclusively fiction. The last book I finished was The Dearly Beloved (out in August), and I highly recommend it.

Books are such an intregal part of my life that I tend to my reading life like I do my relationships with people. My husband and son do not read like I do, but they let me do my thing. Although when I try to say I don’t have a lot of books, they do point out the small pile I have in every room. It could be so much more!
posted by lyssabee at 4:03 PM on April 28 [5 favorites]


I have a lot of books, many unread. But I do also have a history of buying books I know I want to read and then, at the right moment, reading them. And I also collect older/small press science fiction and fantasy by women/POC/GLBTQ writers.

This week I managed to purge about 2.5 banker's boxes of books, which is good because I got 4 boxes from my family's house - my mother died last year and my father moved to a smaller place last month. I brought a lot of stuff back to my house - some furniture, some prints, some books, lots of ancestral pottery, ornamental china dogs, etc from generations of Frowners. It's pretty sad. I'm the last Frownercorn, basically - few people in my grandparents' generation had children, and of those few had children themselves, so I have the objects that you'd otherwise expect to be divided up among a whole family's worth of cousins. And of course, I have them because almost all of the older generation is gone. So it's been kind of a downer unpacking everything.

Although Minneapolis is practically perfect in every respect, this simply isn't a large enough city to support the kind of bookstores you'd find in Boston or Chicago - no Seminary Co-op, for instance - so I end up getting a lot of books electronically or on eBay now. There are a lot of nice bookstores in town, but except for Uncle Hugo's/Uncle Edgar's, none of them are the kind of bookstore where you can go in looking for anything specific unless it was published within the past couple of years and is relatively popular. If you want a recent novel, there's a good range available, and there are well-curated selections of older books, but it's useless to say, eg, "I would like to buy a WG Sebald novel, he's a famous and important novelist" and actually expect to find a WG Sebald novel available for purchase. (I've had such dismal luck with special orders.)

Anyway. I'm reading Owen Hatherley's The Ministry of Nostalgia, which is highly recommended and goes with a swing - it's about the use (by left and right but mostly right) of narratives about the Blitz and the immediate post-war period in ways that obscure actual political struggle and are basically Very Bad. It's full of interesting asides and has grown my reading list.

I'm also reading a Siegfried Sassoon biography and trying to start on The Persistence of the Old Regime which I am told is about how the best way to understand the pre-WWI period is not about modernization and the bourgeoisie but about persistent corruption and entrenched power among aristocratic groups. It is popularly held to be very depressing.

But what I'm reading right now this minute is John Bellairs's The SPELL of the SORCERER's SKULL!!! (which is how I always say it to myself) for about the twentieth time over my life.
posted by Frowner at 4:24 PM on April 28 [5 favorites]


I just want to share (and maybe gloat a little) that I am currently lazing about outside in the sun on a bunch of blankets in a grassy spot surrounded by trees, wildflowers and singing birds, there's a cat curled up next to me, I have a pint of a very nice beer local beer, a friend just gave me some nice weed and I'm about to get stoned out of my gourd, I have my camp stove and pot set up to make tea right here and plenty of water, I'm wearing a comfy casual dress that's about as close to a sun dress as I get with some flannel PJ pants and for a rare moment I feel comfortable in my own skin and I think the freckles on my shoulders are cute and I may even get a bit of a sunburn on them - or probably just more freckles.

Ahhhhhh.

My only complaint is I'm going to lose the sun behind the trees in a while and I might have to move.
posted by loquacious at 4:51 PM on April 28 [6 favorites]


I was on vacation last week and finished two books: The Child Finder by Rene Denfield and All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung.
I re-started Drew Magary's The Hike (statrted on my last vacation) and started reading the Night Vale novel It Devours.

If I'm away from the damn internet, I will read all the things. I just need to figure out how to read more when I am at home, surrounded by the infernal wifi. or maybe I would read more if I had a pool at home?
posted by vespabelle at 5:07 PM on April 28 [3 favorites]


When I was in third or fourth grade, I was entranced by Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles - the first book is Dealing With Dragons, about a spunky, sarcastic princess who bolts from her castle in order to apprentice with a dragon.

I wrote Wrede a fan letter asking her to write a book about a female adventurer who was very happy and didn't have any romantic pursuers (if I remember correctly, there is a subplot in Dealing with Dragons where Cimorene, the protagonist, rejects a string of clueless admirers). I was acutely aware of NOT being seen as attractive or desirable by anyone at school and I was tired of romantic plots!

She wrote back with a very lovely, multi-page typed letter, answering all of my questions and including something like, "I love that idea for a story, why don't YOU write it!" She was so gracious and encouraging, and it just rocked my third-grade world that I could write the story I was interested in reading instead of just requesting it from a Famous Author.

I never did become the novelist that I dreamed of being at that age, but I did become a person who tries to create the reality she wants to live in, and her letter was one of the milestones that sent me on my way.
posted by rogerroger at 5:28 PM on April 28 [8 favorites]


My pleasure reading lately has been quite meta--I've been on a kick of reading about the pleasures of reading, bookstores, and libraries: Sue Halpern's Summer Hours at the Robbers Library (recommended by jessamyn in this thread about libraries); Amy Meyerson's The Bookshop of Yesterdays; Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore. These have all been fun, entertaining page turners.

I'm currently reading Milkman by Anna Burns, which is not an easy book but really good. It came highly recommended by a friend who had read it because it won the Man Booker. It's about a young woman in an unspecified town which (like the narrator) is never named but is clearly Belfast during the Troubles. Very timely. It's well written--Burns has a good way with words.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:42 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


Lately, I've tended to buy used books at Goodwill, not much great stuff that I remember there.

Here is a book shelf, where I have some old books and some newer ones. The 1000 Years of Irish Poetry is from 1947, a duplicate of one my Dad had on the shelf when I was a kid, but then he gave it to his sister, as she'd given to my grandfather for Christmas one year, and I was heartbroken to lose it, so I hunted down a copy on the newfangled Internet in the 1990's, and was super proud of myself for conquering this online thing.

The Wife and Mother is from 1886. Written by Pye Henry Chavaase, there's a little synopsis here.

The leather bound book is Tennyson poems.

A book called Celts: First Masters of Europe. It has some neato information that I like, but it's obviously not a tome of history.

Lots of nature books, identifying birds, etc.

Letters to the Hive, An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind. A book I like to go back and read once in a while, it's comforting.

Not on my shelf, but I also love vintage cook books, especially the pamphlet kind. I pick them up in various places, usually yard sales, sometimes antique stores. Behind the ABC of Wine Cookery is Famous Drinks of New Orleans, and I love the Osterizer Spin Cookery book, and the Eagle Brand cook book is very eye-opening (70 recipes!) and some New England stuff and also some bake-off pamphlets and other goodies in the mix.

Sadly, my town has no library, and I'd like to join up in the next town over, where my Dad left me once. He had a bunch of kids in the station wagon (old Buick woody), and rounded them all up, and I was sitting downstairs, reading in a corner. He got home, and my Mom asked where I was. D'oh! He came back, and I was still sitting there, reading, 1st grade maybe? I never noticed. I should do it, it's $40 a year, not too steep, and they are nice folks over there.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:22 PM on April 28 [3 favorites]


Books are such an intregal part of my life that I tend to my reading life like I do my relationships with people.

People sometimes ask me what my hobbies are, or what I do for fun, and it's only been recently that I remember to include "reading" on the list, because reading is just a thing I can't *not* do, like breathing, that I don't really think of it as a separate activity from living. And I do other stuff, too, but I never don't have a book that I'm reading.
posted by lazuli at 8:13 PM on April 28 [15 favorites]


I swore off books until I'd read a good quantity of my near-infinite aspirational novelistic purchases. Then someone mentioned John Brunner in a sci-fi thread the other day. Oh yeah, I should finally get my Shockwave Rider on, thought I! Turns out all of JB's long-out-of-print Big Hits are comedically-priced even/especially secondhand.

There's a sort of imperfect penitence going on here. Can't say as I like it!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 8:31 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


After this comment by dinty_moore I read through O Human Star. It will give you a nice positive future image!
posted by Going To Maine at 8:41 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


Here's a pic of my office shelves. There's a whole 'nuther pile of to be read (or at least to be thumbed through) from the library on a desk, but that is way too messy.

Signed books?
Oldest: Jonathan Spence, Search for Modern China
Newest: Tadao Ando, 0: Process and Idea
Why?: Richard Baldwin, The Great Convergence
Weirdest meet: T. C. Boyle, The Road to Wellville
Most 90's: Mark Leyner, Et Tu Babe
Nicest: Jimmy Carter, Turning Point

I've told this elsewhere on the Grey, but Jimmy Carter really is as nice as can be.

I met Ando in February for a signing after he gave a talk. That man is funny as hell, does not tolerate teh stoopid, and has precisely zero fucks to give.
posted by Gotanda at 12:04 AM on April 29 [2 favorites]


I can't talk about books here or I would never shut up. I bought Michael Ondaatje's latest in an airport last weekend, so I guess I am reading that and Akata Warrior right now.

My mom is visiting, we have had a very satisfying week of scones and tadpoles with the kid. I am grateful for how ordinary our relationship is, we do the low-key hang so well.

There's one more week of classes and since I basically live on campus I have been watching the kids decide that it's time to bust out the summer lewks, while Ohio is not quite ready to admit that it should be warm and sunny. Lots of bare legs and goosebumps along Middle Path lately. I am still wearing down at every opportunity since I hate to be cold.

I fired our yard guy this week, I can't take another year of him chewing up the ground with his riding mower. Maybe I will invest in seed bombs and give up on grass (the squirrels will just eat them so maybe not.)
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:43 AM on April 29 [2 favorites]


I'm always feeling, Blue, I love Brunner, and was working on a collection, but lost most of it to a flood. The books were still packed from moving, stored in the basement until the shelves were ready. They were packed in the order they were shelved, which, for fiction, is alpha by author,and I lost lots of B's, C's(Colwin, Laurie), and D's (Drabble,Margaret),all the art books, about 1/3 of my books. It's still a loss after 10 years or so, but books are things, things are not people. I used to be a bookseller, still have lots of books, but the house is a tip, so no photos. I can't not look at books at thrift shops, free shelves, etc., and they accrete.
posted by theora55 at 8:08 AM on April 29 [4 favorites]


Moving twice within one year means that we got rid of a LOT of stuff, including lots and lots of books. We were pretty merciless, donating anything that we hadn't re-read recently, or that wasn't a favorite, or that we didn't have a sentimental attachment to. (And SO MANY duplicates. I don't recall buying ONE copy of Stephen King's it, much less four!

So, what that means now is that our bookcases are half-empty, and since we are now settled in the place where we will be for at least the next 10 years, it makes me sad. I mostly read ebooks, though, so I don't often buy physical copies of books. Can't display ebooks on the bookcases, though.

Right now, I'm reading the third in Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy, and thoroughly enjoying it.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:08 AM on April 29 [2 favorites]


I just finished Diary of A Bookseller by Shaun Bythell and the descriptions of boxes full of books both coming to and going from his shop were so evocative.
posted by soelo at 8:38 AM on April 29 [2 favorites]


I'm moving next month so I'm discarding books. Not to proselytise but it's been super joyful passing on books that have done their services to me on to new people who can appreciate them. A super-expensive tome on colour theory that I've never used has gone to my watercolourist friend. A nineteen year old friend has been introduced to Maus. My fairly rare copy of volume 1 of Powr Mastrs has gone to a comix nerd friend who is totally psyched to have it. It's also nice to realise the books that mean so much to me that I can't even imagine being without them (Middlemarch, Borges, my proudly well-used copy of Infinite Jest, Shunryu Suzuki).

At the moment I'm reading Bliss by Peter Carey (not really getting it but enjoying some passages), Capitalist Realism, and Chateaubriand (which I saw recommended on the blue somewhere and which has not disappointed).
posted by Balthamos at 9:13 AM on April 29 [3 favorites]


We got rid of like half of our books in our last move. It was the biggest book cleaning we have done in a long while. The biggest loss was our entire golden age mystery collection. We decided that we will not re-read these and others will certainly want them. So we hauled the entire collection, boxes and boxes, to a mystery bookshop in Wales. They were very thankful, not to get our Michael Innes books, but to get our Rex Stouts which are in high demand. We also had a lot of rarities from Kenneth Fearing, Donald Henderson, and others.

Our books are organized by category. I am looking right now at our books about/by Wallace Stevens which is a small shelf in itself. It sits next to the Natural History section and next to collections of other poets (Merrill, Heaney) and other general poetry. We do use e-readers mainly to slow down the intake. On the to-buy list are: Poetry, Art books, Reference books.

My partner is also a rare book dealer so opening up a book dated from 1638 (one I just picked up) is not too uncommon. But those books are more objects than things-to-read so they are another topic altogether.
posted by vacapinta at 9:58 AM on April 29 [6 favorites]

PETER VENKMAN: "You're right. No human being would stack books like this."
I ran out of bookshelf space a long time ago and I ran out of space for new bookshelves, too, so, literally, there are stacks of books all over my house. It's a sickness.

Paperbacks! (Mostly) Hardbacks! Stacked by the sofa! Stacked on a chair! The Bowie stack! Stacked next to flower pots! Stacked next to the bed! And that's not even counting books stacked on top of bookshelves and cookbooks stacked in the kitchen.

And then on Saturday I bought a couple of Duras novels, a few art books, and a biography of Caroline Blackwood at a library book sale. They're still in a stack by the front door.

Inspired by one of Frowner's recent remarks, I've started reading the Joanna Russ I've picked up over the years. I'm about half way through The Female Man and enjoying it greatly so far. Also, I've been reading Lucia Berlin's stories, absolutely stunned by what she can do in a few pages.

I just finished Sybille Bedford's A Legacy, which I didn't love as much as I expected to, yet I'm planning on trying again with one of her other books.

I loved Quicksands: A Memoir, her last book, which covers her life from her childhood in pre-war Germany to her days in NYC following September 11th.

I've since had to part company with several of those books (among them, alas, the first edition of the Codex Seraphinianus you can see on the left).

:-(

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to show off this bookcase, which came from my grandmother's house in 2003

I've always wanted a vintage rotating bookshelf—a friend of mine had one that she filled entirely with Library Of America volumes—but I've never been in the right place at the right time—with the right amount of money—to get one.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:01 AM on April 29 [9 favorites]


In re Joanna Russ, an important note for posterity: The Female Man has a section which reads as extremely transphobic. Russ later apologized, saying that she did not intend the section to be about actual trans women (as you read, it will become clear why she could think this) and that she had written from ignorance/ignoring actual trans women rather than from a desire to write trans women out of feminism. So be prepared.

I've read virtually everything readily available by Russ (but not the archive material) and tend, based on this reading, to believe what she says about The Female Man. Prior to Extra (Ordinary) People, she tends to create metaphors which go nowhere good if you follow them long enough, and she later says as much about her work. I think that Extra(Ordinary) People is actually an intentional move away from this and is kind of a critical reworking of some of her early ideas and writerly habits.

The thing about Russ is that she wrote a couple of book sections that I think are really hurtful and problematic (this section in The Female Man and a big chunk of The Two of Them). I return to her work anyway both because she later apologized for those things and because it's clear from her work that she was always trying to learn and grow politically and as a writer. Sometimes her thinking was unfinished and bad - although not nearly as unfinished and bad as plenty of other seventies feminist writers, and never malign - but I take it as part of her attempts to grow and change, rather than attempts to ossify her thinking so as to exclude others and put herself at the top.

She was an amazing writer and it's a terrible shame that ill health prevented her from producing much after the mid-eighties.
posted by Frowner at 10:23 AM on April 29 [3 favorites]


Ah yes, the book situation.

I just moved, which means I just moved all my books. This is the first time in a very long time where I've lived in a place that has more than one room which means this is the first time EVER that all my books aren't impressively clustered together. Sentimental and important books went into my bedroom. They're mostly out of boxes and on the shelves. The to-read section is in the guest bedroom, and much of these are still in boxes out in the garage hence all the empty shelves. The living/dining room case has all the fun reference and oversize books. And there's a big shelf of small books in the living room. The collector's items I've scrabbled together live in the decommissioned gun safe in the other bedroom.

Not featured is the ever-growing piles of queued books that are taking up valuable office space at work. I should probably bite the bullet and start sorting those into ones I'll take home and ones for donating.

Now I'm off to ogle all your books!
posted by carsonb at 11:27 AM on April 29 [3 favorites]


In re Joanna Russ, an important note for posterity ...

Thank you, Frowner. That's useful to know.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:30 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]


Good thread idea! I could look other people's books all day.

I mostly stopped buying books after I moved across the country in 2005, so the one I have now are either old favorites, or favorite authors I like to support by giving them my money. Mine are split between a few rooms.

We moved into this house last year and it was the first time I've had to move them all in over a decade. My mom asked me, "Have you ever thought of getting rid of them?" and honestly, I was stunned into silence. Books and cats, that's what makes a home. (Here are my cats co-opting my reading chair.)
posted by something something at 11:43 AM on April 29 [7 favorites]


I've just picked up Emily Dickinson in a parallel English/Polish edition. Behind me is a wall of books, floor to ceiling, left to right. Two or three thousand? No collectibles. Just reading copies. Too many to bother moving, but I think I'll die here. Right here in this chair if I can help it. You might see my las
posted by pracowity at 2:56 PM on April 29 [2 favorites]


I have been a book hoarder since childhood. In my late 20s I had upwards of 1000 books. I read fast, so I'm a big rereader, so I'd read all of them multiple times, some dozens of times.

Then I decided to sell almost all of my things and travel the world. I left my 200ish favorite and / or most valuable books with my saintly mother and went book free for 6 years. I would buy books second hand wherever I was and then sell them when I was done. I wish I'd kept a list, some of them were really good and I'd like to revisit them!

Anyway, cut to today, 2 years later. I have maybe 25 books at my house. Mostly art books and a few from my stored collection that I swap out when I visit my mom.

I read a lot on the Kindle app on my phone, which I hated at first, but the lure of infinite books that weigh nothing was a strong motivator.

I'm currently reading The Bees by Laline Paul to my long distance boyfriend over the phone. I'm also rereading a stack of Tom Holt novels, who is basically a cross between Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett.

In other news, my lawn has finally come in lushly and now need mowing, and my garden is growing like mad in the California sunshine. I'm foraging for edible plants in the forest almost every day as well. Hooray for spring!
posted by ananci at 4:52 PM on April 29 [4 favorites]


Oh, I love talking about books! I wish I had more IRL book-pals, but I'm realizing a) a lot of people join book clubs but don't really want to read the book/just want to drink wine and gab (which is great! But I do that anyway, let's read too!), and b) more and more, what I can't find in person, I can find on the internet. Jessamyn, I may steal your idea of sharing a reading list on Twitter, although I'm bad about being consistent on that particular sphere of social media. I'm a pretty big Goodreads user as well (add me as a friend! More book friends!).

I was so good about owning minimal books and giving away ones I had read until I met my partner, who is a book hoarder. It's rubbed off on me and now we have three bookcases full, two of which are organized by colour (I don't have an updated photo, but here's one from our old place). It's so wonderful to look at and hell to try and find anything. Our third bookcase, which is already overflowing, is mostly stuff that we have yet to read, so it works out okay.

I'm currently reading Valeria Luiselli's Lost Children Archive, and I love it so much. After reading The Story of My Teeth, I knew I would need to read everything this woman ever writes - I think she's one of the best young authors out there. I've been trying to make time for longer novels this year, but I do also have the Murderbot Diaries on my list.
posted by Paper rabies at 5:48 PM on April 29 [3 favorites]


I had the pleasure of seeing Vivien Goldman perform at a music festival this weekend, and since she was hanging out at the merch table when I was there buying a copy of her new book*, she signed it for me. Normally I don't try and get books signed, but if the author is standing right there literally waving a pen at you... we couldn't really talk since there was a deafening racket but she looked ebullient and seemed like she would have been up for it. So cheers to Ms. Goldman, keeping it real.

No bookshelf pictures but I have been using my profile page here for the last year and a half(ish) to keep track of the books I've read, so maybe that counts. There's a cat picture there too if that helps. I mean, it's me, I am a cat. Decided in January 2018 to only read books by women and it's been so rewarding I'm still rolling with it. Although I did read a book this week about the Coyame Incident, which is Mexico's Roswell. Or Roswell is America's Coyame, depending on which side of the border you're on. I was real close to said border all this past week so I felt I needed to read up on it.

*Revenge of the She-Punks: A Feminist Music History from Poly Styrene to Pussy Riot
posted by lefty lucky cat at 10:17 PM on April 29 [4 favorites]


Bookshelves and (bonus) cookshelves. A couple years back we bought a house with one long windowless wall the length of the living room and dining area. It took a while (and a bit of unrelated construction) for plans to come together but this is the current interim state (after the floor is finished, the dining table goes back in the dining room and the construction materials go back in the garage). One Ikea bookcase holds only cookbooks, its partner nearest the camera is about half-cookbooks, half-overflow. In between are three bookcases I had built years ago; the one nearest the camera holds comics, art books, and art-related resources. The remainder hold fiction, textbooks, crafting resources, technical books, and whatnot. Not shown are miscellaneous books that hadn't been packed with the main collection as well as literally hundreds of pounds of still-crated academic texts and the zines that I'll be re-homing once they're all consolidated.

The cookshelves are due to having a kitchen that kinda sucks ergonomically (much of the cabinet space is unreachable or unusable, being tucked behind corners or too narrow to hold anything other than skinny jars). Until the eventual kitchen remodel, the dining area is also going to be a storage/display space for the cookware, so that the limited usable cabinet space can be dedicated to storing food and dishes. It turns out we're about as good at grooming our pots and pans as our books. But unlike the books, all the cooking hardware is used regularly, since, say, one of us might have decided that the first of two nearly-identical pans is better for making fried rice while the other of us might prefer the second pan for quick stews. Although this might be pointing towards a discussion neither of us want to have regarding which pan is the redundant one.
posted by ardgedee at 7:17 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure if this is allowed in MetaTalk, but because this is a book discussion-type thread, I'm looking forward to a friend's first novel, Breaking Cadence: One Woman's War Against the War (Rosa del Duca's personal website, with a link to her related podcast, which was really interesting).
posted by filthy light thief at 10:40 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


So I checked out my ole professors new book.

And water damaged the book (crocodile tears) so he signed it. " Cheap bastard, pay retail next time"😳
posted by clavdivs at 11:48 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


The Library Book up on fanfare!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:46 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


I had a fight with my keyboard and hit Post too soon above, also it's all italics. I have had trouble reading books for a couple years, partly because the news is so compelling. So I'm getting ebooks on a tablet or phone, as well as paper books,and am making progress. In a facebook thread in a book group, someone asked for "top 5 books that influenced you." Like I could stop at 5.

Black Beauty, Anna Sewall; Hobbit & LOTR, J.R.R. Tolkien; To Kill A Mocking Bird, Harper Lee; Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe; Handmaids Tale, Margaret Atwood; The Sheep Look Up, John Brunner; Primate's Memoir, Robert Sapolsky; East of Eden and Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck; The Once & Future King, T.H. White; Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë; Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankel; Exodus, Leon Uris, Winds of War/ War & Remembrance, Herman Wouk; Birdy, William Wharton, The Regeneration Trilogy, Pat Barker; Shoeless Joe, W.P. Kinsella; The Postman, David Brin; Grass, Sheri Tepper; The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing; Native Tongue, Suzette Haden Elgin; Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson.

Many years ago, I owned and managed a charming small bookstore. It is a pleasant a life as you might imagine, except for having employees, paying the staggering rent, dealing with the IRS, having the wolf permanently camped outside your door. We had readings and signings, and I have some autographed books. Steven King came in. Robert B. Parker came in, we chatted, and a store like mine, in my town, was in his next book.

I have been wondering if a cafe & used bookstore could still work these days. I have even considered a mobile bookstore/ coffee to go in a vintage trailer. It's a crappy way to make money, but an excellent way to live.
posted by theora55 at 2:12 PM on May 1 [7 favorites]


Theora55- in my town we have a 2ndhand bookshop cum pub. It improves everyone’s quality of life.
posted by Balthamos at 5:34 AM on May 2 [3 favorites]


As a student I cared very much about literature. And about the atmosphere of old books. Not expensive first editions, just from the time that the book originally came out. I perused a lot of 2nd hand book stores and book fairs. So I ended up with this bookcase.
With ebooks of course the whole notion of owning big hunks of paper is outdated from a practical perspective.
But when I look at my bookcase it gives me a warm feeling, makes me feel at home.
When I was a child my room was also the place where my parents put some of their overflow of books. Sometimes I wonder whether that made me 'imprint' on the backs of books as if they're faces. Like a goose duckling coming out of the egg imprinting on the human standing their as its mother.
posted by jouke at 6:02 AM on May 2 [3 favorites]


Count me in for some book exhibitionism. Most of mine are in storage right now but this is my current favorite bookcase. The middle shelf starting with the Kenner/Davenport letters and through all the James are the results of some very successful recent bargain hunting. So was the Proust, actually; I got it from a Friends of the Library sale for probably six bucks. The slim and colorful paperbacks on the center of the bottom shelf all come from Two Dollar Radio's Blind Date sale, where they'll send you two books from their back catalogue (and stickers!) for ten dollars. Highly highly recommended.

Also, years ago I went to a Tom McCarthy reading and I guess he was late because when I came into the bookstore they though I was him and started leading me up to the stage, which felt a lot like the start of a Tom McCarthy novel.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:04 AM on May 2 [2 favorites]


I don't put personal pictures on the internet, but I wouldn't know how to take a picture anyway. Which room?

We have an unhealthy amount of books. There are 7500 or so in the database, and who knows how many more. I know we got rid of a couple of thousand a while back and didn't notice the difference. We have LOTS of books in boxes and can't figure out where the shelves are going to go, so at some point something's got to give.

I mostly read e-books now, but that doesn't have anything to do with it. I don't think e-books replace paper books any more than I think pictures on my computer replace art on my walls. And there's nothing to replace art books. I do know if they stop making e-ink readers I'll stop reading electronic books, I'm not reading on an LCD. But I have 4 nooks, so they'll last a while.
posted by bongo_x at 1:50 AM on May 3 [2 favorites]


Are there any other mefites that share my affection for 2nd hand books? The aesthetics of colours that are a bit faded, some scuffing, some tearing in the dust jacket. Books with patina.
I've grouped some books together to show what I mean.
I feel surprisingly strongly about this. :-)
posted by jouke at 8:44 AM on May 3 [6 favorites]


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