Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Bookshelves

As we ease into the new year, I thought I’d share my bookshelves with you. Now, I’ve had a Kindle for the last 3 years. But for the other 24 years of my life, I read what are now known as DTBs or Physical Books. (I’m still not 100% sure whether “DTB” is an affectionate term or a pejorative one.) Since almost all of us have lived most of our lives with these tangible books (apologies to all the 3-year-olds reading this blog), we still have to own shelves to put them on. And if you’re like me and really love to read, you own a bunch of books and space becomes an issue. Well recently I acquired some shelves that not only hold all my books but allow me to arrange them as I’ve never had the chance to before. Check it out:

Yes, they are former Borders bookshelves. Don't hate me.

I used to own the bookshelves you typically see at places like Walmart, the ones that have really deep and tall shelves, requiring you to stack books behind one another. I hated that. I’ve always wanted shelves that were the perfect size for a paperback and allowed all the books to be seen, spines facing out. Which is exactly what these are. It allows me to get totally “High Fidelity” with how the books are ordered. J

I love the Mamet :)

Actually, the order is pretty simple. Everything’s alphabetical by author, exactly like you’d find at a bookstore. (It’s kind of pathetic how happy this makes me. My books had previously been thrown together in a slapdash manner, and now everything’s wonderfully easy to find.) What’s slightly different from a bookstore’s order, however, is that within each author’s section, the books are placed in chronological order. So it goes from the author’s first book (if I have it) to her last (ditto), left to right. Oh, and the author’s novels come first, then short stories, then essays, etc. Autobiographies and interview books and stuff like that are last, generally. But if the author is more well-known for something other than novels (like plays for instance, like good ole Mamet supra) than that thing comes first. Got it? (Maybe it is a more “High Fidelity”-type obsessive ordering than I thought…)

I own a lot of fiction, which is my favorite kind of book. Novels pretty much fill 2 of the 3 bookcases. The third one is filled with graphic novels and books about movies—screenplays, film theory, filmmaker biographies, stuff like that. Those I haven’t really put in order yet. For the movie books, I’ll probably bunch the screenplays together and find some sort of way to arrange the rest of it. The graphic novels will eventually be alphabetical by either title or writer…still thinking about it.

So while we’re talking DTBs, I’ll share some of the most cherished ones on my shelves…

This is an advance galley proof of Infinite Jest that I got on eBay last year for an obscene amount of $ (for me, at least). But I’ve wanted one for years, so I just had to get it. It’s one of my favorite books, and supposedly only about 1000 of these things exist. It’s also signed on the inside, with a little smiley face, which is just extra cool.

Here is a signed first edition of American Gods. These were buried in the displays at bookstores upon the book’s release in 2000. Way back when I was 16, I went into a Barnes & Noble and snagged one and was totally psyched.

An out-of-print book by Pauline Kael—the best movie critic of all time. This massive volume contains a ton of her reviews, and I can spend hours just flipping through it. It’s quite baffling (and a shame) that this book is currently unavailable.

My 1st Edition Curse of Lono was a lot more impressive before Taschen published a handsome oversized edition for a reasonable $60 ($37.79 on Amazon). I still love it though.

This is my dictionary. I think a dictionary tells a lot about its owner. Personally, I’m an OED man. J This is the 2-volume Shorter OED, 5th Edition. Great, great resource for both writer and reader.

This one I’d definitely try to save if there was a fire. It’s a facsimile of the manuscript of one of the greatest novels of all time: The Great Gatsby. Only 2000 of these puppies were made for what I believe was the 50th anniversary of the novel. I love stuff like this for the same reason I love making-of docs and director’s commentaries on DVDs—it shows you the process of how a work of art is crafted. This stately volume allows you to see Gatsby’s creation ab ovo. (J) It is quite astounding to see the novel materialize on the page as Fitzgerald goes about the business of writing an American classic one beautifully handwritten word at a time. When I bought it, there were a bunch of them available in the Amazon marketplace. Now there’s just one, going for 3 times what I paid for mine. I have a feeling that when Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio comes out later this year, we probably won’t see these around anymore.
I hope you enjoyed this tour of my books. They are my most prized possessions and I really feel like they’re a big part of who I am in some way. Everything I’ve read has changed me for the better. I’m sure all you readers out there know what I mean. When I look at all these books, written by authors who have spent countless hours creating lasting and important works of art, I’m not only inspired but extremely honored to be—in my own small way—contributing to the venerable tradition of the written word.
And with that, I bid everyone goodnight.

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