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Shelfie: An Ongoing Exploration of Our Bookshelves

Like any aimless PhD student in the humanities, I possess an ever-growing collection of books that continues to spread along my shelves like kudzu after a long rain. They simply will not stop accumulating, filling my overcrowded apartment so that my main wall decoration is my bookcases.

I’ve noticed there are three primary groups of books on my shelf: those assigned to me for class, those by authors I have decided to follow, and those that I’ve never read but feel like I should own. The books themselves range from Robert Browning to Charles Bukowski, from Cormac McCarthy to Larry Brown, Frank Norris to Edith Wharton.

I have a number of small press books you haven’t heard of but should. I have books on theory that I don’t open, books on the 19th century that fascinate me. If you were to look only at the books on my shelves, I wonder what they would tell you about me as an academic or as a writer. My tastes are eclectic and ever-changing.

For example, I own nine books by Chuck Palahniuk that sit only a shelf away from my full collection of Cormac McCarthy’s works. What do they have in common? They each represent a period of my development as a lover of the written word. I won’t say which came first, but I can look at my shelves and see how I’ve changed.

What hasn’t changed is my obsession with buying books even though I know I don’t have the time to read them. To me, it’s the greatest form of hoarding. I suppose there’s also a sense of pride I feel in owning books. It’s like each time I purchase a physical copy of a text, I’m openly rebelling against the digital takeover that I have otherwise readily accepted. There’s just something about having them sitting there, waiting for me to open them.

Joseph Seale writes fiction and non-fiction while teaching writing, in addition to pursuing his postgraduate degree in the University of Georgia’s Creative Writing program. His work has been featured in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Red Fez, Eunoia Review, and The Sucarnochee Review.

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