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Peek at the Bookshelves

Musing Mondays2

This week’s musing asks:

What does your bookshelf (bookshelves) say about you to the people who come into your home?

My bookshelves give the impression that I’m an eclectic, serious reader of world literature. After college, I got rid of most of the academic texts and references to make room for my collection of fiction and literature. The new bookshelves become permanent home of all the books (mostly trade paperback novels) that were in storage along with the TBR pile. The content of bookshelves at a glance can be daunting and intimidating, boasting classics and literary fiction: Jane Austen, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mikhail Bulgakov, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekov, Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gustave Flaubert, E.M. Forster, Thomas Hardy, Somerset Maugham, Vladamir Nabokov, George Orwell, John Steinbeck, Evelyn Waugh, and Virginia Woolf etc. Also represented in the collection are contemporary novelists like Margaret Atwood, Eileen Chang, Toni Morrison, John Banville, Jose Saramago, Sarah Waters, and Kazuo Ishiguro. I make a point to read and collect contemporary gay literature (not erotica) because some of these fine prose stylists are often overlooked: James Baldwin, Alan Hollinghurst, Colm Toibin, David Leavitt, and Christopher Isherwood, etc. This year the ever-expanding collection has seen new authors: Marilynne Robinson, Deirdre Madden, Jay McInerney, to name a few. Books are now shelved in alphabetical order of author’s last name. I own almost 1,000 books of which over 90% are fiction and literature. History, literary criticism, and travel make up the rest. Out of the fiction almost 98% are literary fiction, translated literature, and/or literary fiction.

15 Responses

  1. I’ve been reading your blog for some time now, falling in love with it immediately. It’s one of the few that I do read quite regularly. This being said I have to say that although I love it this is the first time I decided to write a comment about what you wrote, out of shyness I guess 🙂

    Bookshelves are for me the most interesting part of someone’s habitat, I always search and look for them first. At the same time I think about my own (that is – my boyfriend’s and mine) books and how they appear to others. I guess this is because I tend to form an opinion on a person based on what they have on their bookshelves and I presume that others do that as well. But I don’t think that many do, really. We have about 750 of them between us, so they make a funny mix of my boyfriend’s SF novels and my Austen-Wilde-Hesse-and other classic novels. Also we have many art books since that is my profession and some old books (not very old, from late 19th early 20th century) that we got from his mother and that used to belong to his grandfather who was a collector. Serbia is a reading country, we have this bookfair that is the biggest in the area but since we are now going through transition many bookstores are being closed and turned into shoe stores and the like. A few new bookstores have been opened lately. But people still buy books and there are good publishers that keep the pace with what’s new in the world.

    What astonishes me a bit is that few people mention Paul Auster, even if they live in the US. Here he is very popular and usually out of stock. And since you’ve mentioned Ishiguro I wonder if you read anything of his countryman Haruki Murakami. He’s huge here and in Japan. I would also recommend Olaf Olafson, Islandic author based in US, Juan Jose Millas, from Spain, Cesar Antonio Molina, also from Spain and, of course Orhan Pamuk from Turkey.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Gradiva. I’m excited to hear that Serbia has lots of avid readers, something that is, in my opinion, diminishing here in the United States. Don’t get me wrong, there are still readers who peruse the pages ritually, but the rise of multimedia, all these iPhone apps have distracted readers-wanna-be.

      I read one book by Paul Auster many years ago. I don’t even remember the title, only that it was part of the reading while I was on a trip in China. I’ve been recommended to read the New York trilogy on numerous occasions so I’ll be on the lookout for him. Haruki Murakami is another author that I have to read, soon! Olaf Olafson has been quite a hit here as well. Orhan Pamuk is difficult for me.

  2. One look at your shelves would tell me you are one of a kind (a very smart one of a kind) who reads the absolute best literature. Mine aren’t quite so impressive. I’ve got a few skeletons lurking on mine (Howard Stern would be one of them…)

    • Sandy, you’re always very kind to me. I might not be the smartest reader but I certainly take my readings seriously. I don’t want to miss anything in between the lines so I have considerably slowed down in my reading after I finished college, when everything had a deadline! I like to read literature from different parts of the world, sort of an armchair travel with heavy does on humanity. 🙂

  3. I would say that your blog is the perfect mirror image of your bookshelves: a serious reader of world literature – and I LOVE it!!

    • It’s quite an accurate evaluation. Since I started blogging about four years ago, I have reviewed (at least written something) every book I’ve read. I love literature that affords the world view, humanity, and history.

  4. Considering your very thoughtful posts, the content of your bookshelves doesn’t surprise me a bit.

    • Danielle, like many other book bloggers, you’re always so kind to me. I’m very happy that I have made my hobby a career as well as a channel to share all my thoughts.

  5. I’ll definitely be returning to these pages when I need to choose a new book to read!

    For contemporary gay literature, along with Hollinghurst, Toibin, and Baldwin, one of my favorites is Jamie O’Neill’s At Swim, Two Boys Love, love LOVE that novel! The writing is amazing.

    • I have to look for a copy of At Swim, Two Boys, which, I beleive has made the Lambda Top 100 GLBT novel. Thanks for the shout out. 🙂

  6. Orhan Pamuk can be difficult I guess 🙂 Especially for someone that is so far away in every sense from this part of the world. We here are, on the other hand, all too familiar with what he’s writing about since Serbia was under the Ottoman rule for almost 500 years, so, yes, we know a bit about all that 🙂 But I think that, cultural barriers aside, he is perhaps one of the greatest writers in Europe right now and definitely worth your while. Not all his books, of course. But I would recommend “The Museum of Innocence” , the latest one, since it’s not at all difficult and it’s very good 🙂

    I liked all Murakami novels, but I think “Norwegian Wood” is my favorite so far. Still, Mishima remains my favorite Japanese author.

    As for gay authors have you heard about Shyam Selvadurai from Sri Lanka, now based in Canada ? “Cinnamon Gardens” for example. It even has an Austean feel to it 🙂

    Btw my name is Ivana, Gradiva is just my blog nick taken from a lovely Jensen’s novella which Freud found so amusing that he decided to analyze 🙂

    She kept silent for long and than she couldn’t stop talking 😉

    • Thanks Ivana. I appreciate comments. 🙂 My first Oamuk was My Name is Red, which although I trudged through, I enjoyed the historical background of Turkey tremendously. I took care not to miss anything so the reading was slow. The premise of Snow was more accessible, since the suicides, both in the novel and in reality, are causing much controversy among local Muslims as suicide is forbidden in the religion.

      Interesting how some of the authors you mentioned are ones I have meant to read for a long time but have yet to do so. Shyam Selvadurai is a brand new name to me and I’ll be on the look out for the books.

  7. 1000 books! I want to see your shelves! 🙂

  8. Wow, I’m jealous that have your books alphabetized. I keep saying I’m going to bring more order to my bookshelves but still haven’t done it.

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