Friday, January 6, 2012

The Shelf

I’ve told you this before, but I love books. And I don’t mean “love” in the same way I love burritos or fluffy socks. Books are my lifeblood. One of the few passions in my life that has never grown cold.

I’ve rejected purchasing a shirt because it was twenty dollars, only to turn around, walk into Barnes & Noble, and drop twenty dollars on books. I’ve never regretted buying a book.

The other day I uttered these words: “I’m never going to buy my kids toys. But they can have all the books they want.” I wasn’t completely joking.

Once, I actually got a little weepy in a bookstore as I browsed the shelves, overwhelmed by a desire to read everything at once, and a sorrow that even when I die, I’ll have missed something.

You get the idea.

I’ve been toying with the idea of setting a reading goal for 2012. Initially, I thought I’d set reading a certain number of books as a goal, and then race to it as fast as my Amazon Prime membership could carry me. But then, the other night I walked into my room and was met by the spines of all my books looking up at me. I suddenly noticed all the books that I had purchased and that have been loaned to me that I’ve never read, but prominently display on my shelves. Why don’t you like us? they asked. Please, give us a chance! Guilt-ridden, I counted them and arranged them as best as I could on a singular shelf on one bookcase.                                                                           

So here it is: The Year of The Shelf. This year, I’m going to make it through as many of these thirty-six titles as I can. Mathematically speaking, I could do it by reading three a month, but as the pictures demonstrate, some are much lengthier than others. My hope is that there are enough shorter ones to even out the tomes.

What do you think of The Shelf? Have you read any of these? Where do you think I should start? I’ll post my progress throughout the year, in addition to the regularly scheduled Friday 500 programming.

[left to right and top to bottom]

Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis
Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
Same Kind of Different As Me, Ron Hall and Denver Moore
Habits of the Mind, James Sire
Just Courage, Gary Haugen
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
Giant, Edna Ferber
The Living, Annie Dillard
Diplomacy, Henry Kissinger
Paris 1919, Margaret MacMillan
The World is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman
A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
The Count of Monte Christo, Alexandre Dumas
These is my Words, Nancy E. Turner
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Native Son, Richard Wright
The Faith, Chuck Colson
Nervous Conditions, Tsitsi Dangarembga
The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey
Persuasion, Jane Austen
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
Light in August, William Faulkner
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
The Inklings, Humphrey Carpenter
Rebel Angels, Libba Bray
“A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide, Samantha Power
The River of Doubt, Candice Millard
In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson
My Lucky Life in and out of Show Business, Dick Van Dyke
The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis, Alan Jacobs
From Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy, Matthew Dickerson & David O’Hara


  1. A Prayer for Owen Meany is phenomenal.

    And Persuasion is by far my fav Austen.

  2. Ack! And that series by Libba Bray is a favorite, too! Have fun this year!

  3. A Prayer for Owen Meany is great. His character is easy to adore. The twists and connections are amazing.

  4. Oh man. You having Diplomacy made me laugh. And you aspiring to read it. Way to be. I listened to A Short History of Everything one time on CD. It was mis-titled, but Bill Bryson is freakin hilarious. I bet you would like his other books more (esp. Mother Tongue and Notes on Small Island), but you've got to get through your Shelf first. And read Screwtape Letters already. A Light In August is such a light-hearted joy...oh, Faulkner just makes me just want to cuddle his sociopathic characters! Speaking of: you never had the joy of Native Son? Woohoo! What an upper!

    I'll pretend like I've read all the rest, but can't condescend to comment.
    Bibliophile? Is that a word? You're down with the sickness.