The Bookshelf Report is an ongoing series where we ask 5 questions and share 5 pictures of a bookshelf belonging to a Bushwick reader. Today’s bookshelf comes from Levi Fuller, a veritable veteran of the Bushwick Book Club Seattle. Over the years he’s performed songs inspired by The Shining, 1984, Dr. Seuss, Alice in Wonderland, Lust by Ellen Forney, and many others.
What is your favorite book on these shelves?
I will give you two answers: My current favorite book on these shelves as a possession is a recent edition, my signed copy of Ellen Forney’s Lust. It will always remind me of how much fun it was to play the Bushwick show for that book, and how gracious and wonderful Ellen was. My favorite book just as a thing to read is probably David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, although that’s tough to answer, as I pretty much only hold on to books that I really love or have some other attachment to.
How do you organize your books?
Our current system is a semi-organized bit of chaos. The top two shelves of the taller unit is devoted to my (almost) complete collection of McSweeney’s. (I think I accidentally recycled the newspaper-style volume, a slip-up for which I mentally kick myself several times a year.) Below that are a bunch of Eggerses and other favorite contemporary-ish novelists… plus some other books that seemed to kinda fit in with them. I’m a big library user and not a big book buyer; there’s a very small list of writers whose work I tend to go out and buy, and this is where those books tend to go. Below those is the mostly picture-based books: the second row from the bottom has some tasteful Taschen-nudie-type books and some weird anatomy/medical-curiosity-type books, and the bottom row is filled with taller books, mostly art books and such.
The cabinet shelf with the doors is even more random (to employ an overused but, in this case, semi-accurate word). I should first mention here that all these books are combined from my and my wife’s collections, which adds to the variety and challenge of organizing. The top left shelf is home to some of my wife’s women’s studies type books, as well as a couple useful items for pointy-headed nerds – Strunk and White, etc. Below that is novels and memoirs that we liked enough to keep but that don’t seem to fit on the shelf with the Eggerses; everything from Brian Wilson’s autobiography to Dubliners. Down one more and we have more, but less [quote_left]“Can you tell we both did most of our book buying before the internet?”[/quote_left]literary, miscellany: craft books, books about cats, Winnie the Pooh… and then the bottom left houses a bunch of medical reference books. Can you tell we both did most of our book buying before the internet? Now if you want to see cute pictures of cats or figure out if you have leprosy you just go online, but things were different back then!
Now moving over to the right side of the cabinet: the top right is where all the pulpy paperbacks go, whether by Ian Fleming, Mark Twain, or John Cheever. (I just noticed there’s a copy of Gravity’s Rainbow there, which I will freaking read all the way through one of these days, so help me.) Below that shelf? More random-town. A couple things with music-y connections, A People’s History of the United States, some sort of pocket reference, a rubber bear-head puppet, you know. The next shelf down is very special: This is mostly books that I or we have a personal connection to, whether by friends or family (or signed copies of books I’ve written songs about)… plus some more random books that probably didn’t fit anywhere else. Sigh. And the bottom right is more Books of a Certain Size. Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader? The Century? Home Improvement 1-2-3? Well, they’re all about the same height, so let’s throw ’em down there!
So to more accurately answer your question, “How do you organize your books?”: Not at all. If you have any friends with OCD that you really want to mess with, just bring them by my house some time. (But that’s not nice; those friends are probably having a hard enough time as it is.)
Be honest. What percentage of the books on this shelf have you actually read?
Well, given the fact that this is a joint collection of books (and some of them aren’t exactly reading books), I would guess around 85-90%. As I mentioned before, I’m a library guy, not a book-buying guy, so generally if I am going to buy a book I’m going to read it right away. There are some gift books that I might not have gotten around to, and that one goddamn Pynchon book, but generally speaking I don’t like to leave books sitting around unread.
What book do you plan to read next?
Good question! I was just looking through my hold list at the library, most of the contents of which were recommended by friends (as was Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, which I’m reading now), and I decided to un-suspend my hold on Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest. Apparently it’s a crime-y summer.
Wild Card: How do you know all the toys on these shelves get along? (Or do they…?)
It took a lot of trial and error to get the correct toys on the correct shelves, and separate the ones that didn’t get along. The spaceman kept trying to shoot whoever we put in with him, but apparently he’s OK with the plastic bunny as long as it’s far enough away (I’m amazed the robot survived in one piece before we moved him over). You’d think that little dolly on the left would be all sweetness and light, but she was a terror! We had to put the dice and marbles in to distract her and the stuffed bunny to keep an eye on her. The bear puppet could have been trouble, but he doesn’t have a body.