still playing with books


the after photo

Last week, before I went out of town, I was looking for my new book, The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty. I looked on my ToBeRead shelf–not there. I looked behind me on this long built-in shelf that theoretically holds the things I’m working on–not there. I glanced around at the various piles of books on the floor.

I knew it wouldn’t be on my regular shelves because I hadn’t read it yet. Then I remembered the shelves to my right–my reference section, so to speak. I had stuck it there.

These four shelves–one for poetry, one for short story collections I refer to as I write, one for books on craft, and one for books on writers writing about writing–were overflowing with papers stuck everywhere, books piled horizontally on the tops of other books. When I had looked for Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor on my computer a while back, I had thought I didn’t have it, but here it was. So I realized that none of these books were on my computerized list of books. New project…

DSC00060Taking one shelf a day, I wiped off dust, looked through tables of contents, thumbed through my underlinings, discarded the ones I no longer needed (and by discarded I mean put in a pile to donate to the library) entered the title in my computer, and re-shelved in alphabetical order. Well, they had to go back on the shelf some way. And yes it could have been randomly or by color, but, as some of you know, I’m an alphabetical type of person. I need to just admit that and move on.

During the process I discovered Poemcrazy: freeing your life with words by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge. I don’t write poetry, but I love words. In this book, the author writes about how she collects words. And prints them on tickets–admit one. More about this book later.

Do you have books you’ve forgotten about? What books do you refer to when you write?

7 thoughts on “still playing with books

  1. I love the picture of your bookshelf! I love bookshelves, period. Mine’s definitely organized by color, but if not by color I think I’d fall into the alphabetical category, too. Good idea to make a computerized list…sounds like a fun project to me! 🙂

    Books I refer to when I write…let’s see…

    Currently, my three go-to books are Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, From First Draft to Finished Novel by Karen S. Wiesner, and Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us by Jessica Page Morrell. I’ve read a lot of books along the way, but these are the ones of the moment for me.


  2. Would you come over and do my bookshelves next? Wow! I’m impressed. Our house is overflowing with books divided by subject and ideally alphabetized in a category, but I’ve given up on the kids’ books – at least the mess indicates they are reading. My shelf of to read books is a jumble.

    My writing reference books vary by topic. For my latest YA project, “as u like it,” I have a very marked up As You Like It, the Arden Dictionary of Shakespeare Quotations full of stickies, a Shakespeare biography, baby name books, dictionary and thesaurus. I do a lot of research on line, on site and in person too. I reference my photos and blog too. I’ve read some good books on writing, but I don’t reference them while I’m writing.


    • Sarah, I have never even thought about doing the kids’ books. I love books all over the house, and we seem to have them all over ours too. But the fiction I’ve read over the last twenty years is all on shelves in my study.

      I guess about ten years ago I started keeping a list on my computer of each book as I finished. Then about five years ago, I went through shelf by shelf adding the fiction I’d read before I started the list. I’m constantly finding a shelf or a pile that escaped, though.

      Your YA novel sounds fascinating. I would love an excuse to get into Shakespeare. It’s so interesting to see what books pile up by my desk as I’m working on a new story or novel. Thanks for sharing your list of reference books for this project.


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