Admittedly, this project felt at first to me like one of the most intimate get-to-know-yous I’ve ever experienced. Nonetheless, after some hedging about it, I decided to be transparent, rather than shy away or curate something––if I’m feeling shy about it, it’s because it’s probably also one of the most effective get-to-know-yous I’ve ever experienced. I love my bookshelf. More than just the stories on the pages, it’s got the fabric of my life folded into it.
It goes something like this: 1) whatever I consider “classics,” from ancients to romantics to modernists, 2) prized possessions, 3) coursework books and contemporary lit, 4) history and political theory, and 5) art, poetry and anthologies, plus a small pile I’ve been looking at recently and can’t fit back on the shelves. Really, I could, if I took down shelf 2’s corner for photographs, art made by people I love, and treasure boxes, but that would be impossible. I need to be able to see those as much as I do my copy of Decantations, an essay collection by my paternal grandfather, my first edition copy of Timebends, Arthur Miller’s autobiography gifted to me by a college professor, the weightless yet 1,164-page complete works of Shakespeare, printed on onion paper and used by both my father and me through our respective English degrees, my high-school copy of Lolita, read so many times now it’s held together by a rubber band, a Spanish workbook from 1935 gifted to me by my maternal grandmother called El Patio de los Naranjos… And others. This prized collection is held up by a makeshift bookend: two pieces of metal unevenly welded together by my younger brother when he was still learning.
I have no doubt that a complete investigation into this bookshelf may very well reveal everything there is to know about me. I’ve listed some of the more precious items by way of introduction, but truly every title on these shelves points to a moment in my life when I learned something profound, when my worldview changed or expanded, when I was challenged, comforted, incited, or inspired. These shelves are my journey up to this point, they reflect what I know, how I think, what I love. Now, that said, it’s time to add more.
Grace Prial is a graduate of Rutgers University–Newark with a BA in English. She lives in New Jersey and is passionate about her studies on the reflection of political movements in literature.