I am currently in residence at the Ragdale Foundation in the North Shore of Chicago, Illinois. I am working on my first novel, a novel in letters, set in 1930s California, and I've been reading two books a week for research and inspiration. The goal is eight books in 25 days, which is a personal record. My favorite is the book I'm currently reading, Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. Gabi is hilarious and she speaks so much to who I was at 18 and even more to who I am now at 35.
I love non-fiction. Some of my favorite books are about pregnancy and birth, sensuality, sexuality, menstruation, cooking, and growing food. I love anything SARK and my tears dropped on almost every page of The Red Tent.
I love showing off my book collection, and also enjoy comparing organization methods with other bibliophiles (this photo is of a post-move pile! My library is always shelved alphabetical, by genre, by author, of course). I'm not sure what this says about me, but the author from whom I have the most titles is the queen of mystery, Agatha Christie. Right now I'm working on finishing the second book in Proust's In Search Of Lost Time: "In The Shadow Of Young Girls In Flower." Proust is a master, but this volume is exhausting me!
This is one just one of my bookshelves, which I have a tendency to organize/re-catalogue according to categories that make sense probably only to me — ex pats living in Paris in the 20s, proto feminists, writers who were romantically and/or creatively linked, and those writing from the margins etc and so on. I have always mined words for their potential as a site of discovery and interrogation of both self and larger society. A good, challenging, book haunts me forever. Borderlands/La Frontera by queer Chicana feminist poet and scholar Gloria Anzaldua and Joan Didion's seminal book of essays, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, are two I like to keep within arm's reach.
I love reading, but I really love books. I love their smell and weight, their physicality, the action of turning pages, how finite they are, in that they contain only exactly what's printed in them, and yet the potential to dream and imagine within the realm of what is printed is infinite. I love all my books, but one of my favorite is Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon.
I found this lovely thing at a yard sale for a buck. Imperial Edition: A Library of the World's Best Literature, Ancient and Modern. 1896. Opened up the worn pages, landed three quarters of the way through on John Muir's "A Wind-Storm in the Forests," and fell in love. My favorite sentence: "Winds are advertisements of all they touch, however much or little we may be able to read them; telling their wanderings even by their scents alone."
I've lived in three states over the span of two years. None of this movement makes having a mini library any easier. I've tried owning Kindles and reading books in that format, but nothing beats walking into a bookstore, smelling that unforgettable scent of old books, and flipping through the pages of a loved tome. It's just made me more selective about which books I bring with me, either beloved ones for rereading or ones still needing to be perused, each one tends to find a new home soon after.
My father always told me books belong everywhere—on a table or a chair, in the bathroom, in the kitchen. Towered against a wall, waiting in your car or in your bag. “Always take a book with you,” my father would say. He loved to build homes for books, making our bedrooms little fortresses of shelves, safe nooks to read in for hours. Now that I live on my own, my bookshelves are more modest. I still find tiny dark corners in need of life, so I keep books on the floor or my entryway bench. But my bedroom shelves are the most intimate; the worlds that occupy those shelves sleep with me and wake with me. Gifts from old friends, books found in travels, titles I turn to time and again, always comforted by underlined words and notes in the margins.