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  • Writer's pictureKristin Woodward

achievements, memories and aspirations in hardcover


i want to say we have too many books. but can you ever have too many books?! i often envy Modern Ms. Darcy for having a job that revolves around books. i can’t keep up. in my good pace, i read about a book a month. lately, the pace is terrible. (i know i owe a Nightstand post on Killing Monica!) that doesn’t negate the fact that we are a household of readers. Spy reads 2 real newspapers every morning (AJC & NYT). we both read real books, not digital — and preferably hardcover, thank-you-very-much. we are old-school. and i love every-fucking-minute of it. getting immersed in someone else’s story always inspires me and makes me think about where i’ve been in or what i want for my own life, so i always connect those stories to certain periods, places and moods.

but all this reading means that reading material stacks up in our house. the newspapers are pretty easy to take care of every Thursday when the recycling trucks come. but the books, well . . . another story. we are both people who save and treasure books. between the two of us, we have gajillions — and we’re now inheriting more from family who feel the same. some are rare, expensive books. some are classics. some are basics on writing. some are just old favorites. i count 11 bookshelves in our home. they are mostly filled now. and they cover a lot of ground.

so when the Writing 101 challenge for Day 15 came up and included the quote above as a jumping off point (as an alternative to writing about a reader-suggested topic), i thought it was the perfect time to start what might be a series cataloging “the random shit on my bookshelves”. because, obviously, nothing on any of those 11 bookshelves is actually organized, categorized or otherwise stacked in any way that makes sense. we have the equivalent of putting Beethoven next to Britney Spears on every one of them. so far, though, the books all seem happy with their neighbors. i imagine the conversations between them are fascinating.

Shakespeare:  hey girl. i hear you like iambic pentameter.

Babe Walker: gross. i’m so sure. i would totally never let you do that to me. now, shut up so i can meditate on Jimmy Choo’s Spring collection.

so for today, welcome to our sitting room. we recently moved this larger bookshelf upstairs from the office when we re-jiggered that whole set-up. totally good call both aesthetically and organizationally.


for some reason, i zeroed in on the top row, third shelf over. oh, right. because not only does it contain books, it has some maybe-valuable art on it, too. more on that in a bit.

see anything here you’ve read and loved? or hated? i’d love to hear about it in the comments.

a couple of the highlights for me here:

Story of My Life, Jay McInerny — i honestly can’t believe it took me so long to read this book. loved it! it is quintessential 80s reading. Jay and Bret Easton Ellis (another all-time favorite) were friends. i love reading novels like this where you see the same characters show up across works from different authors. there’s a thing like this that goes on with some of the ex-pats in Paris, as well as a similar kind of crossover from some late Fitzgerald with Capote & Dunne — at least there, telling stories of the same rich and famous circles, even if they all didn’t actually hang. Alison Poole is supposedly based on Rielle Hunter. yeah, that Rielle Hunter. it’s all sex, drugs and rock and roll. when i finally read it a couple years ago, it totally brought me back to my pre-mom life. sigh.

Natchez Burning, Greg Iles — nobody in my house ever read this book. i bought it for Spy when he needed something for the beach and the actual book he wanted couldn’t be delivered in time. lesson learned: i have no idea what my husband actually likes to read.

In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway — 1930 edition, unpacked from a stack of boxes Spy brought home from Richmond a few months ago when his dad moved into a retirement community. i loved going through these boxes and finding that in a lot of instances, his mom and i have the same taste in books. one more unsettling piece of evidence in a long list of jesus, you married your mother realizations. we’re both totally okay with all that. no, for real. Ginger is super-cool. anyhow, having read probably more books about Hemingway than his actual works, i’m psyched to dig into this and read some of the things i’ve read about him writing. and i always love a collection of short stories.

Drink, Play, Fuck, Andrew Gottlieb — okay, there are actually 2 copies of this somewhere. in our house. just one more sign that Spy and i are soulmates (in addition to the fact that we both hate that word). some other girl probably gave him his copy, but whatevs. this obviously is a hilarious guy’s twist on Melissa Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. i read this one before that one, vowing not to succumb to the Oprah Book Club hype. i hated that book less than i actually wanted to. and way less than i hated Gilbert’s next book, Committed, which was so grossly introspective i had to put it down. after vomiting several times.

there is also a copy of The Scarlett Letter (which i wrote an amazing paper on in high school that, as i recall, had a women’s rights bent), the book that made me quit book club forever and some Virginia trivia that obviously came from the senior Spy clean-out, along with other gems. even this one 16’x16′ shelf is such a walk down memory lane, i wish i could spend more time poring over it.

so now for the maybe-valuable art. these two icons were given to us by Spy’s best friend from childhood. they grew up in the Episcopal Church. Alex’s father was so conservative that when the Episcopals started letting women be priests, he went to the tighter-laced Anglicans. we are pretty sure he was completely mortified to attend our wedding, presided over by one of the newly ordained “priestitutes.” anyway, Alex Sr. was also a huge collector of religious art and artifacts. their home was packed with them — some valuable, some not. when his father passed a few years ago, Alex had to go through all this stuff and do an estate sale. he handed these two pieces off to us unceremoniously. probably over a beer with Spy. and obviously with no explanation except that they are St. John, Spy’s real name (OMG, OMG, it’s like the last episode of SATC where we learn Big’s real name! and it’s also John! WTW?)

did i mention that Alex is now a Buddhist? yeah, there’s gotta be some kind of hilarious joke here. . . . i just tried 3 times to write it and also confirmed i am not cut out for stand-up. check. i think Alex also donated a box of Confederate flags to Spy’s flag collection. it was a joke. but, Old Virginia, man.

anyway, having absolutely no inclination to actually hang this religious shit in my house, it ended up tucked away on this bookshelf. and here it sits, looking like 2 old books. at some point, we’ll probably have these and a lot of other old, seemingly random, stuff that just sits on bookshelves around here appraised. maybe we can retire early or take a nice vacation. or probably, it all will just sit here — artifacts of our lifetime of experiences and learnings — be pulled off the shelf occasionally, admired and reminisced over, then replaced so that we can make room in our minds for something new that builds upon this rich and wonderful past.

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