When I was in the fourth grade, my dad started reading to me. They’d both been reading to me long before that, and I had been reading on my own for some time, but nothing like this. Nothing as grand as Harry Potter. Throughout the fourth grade, he read books one through three to my brother and me. In the fifth grade, he read us the fourth book, and by then, the fifth one hadn’t come out yet. And when it did, I asked him if I could read it on my own. I also asked if we could go to the midnight release.
Order of the Phoenix was both the first Harry Potter book I read on my own, and the start of something wonderful. For the last three books, we arrived at Barnes & Noble at 10PM, browsed for an hour, and then sat in line for the last hour until, finally, it was time. When we got home, my dad locked the book up downstairs so that I would go to sleep, and then all hell would break loose for the next three to four days. For Deathly Hallows, I actually requested a few days off of work so that I could read it uninhibited.
That was the beginning. They were the first books that I ever owned.
After college, my parents sectioned off half of the living room, put up a wall, and gave me my own room. Until then, I’d been sharing with my sister. It was small, but it was mine. I was so excited. I started moving everything downstairs as soon as I could, which, as it turned out, was going to be a nightmare. I filled the entire dining room table with books. I wanted to reorganize my shelves, start putting more on my favorites shelves. I only had one or two at the time, I can’t remember, but I quickly turned it into three. I’ve always shelved my books as favorites first, alphabetical after. When I went away to college, I’d always take a few favorites that I didn’t need and likely wouldn’t read, but it just felt nice to have them there.
At the time, when I was moving into my new room, I only had one bookshelf. It was six feet tall, and had room for six shelves. If you follow me on social media, and saw last night’s bookshelf reorganization, you know how insane this idea is. And if not, well–I currently have three bookshelves. I was running out of room for my books in this single shelf, though, and had to make a decision–a second bookshelf or a dresser. It’s not hard to imagine the choice had already made itself. And so, I welcomed a new four foot, four shelf bookshelf into my room. I had it filled almost instantly.
For most of my book life, my shelves have been in neat lines, overflowing with trinkets, and pretty boring. Not the books themselves, but the outward appearance. They look like a library. Uniform. Tightly packed. And yet, when I moved again, I didn’t change them. Moving to Medford meant moving to a bigger room. I finally had space for a third bookshelf. At the time, when I first started unpacking my books, I only filled the first shelf. Now, I’ve got almost three filled. It’s another six foot, five shelf bookshelf, and it’s not the most sturdy thing. If I move again, I’ll probably invest in something better, but it’s doing what I need it to do for now.
Moving to Medford with the books I had now was actually a nightmare. Most of my boxes were books. The shelves themselves were ridiculous to get up the stairs and in place. One of my friends once told me that every time they moved, they gave away most of their books so they wouldn’t have to take them. I just can’t even begin to imagine that as a possibility. Not only are they most of my decor, they make me feel happy. Safe.
For as long as I can remember, reading has been an escape. I can travel to different worlds, step into different shoes, experience different lives. Whenever I’m nervous about something, unsure of what my next steps are, or just not feeling 100% mentally, I read. I have lived a thousand lives, and each of them has given me something new. I am constantly learning, discovering, and reshaping the way I look at things.
And though this post is about my reading history, it should be noted that without books, I would not be a writer. Without Harry Potter, I would not have started writing. Without every single book that I have read, my writing would not have gotten better, would not have expanded, would not have challenged me. I am not Mary without books.
For a while, I’ve been frustrated with how my books look. There are some that I want to show off, some that I want to just look over and see immediately, some that should be shelved differently. But it’s a huge task, reorganizing three bookshelves. My Goodreads tells me that I’ve read 340 books, and that doesn’t even include the TBR ones that are also taking up space. I have at least 400 books, maybe more. Someday, I’ll count. It seems wild, I know. To each their own.
Last night, I finally did it. I stripped my shelves first of all the trinkets, then sorted the crystals into groups, and finally started taking the books down. I did it about two or three shelves at a time, dusting and polishing each shelf before beginning to reorganize them. I posted four pictures of my new shelves, but I didn’t get to talk about them. The whole ordeal took about two and a half hours, and it was almost midnight when I finally finished, so I wanted to get to bed. However, these shelves tell a story, and I am here to spin it.
Oh man. These are the shelves. The favorites.
Shelf one: Lord of the Rings by JR Tolkien, DragonLance by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, and A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. LOTR was the first true fantasy series I ever read, and probably the most important. If you look at any of my novels, you’ll find Aragorn in there somewhere. Little pieces, but he’s there. DragonLance was my first guilty pleasure fantasy. There are actually several books that I own that I haven’t read, but I love this series endlessly. It was my first real introduction to dragons, and I will keep rereading those first three over and over again. The crystals pictured are for the different moon phases, and Jenna got me that Pooh and Piglet quote forever ago.
Shelf two: Harry Potter by JK Rowling, everything by Maggie Stiefvater, Keats, Rilke, and John O’Donohue. Yes, that is a custom made Hogwarts letter. Yes, that is Harry Potter’s wand. Yes, that is the largest piece of selenite I have ever seen. Harry’s an obvious favorite. These shelves are actually setup this way because LOTR & DragonLance are both really small, so I always stick them up top in the smallest shelf, but HP is the first favorite. Maggie is a close second. She’s my favorite author. I hadn’t heard the term auto buy author until recently, and after looking it up, I’ve realized that I have quite a few, her the most obvious. I own 15 books by her, and there’s actually one that I’m missing. I’ve also got my two favorite poets up there, which I actually just finished reading. I have a complete collection for both of them, but I’ve been procrastinating finishing them because then I have nothing new to read by them. And then there’s John O’Donohue, who is a truly magnificent Irish philosopher, and another I have not read everything by for the same reasons. Also pictured is Maggie’s tarot deck.
Shelf three: Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, Dalai Lama & Buddhism, and David Mitchell. Eragon is and always will be a very important character for me. He is the kind of character I want to write, in some shape or form, and he’s got a dragon, so he’s an immediate favorite of mine. A lot of the Dalai Lama and Buddhism books, I have not read, though I’m slowly working my way through them. David Mitchell is my second auto buy author. I own all 7 of his books, and am desperately awaiting the next one. These are actually organized by favorite instead of chronologically or alphabetically, from bottom to top, because The Bone Clocks is quite possibly one of the best books I’ve ever read. Also featured are elephants from Jen, a set of chakra crystals in front of a Tibetan prayer wheel in front of a picture of His Holiness, and a very accurate drawing by Erin of me.
Shelf one: The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, Shades of Magic by VE Schwab, and the beginning of the alphabetizing. This is the last of the favorites shelves, and right now, only extends halfway. TMI was a series I ignored for a long time, and it’s because I judge books by their covers. I try really hard not to, but if there’s a half naked man on the front, I’m probably going to put it back. Which was a mistake, I am now recognizing. Patrick, my CP, actually originally gave me City of Bones and said that it sounded like a book I would really enjoy. I also ignored him, which is another terrible mistake. It was only when the movie was coming out, and Jace was being played by Jamie Campbell Bower, whom I loved in his role as King Arthur, that I caved, and watched the trailer, and lo and behold, there were not only vampires and werewolves, but faeries, demons, demon hunters, angels, and a whole slew of other amazing things. I read the first five in a month and a half. SOM is a new addition to the favorites list. And by new, I mean I put it there last night. I’ve only recently gotten into this series, and I’m currently halfway through the last book, and wow. Kell Maresh. That’s all I have to say. Also featured are three very specific crystals in front of SOM for Kell (howlite, obsidian, and hematite) and Sirius Black’s wand.
Shelf two features: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, Maze Runner series by James Dashner, and the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. For the rest of my books, which are all alphabetized, I either featured series or other favorites. For this one, it’s actually a little strange. I was watching this booktuber the other day, and they were talking about auto buy authors they had that they’d never read any of the books, which I just didn’t understand until I was reorganizing last night. I’ve read a few chapters of the first Dark is Rising book, and yet, I count them among my favorites. I know they’re good, and I know that I’ll like them, I just haven’t gotten around to reading them. The Divine Comedy was a no-brainer because hello. Also featured is a lovely blue candle by Erin, an absolutely gorgeous teapot from Tommy, and the Wild Unknown tarot deck with element crystals on top.
Shelf three features: Cornelia Funke, Pure Dead series by Debi Gliori, and Margaret Peterson Haddix. Funke is another auto buy author, though I haven’t read a few of them–mainly, the second two in the Inkheart trilogy (a real life reading tragedy) and Dragon Rider. However, Thief Lord is one of my all time favorite books. Both the Pure Dead series and the Shadow Children series were huge for me growing up. Also featured is a beautiful, real Venetian mask from Jen specifically placed in front of Thief Lord.
Shelf one features: Ellen Hopkins. Another auto buy author. I’ve read most of her poetry books, though not the last three, I think. I also haven’t bought anything after Tilt. Also featured is a wild statue from Tommy from Belize, desert rose selenite, and a series that I didn’t get to feature because there are only two, and I didn’t have room–Rebel of the Sands and Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton.
Shelf two features: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield and James Joyce. Hadfield’s book is one of two that are actually out of place purely because I loved them so much that I wanted to make them stand out. He’s in front of all my graphic novels and comic books. Joyce used to have a spot on my favorites shelf, but after some consideration, he’s moved back into the alphabetical section. Also featured are chakra candles, Albus Dumbledore’s wand, and a jade elephant that Tommy almost got confiscated on the way back from Australia.
Shelf three features: The Someday Birds by Sally J Pla. This is my other out of place feature. It is, hands down, one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I recommend it to every single person ever. Also featured is a lovely floral teapot and a stunning polished flourite from Erin.
Shelf four features: another author that I didn’t have the space to face out, Arundhati Roy, as well as a Harry Potter music thing, and an owl tea mug from a very sweet employee when I left BJs.
The third bookshelf!
Shelf one features: Shakespeare in front of the Holy Bible, Le Morte d’Arthur, and Oscar Wilde, and A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. These B&N collector editions are my pride and joy, and I want so many more of them. I’ve also not read all of ASOUE yet. I’m on book seven, I think? It’s taken me a long time to get through them, and I only started reading them just before the Netflix series came out. Also featured is a spooky black crystal set for grounding.
Shelf two features: Angelus Trilogy by Jon Steele. THESE BOOKS. Oh man. Truly one of the greatest contemporary fantasy series I’ve read in a long time. I gobbled them up so fast. Also featured is an actual set of dungeon keys, and a stupa!
Shelf three features: the end of the alphabet, a picture of the Buddha, and a real life fortune cookie I once got that reads, “You are a lover of words, someday you will write a book.” How accurate is that?
And that’s that. Books, books, books.
If you’re still curious after that, I’m on Goodreads here, and I’m always down to chat about books.