Maria Romasco Moore discusses replica bookshelves, replacing books, and dark YA novels.
I built this bookcase myself — it is modeled after a shelf I found in an alleyway. I would have just kept the alleyway shelf, since I’ve found plenty of perfectly salvageable furniture in the trash before, but after lugging the alley-shelf several blocks and up the stairs to my apartment, I caught a faint but distinct whiff of ammonia and realized with dismay why it had been thrown out in the first place.
Anyway, I measured it, went to Lowe’s, bought some boards, some white paint, and a woodsaw, and voilà: a perfect replica.
You can see I made a vague attempt to arrange books by color at one point in the past, but other than that, my collection makes no sense. Jorge Luis Borges’ Ficciones is five books away from The Ellimist Chronicles, a one-shot spinoff of the Animorphs series. I like it that way.
I did not reorganize these shelves even a little before taking pictures. That’s why you can spot not just one but two whole copies of the Book of Mormon. One copy I snatched from the bedside table drawer of the hotel we stayed in during my grandmother’s funeral when I was 18; I honestly don’t know where the other copy came from.
Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s collaboration, Good Omens, is probably up there among my all-time favorite books. It never fails to brighten my mood no matter how low I’m feeling. I’ve had this copy since I was 11. A friend originally lent it to me, but I spilled a full glass of water on it, so I ended up keeping this copy and bought her a replacement. A lot of my books have memories like that attached to them (though at least a solid third of the memories would be “I read this on a Greyhound bus, and it made the journey bearable”).
Highlights of the next shelf include: Buster Keaton’s complete collection, a signed limited edition of Kelly Link’s chapbook, and 1958’s Keeping Fit for Fun, which includes entertaining and instructive chapters on “ear messages,” “eye messages,” and “nose messages.”
This shelf is probably the prettiest, so I’ll include the other half of it. Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities is another all-time favorite. When I first read it, the summer I was 17, I couldn’t get enough of the playful language and the way the brief vignettes, each beautiful and striking on its own, build into something far greater and more mysterious. Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels and Kiersten White’s And I Darken can stand here for my love of dark, well-written books for young adults. Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle is my absolute favorite in that vein, but it actually isn’t anywhere on these shelves because I keep buying copies and giving them away.
At the far left of this image is the early proof copy of my book, Ghostographs, with a bunch of Post-it notes sticking out of it. At the far right is a well-loved childhood copy of Maurice Sendak’s Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life, in which a dog has an existential crisis and goes on a wonderfully surreal, slightly melancholic odyssey depicted in black and white ink drawings. It never occurred to me until just now, but I think my book probably has a lot to owe to that one.
The bottom shelf of the bookcase has my Sandman collection, an 1874 Webster’s Dictionary, and the copy of Calvino’s Italian Folktales that my grandfather gave me. It also happens to be the messiest shelf of all and half the books are upside down. (Lynda Barry’s One! Hundred! Demons! is both upside down and backward because it doesn’t fit right).
There are books scattered about the rest of the apartment, too, encroaching on the board game shelf and piled in stacks of to-be-read and currently-reading — I almost never read just one book at a time. I’ve moved around a lot over the last 10 years, and probably 90% of what I read comes from the library, but I still couldn’t imagine living without plenty of books around me.