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Shelfwalking: Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself

by Jess Dimayuga

I’ve been reading about travelling lately. The last two books I read were Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig and Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac. The main characters of these books went on cross country road trips while I was at the comfort of my office desk.

There’s a Roald Dahl quote:

“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives.”

If books could transport us to new places, our book shelves or the way we arrange our books are the borderlands to those places, or as I discovered when I volunteered for this assignment, a road map into my preference as a reader.

I have a pretty standard bookshelf. It was a gift from my brother who probably got tired of me stacking books on my side of the room. He doesn’t remember where he got it from, so if anyone reading this knows where I could get something similar, let me know in the comments.

Bottom shelves consist of early favorites and, as much as I hate using the term, “essentials.” Below is a breakdown of those books:

Bottom Left: Transgressive Fiction Shelf

  • Skagboys, If You Liked School, You’ll Love Work, Filth, The Acid House and The Bedroom Secrets of Master Chefs, all by Irvine Welsh
  • Invisible Monsters, Choke, Haunted, Diary, Survivor, Lullaby, Rant, Tell-All, Pygmy, Snuff, Damned and Doomed, all by Chuck Palahniuk
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
  • Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

Bottom Center: Essential Reading

  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • The Catcher in The Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Bottom Right: Pop Culture-ish?

  • Fargo Rock City, IV, Sex, drugs and cocoa puffs, Killing Yourself to Live, Eating the Dinosaur, Downtown Owl and The Visible Man, all by Chuck Klosterman
  • World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide and The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks, all by Max Brooks
  • The Advanced Genius Theory by Jason Hartley

The top shelves which are more accessible are a reflection of my current reading preference.

Top Right: Uncategorized

  • Kafka on the Shore, Blind Willow and Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami
  • The Corrections, Freedom and The Discomfort Zone (where my first tattoo is based from),  all by Jonathan Franzen
  • How We are Hungry by Dave Eggers
  • The Nimrod Flipout by Etgar Kerret
  • Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along Borderlands, Wonderboys and Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
  • Motherless Brooklyn and Men and Cartoons by Jonathan Lethem
  • How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • The Little Friend by Donna Tart
  • 10% Happier by Dan Harris
  • Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland

Top Left: Favorites and To Read

  • The Crying of Lot 49, Against the Day and Gravity’s Rainbow (where my second tattoo is based from), all by Thomas Pynchon
  • A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, The Broom of the System and This is Water by David Foster Wallace
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
  • Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

To-Read Pile

  • The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Both Flesh and Not by David Foster Wallace
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  • Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon

The top part of my bookshelf contains comics and graphic novels I really need more shelves.

Mostly BOOKSALE Finds

  • Totally MAD: 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity
  • The Curse of Madame C, Weiner Dog Art: A Far Side Collection, The Prehistory of the Far Side
  • Baby Blues Scrapbook
  • A whole bunch of Zits collected editions
  • The Calvin and Hobbes 10th Anniversary Book
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Marvel Encyclopedia(?)

Graphic Novels

  • Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine
  • Blankets by Craig Thompson
  • Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan
  • Stitches by David Small
  • Building Stories by Chris Ware
  • Watchmen, V for Vendetta and The Killing Joke, all by Alan Moore
  • Batman 75th Commemorative Collection (Dark Knight Returns, Hush, Court of Owls)
  • The entire Batman collected issues from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (except for Endgame)
  • Complete Batman Eternal
  • All other “essential” Batman Reading you can find in lists (The Man Who Laughs, The Black Mirror, Gates of Gotham, etc.)
  • Batman previews from Free Comic Day
  • Batman and Thrasher Suit Batman Action Figures. Can you guess who I’m rooting for in the Batman/Superman movie?
A watch given to be by my dad and random pins I bought from the airport bookstore in Hong Kong

So that’s my shelf. A road trip through Irvine Welsh’s gritty Edinburgh all the way to the loneliness of the Illinois State Fair with David Foster Wallace with a whole lot of Batman sightings on the way.

I’m reminded of a John Water’s quote as I look at my shelves:

“It wasn’t until I started reading and found books they wouldn’t let us read in school that I discovered you could be insane and happy and have a good life without being like everybody else. And today, life is good.”




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