Puff Chrissy’s Shelf Porn: Part 5


Shelf 5

Welcome back to Shelf Porn, where every week I take a look at a shelf from my home library. This is either a lot of fun for you, or mind-numbingly awful.

This particular shelf is smaller and houses my paperbacks. I have a love-hate relationship with paperback books of this size. I understand their usefulness and the value of being able to put them into your pocket, but I’ve always preferred the larger paperback editions. It’s no accident that a lot of the books on this shelf were either given to me or I picked up among my travels.

The pile on the left is a stack of Stephen King books, including Night Shift, On Writing, Duma Key, Lisey’s Story, Danse Macabre, From a Buick 8, and The Gunslinger. I’ve always had a fondness for King’s first short story collection, and over the years I’ve come to dislike the stories I initially loved and come to appreciate the ones I initially disliked. On Writing is one of the best books on the subject. Duma Key is a lot better than most people give it credit for, and I like seeing this phase of King’s writing where his stories are set in places outside of Maine, as it is in From a Buick 8. Also, Duma Key gets points for mentioning Tampa and Davis Island. Danse Macabre is also quite good, but I’d love to see a second volume with a more experienced King looking back at the subject. And The Gunslinger, this one revised by King, is an awkward start to an exceptional series.

Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion is one of many books I’ve enjoyed on the subject in the last few years. It’s so refreshing seeing great thinkers and writers exploring atheism and being able to properly articulate a lot of the things I never could.

Stalingrad by Antony Beevor is a wonderful bit of nonfiction on a subject a lot of people have peripheral knowledge of, but once the details are laid out for you, as Beevor does so well here, it’ll knock you out.

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne is an early example of metafiction. And this is why it’s on my shelf. I can’t say I enjoyed reading it, but I appreciate it for what it is.

The Plague by Albert Camus is a book I haven’t read in a long time. And I’m pretty sure this edition isn’t the one I read, as I remember a completely different cover to the one I read when I was in university. That said, it’s typical Camus; interesting and cold.

I have a few copies of Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus sitting around at home and at work. When you’re teaching English to foreigners, it’s good to have some back up.

I picked up this copy of The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos in Berlin because I wanted a Pelecanos fix. A great read that’s smart enough to keep a couple of its secrets when the story’s finished. Still though, I like his Derek Strange books better.

I still have quite a few Graham Greene books on my shelf to read, but I’ve already covered The Quiet American and The End of the Affair. Both of them are great books.

Zadie Smith’s On Beauty is one of those books I didn’t expect anything out of and it ended up blowing me away. Funny and heartbreaking in all the right places, this is one of those books that made me so happy.

I have to confess that it took me a long time to get around to reading George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. And I have to confess further that the reason I picked these up finally was because of the cover designs. Good books, by the way.

Donna Leon’s Wilful Behaviour was given to me along with a ton of other mystery books. This was the first and last book I’ve read of Leon, and though I enjoyed the book and the main character, I’m not in a hurry to read other books by her.

Nick Hornby’s 31 Songs was  a lot of fun. I always appreciate his thoughts on music and books.

I still haven’t read The Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde.

Another book I picked up because of its cover design is Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts. It was the spine that got my interest, which is so rare. The spine has a pull quote that successfully sells the book while identifying it. The book is fantastic on a lot of levels, and like Mark Z. Danielewski, you can tell Hall is someone who really likes to play around with the text.

I love Kurt Vonnegut, but Jailbird doesn’t do anything for me.

One of the great things about living abroad is being able to discover writers I never would have in the States, and Ryszard Kapuscinski is one of them. Out of all the Polish writers I’ve read, Kapuscinski is probably my favorite. The Cobra’s Heart is part of an appetizer series to get people interested in reading the writer’s books, so there’s not much here to brag about. I’ll be gushing over Kapuscinski later when we get to his books on my other shelf.

The mandatory Polish-English Dictionary that sits on every foreigner’s shelf in Wroclaw.

Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is a cool little book. Chabon is an important writer for a lot of reasons, but his insistence on playing in the genre sandbox is what makes him so significant. This is an alternative history story that plays off a really cool What If?. What really makes this work are the little details Chabon throws out there in the background that he never comes back to or expands on.

Here is my old copy of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. You can read my thoughts on Salinger’s death and this book here.

I have a lot of Ayn Rand books. We’ll be seeing her again as we move on to other shelves. But here you’ll find The Early Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, Philosophy: Who Needs It, For the New Intellectual, and Atlas Shrugged. With the exception of Atlas Shrugged, I read them all when I was in university and I couldn’t tell you which book was which. I’ve read Atlas Shrugged three times now, but my heart belong to The Fountainhead. I’ll talk more about Rand later.

And some Haruki Murakami books, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Blind Willow Sleeping Woman and Kafka on the Shore. I really enjoyed his first book on running, which wasn’t something I thought I would. Basically, if you want to know Murakami’s thoughts on writing, this is probably the closest thing we’ll get to him writing a book on the subject. Blind Willow Sleeping Woman is a nice collection of his short stories, though I like his earlier collection better. And Kafka on the Shore is one of his books that just didn’t work for me, which is a shame because all of the ingredients were there.

Last, you’ll see the Key to Hell statue based on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, specifically from Season of Mists. I’m happy I’ve kept this over the years.

Okay, looks like that wraps it up for this week. See you next time.

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About Christian A. Dumais

Christian A. Dumais is an American writer, humorist and public speaker living in Wrocław, Poland. He has published fiction, journalism, and academic articles in several magazines and journals such as GUD, Shock Totem and Ha!Art. His first collection of short stories, Empty Rooms Lonely Countries, was published in 2009. He also created, edited, and contributed to Cover Stories, a euphictional anthology of 100 stories inspired by songs, which was published in 2010. His most recent book is SMASHED: The Life and Tweets of Drunk Hulk.

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