Call and Response

(Soundtrack: Public Enemy — Apocalypse ’91)

Rick Geerling got things started:

So every writer – hell, almost every person – has that bookshelf. That one. The one where all the favorites and good picks and really cool looking books go. Mine is right on top of my desk. I got out of bed this morning, looked over at it, and thought…well, what better way to get some insight into a person? We’re always doing favorite movie lists and favorite CD lists, but no one ever just talks about what they’ve got lining The Bookshelf. I’m going to jump out into the pool a bit and do mine and we’ll see where it goes from there. Remember – no cheating and grabbing the cool books that aren’t on your shelf, no saying you have books on there that you don’t…it’s okay if you haven’t rearranged it in a while and have some crap on it. I do. That’s just how it goes.

I know exactly what Rick is talking about here–in fact, for the past week, my mind has been almost wholly given over to the problem of how to transfer “the shelf” to Michigan… The way I see it, there will be room in the car for three boxes of books, and here’s the packing list:

The Complete Novels and Selected Tales of Nathaniel Hawthorne (Modern Library)

Mosses From An Old Manse — Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Modern Library again)

The Complete Novels of Dashiell Hammett (Library of America)

Winesburg, Ohio — Sherwood Anderson

Selected Writings of Stephen Vincent Benet

Complete Stories of Ernest Hemingway (Finca Vigia edition) — more on my mind than ever, especially “Hills Like White Elephants” and “Snows of Kilimanjaro”, which features the original Gwen Stacy Clone moment, “outside the regence”!

A Moveable Feast, The Sun Also Rises, and The Garden of Eden — Ernest Hemingway

Wuthering Heights — Emily Bronte

Pierre; or, the Ambiguities — Herman Melville

The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade — Herman Melville

Of Time and the River — Thomas Wolfe

The Web and the Rock, You Can’t Go Home Again, and The Hills Beyond — also by Thomas Wolfe

Cane — Jean Toomer

Up in the Old Hotel — Joseph Mitchell

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickenson

My Ears Are Bent — Joseph Mitchell

The Midnight Raymond Chandler — contains a number of the best stories, plus the two most important novels (The Little Sister and The Long Goodbye

My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew and The Benchley Roundup — Robert Benchley

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men — James Agee

Native Son — Richard Wright

The Selected Writings of Jonathan Edwards — edited Harold P. Simonson

The Omnibus of Crime (1929), one of my proudest possessions–featuring “The Gioconda Smile”, Aldous Huxley’s finest hour!

both volumes of The New England Mind, Errand into the Wilderness and Nature’s Nation — Perry Miller

The American Transcendentalists: An Anthology (1950) — edited by Perry Miller

American Vision — Ray Carney, the only great book ever written about Frank Capra

Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage — Stanley Cavell (where neo-Kantian philosophy and romantic comedy meet!)

The Runaway Bride — Elizabeth Kendall

The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara

American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman — F.O. Matthiessen

The Works of John Keats

The Viking Portable Joseph Conrad

Woman in the Nineteenth Century — Margaret Fuller

Means and Ends in American Abolitionism: Garrison and his Critics on Strategy and Tactics, 1834-1850 — Aileen Kraditor

The Antinomian Controversy, 1636-1638: A Documentary History — edited by David D. Hall

Novels of Dawn Powell, Volume One and Two (Library of America)

The Pickwick Papers, Christmas Books, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend, Great Expectations, American Notebooks For General Circulation — Charles Dickens (I’d like to bring it all, but let’s not get crazy!)

Cakes and Ale — W. Somerset Maugham

Seventeenth-Century American Poetry — edited by Harrison T. Meserole

The Annotated Milton

The Wings of the Dove, What Maisie Knew, The Sacred Fount, The Bostonians, Autobiography — again, I’d like to take all of Henry James’ books with me, but no dice

A Sub-Treasury of American Humor (1941) — edited by E.B. and Katharine S. White

The American Mystery: American Literature From Emerson to Delillo — Tony Tanner

Making the American Self: Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln — Daniel Walker Howe

The Long Argument: English Puritanism and the Shaping of New England Culture, 1570-1700 — Stephen Foster

The Puritan Origins of the American Self — Sacvan Bercovitch

The Flowering of New England — Van Wyck Brooks

The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon — Washington Irving

Pragmatism and Other Essays — William James

The Fireside Book of Christmas Stories — edited by Edward Wagenknecht

The Mammoth Book of Victorian & Edwardian Mystery Stories — mainly for Richard Harding Davis’ magnificent “In The Fog”

The Poetry of Robert Frost

Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay

The Great Gatsby — F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Major Works — S. Taylor Coleridge

Poetical Works — Percy Bysshe Shelley

Gothic Tales — Elizabeth Gaskell

The Age of Federalism — Stanley Elkins and Eric McKittrick

Transient and Permanent: The Transcendentalist Movement and its Contexts — edited by Charles Capper

Margaret Fuller: An American Romantic Life — Charles Capper

Hawthorne’s Fuller Mystery — Thomas R. Mitchell

The Trials of Anthony Burns — Albert J. Von Frank

Complete Stories — Dorothy Parker

My Bondage and My Freedom — Frederick Douglass

Animal Man #1-26 — Grant Morrison, Chas Truog, etc.

The Essential Spider-Man, vols 1-6 + Amazing Spider-Man #138-151 — Ditko, Lee, Romita, Conway, Kane, Andru, etc.

The Essential Dr. Strange — Ditko and Lee

Dr. Strange: A Separate Reality — Englehart and Brunner

X-Men Masterworks, nos. 22-31 — Thomas & Roth

The Filth — Morrison and Weston

Captain America #307-383 — Gruenwald, Neary, Dwyer, etc.

The Flash #275-350 — Bates, Heck, Infantino, etc.

Suqadron Supreme — Gruenwald, Ryan, etc.

Essential Avengers, vols 1-3 — Lee, Kirby, Heck, Thomas, Buscema

Doom Patrol #19-63 (with a few gaps!) — Morrison & Case

Cerebus, vol one — Dave Sim

The King James Bible — various

I hope all of it fits!

Good Day Friends!



  1. “The King James Bible – various”

    For some reason that’s just funny. I have no idea why. It’s like that Pentagon sign in InvincibleUNITED STATES PENTAGON — parking in rear”

  2. My problem with this meme is one that I’m convinced doesn’t apply to you but which I think is going to be otherwise all-too-common: it’ll become an opportunity for would be <>littérateurs<> to show off how much they know by ranking impressive books rather than favorite ones. (“First on my shelf is <>Ecce Homo<>. Oh, yah, I read it every six months. Real insightful and stuff”).

    Or is that too curmudgeonly of me?


    (I wonder what it says about me that my Shelf has reference books on it?)

  3. Davo, my list:

    Girls in Heat; Men on Top; Dominance in the Workplace; What? Me Lonely; Invalids, Derelicts, and other Canadian Prime Ministers; How to Pick-Up Women With Hypnosis;MY MOTHER! – Oedipus Rex and the Romance of the Century; Comic Book Nerds Unite; How to Lose Brain Weight in 60 Days and look good.



  4. Jess,

    it’s true, there’s always that possibility–ah, but then again, any time anyone expresses anything, they run the risk of coming across as a person who likes the sound of their own voice…

    for my part, I think it’s interesting to know what books people refer back to again and again–not everyone is as obnoxiously up-front about the active ingredients of their thought-processes as I am (I’m sure it hardly comes as a surprise to readers of this page that Hawthorne and Emerson are right at the top of my list!)

    and I do find it interesting that your “shelf” contains reference books! (which ones? an old encyclopedia set? a variety pack of “world histories”? Mencken’s The American Language?)

    Jamo–I’m pretty sure that exact shelf exists in a cell of a progressive prison somewhere… did you get them from Max Thunderstone? (oh yeah–and have you read The Filth yet?)


  5. David–

    Part of the problem is that, like most of us, my shelf would have to be 100′ long. And I’d have to decide whether to put G.G. Kay’s <>Tigana<> (more emotionally moving) or <>Sarantium Mosaic<> (better written) or both. And I’d have to figure out how to classify short stories. It’s sort of like doing a Desert Island Discs collection. How do I choose between <>It Takes A Nation of Millions<> and <>Fear of a Black Planet<>?

    Reference works–well, in no particular order, Garner’s <>Dictionary of Modern American Usage<>, the Clute encyclopedias of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Wm. Langer’s <>Encyclopedia of World History<> (most recent edition, the one with the kick-ass CD), <>Compact OED<>, Richard Slotkin’s “Fatal Environment” trilogy, Dupuy’s <>Encyclopedia of Military History<>, Peter Green’s <>Alexander of Macedon<> (we’re shifting over into my favorite history books, I know, but they’re on my shelf, too), James Murdoch’s three volume <>A History of Japan<>…hmm…gotta have the collected Wodehouse in there, somewhere…Murray Kempton’s <>Rebellions, Perversities and Main Events<>…Christopher Hitchens’ <>For the Sake of Argument<>…

    I’d better stop. I need to get back to reading Peter Gay for my book.


  6. Dave-

    Amazing list! Though I think my suggestion to you would have to be to buy a bigger car! There’s no way I could ever try and choose only a portion of my book collection…and absolutely no chance at all of doing the same with my comics. I think that may make for a more interesting list…however it would be even more vulnerable to the problem Jess brings up. And that is a problem I considered when I started this, which is why I made sure to list my shelf exactly as it was. If I tried to pick the best books from my entire collection, I’d probably look cooler…but then I’d spend days working on this list. In the end, laziness always wins out.

    Anyway, I rambled on as usual. Thanks for taking the time to do this, Dave!


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