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Hazel & Wren Staff Shelfie: Aaron King

2015 September 2
by Aaron King

The Writing Life

Editor’s Note: Dear readers – today, we take a break from the normally scheduled What We’re Reading reviews to share with you something so personal, it might just make some of us blush: our shelfies. Aaron share his first today, with more shelfies from other staff coming up in the next few weeks. Read on, into our dear, writerly souls. 


Here are my only shelves of “real books.” Most of them are fiction, organized solely by author’s last name since I don’t believe in genre as an organizing hierarchy. There are lots of books that I love that aren’t here, which maybe makes my shelves a bad representation of me as a human. I refuse to buy something unless I (a) can’t get it from the library or (b) want to read it multiple times and mark it up. What I end up having are perennial favorites (Frankenstein, everything by Louise Erdrich) or weirdies I’ve had to hunt for (everything by Fritz Leiber).

Up top there are books I’ve borrowed from people along with an awesome paper statue of Don Quixote that a friend brought me from Mexico.


Below the fiction is everything else: poetry, history, pop stuff, and so, including a few books on maps since I’m obsessed with them. It’s also where my books about comics end up. Oh, and all my roleplaying game books are here along with all my notes on our long-running D&D campaign. It might be slightly embarrassing, but it’s a straight line of inspiration from those books to a lot of the stuff I read now, and I still get a lot of entertainment out of those old things. No shame!


And here’s the weight of my library: three shelves of comics. Since so many comics have multiple hands involved in their creation (from scripter + artist to scripter + penciler + inker + colorist + editor[s]), my organization method is a little arcane.

Most of these shelves are alphabetized by the last name of the person I consider primary to my interests. Sometimes this is the scripter, like with the works of Warren Ellis. Sometimes it’s the artist, exemplified by Jack Kirby. Occassionally, it’s even the editor, as seen in the row of anthologies edited by Mark Chiarello. It would never work for a library, but since it’s only here for me, it’s perfect.


“Books about Vikings” is probably the most particular genre of books I have. It all started in undergrad with the best class I ever too, Icelandic Sagas. From there, I started using the saga voice in short stories and comics I made. There are also tons of great novels that use a similar voice: Iceland’s Bell by Halldór Laxness (Iceland’s only Nobel laureate), the works of Sigrid Undset (a Norwegian Nobel laureate), and Frans Bengsston’s The Long Ships/Red Orm, which did not win a Nobel Prize, but it’s still an excellent adventure tale.

For a more modern take, Dustin Long’s Icelander is a saga by way of Nancy Drew with some meta commentary on the construction of stories.


One think I don’t like about all the comics I have is that a lot of them end up in boxes in a closet. Lately, though, I’ve been able to move many of them into these Comic Cartel boxes. I use them to display my longer runs of comics, particularly those that will never be issued in collected editions (like the first volume of Resurrection Man or my strange obsession with Marvel’s Machine Man) or comics that were created to be consumed as single issues, like Criminal and Casanova (although the latter has moved away from that format).


Speaking of books that are hard to display, here are all my comics that aren’t “standard” pamphlet size that don’t have a spine. There are a bunch of minicomics, including some Chinese bootleg Tintins and the gone-to-soon Oily Comics. From there, it moves up to some sizable beasts like Mowgli’s Mirror and an old issue of the “prozine” witzend that I bought for an Alex Toth story.

Getting new minicomics is great; it feels like getting an art object directly from an artist. It helps remind me that comics are a vibrant and living medium, and that the comics I read today will be the sought-after archival editions in following decades.

So, reader, what would your shelfies look like? Stay tuned for other Hazel & Wren staff shelfies in the coming weeks.


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