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Hazel & Wren Staff Shelfie: Taylor Trauger

2015 September 24
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by Taylor Trauger

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 another one of our shelfies. AaronWren, and Jessica have shared their shelfies, and we’ll have more to come. Read on, into our dear, writerly souls.

When you see my shelfie, you also see my boyfriend Kyle’s shelfie. We moved in together last year, and I spent hours organizing, alphabetizing, and displaying all our books on Billy bookshelves from IKEA. Eventually the books were joined by photos from our Key West vacations, (fake) plants, dinosaurs, LEGOs, and a corgi. Naturally.


Welcome to our IKEA living room. Now let’s take a closer look at bookshelf number one.


The corgi’s name is Jackie C, named after Jackie D, one of the nicknames Tracy Jordan gives Jack Donaghy in 30 Rock. But on to the books.


The potted plants separate our books by genre. First we have my French books, many of which I bought in France. Next we have plays—mostly Shakespeare, thanks to my English degree. The second shelf houses my poetry collection, including quite a few Coffee House Press poets. Then we have a comics and graphic novel section—the first sign of Kyle’s influence on the bookshelf. Only Fun Home, The Three Paradoxes, and Maus belong to me.

Moving on to fiction.


My favorite things on these shelves (besides the dinosaurs) are those two tiny books next to the plant. I bought them at Shakespeare and Company in Paris.


Tiny Shakespeare!


After taking a closer look at my bookshelf, I started noticing which books are missing. I have Michael Cunningham’s By Nightfall, which I haven’t read yet, but The Hours is on loan to a friend. Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love have been divorced from my shelf longer than the authors have been divorced from each other. (Hey friends, please return my books). Hemingway wins for having the most books on this shelf (7). And Where the Red Fern Grows is the oldest book, a hand-me-down from my mom.


It’s even missing its cover. Poor book.


Fiction continues onto Billy bookshelf #2.


I was so happy during my organization when I got all of Harry Potter to fit on the same shelf. Goblet of Fire is gone because Kyle and I are going through the series together, taking turns reading out loud to each other—except for the 14 hours we listened to the audiobook on a road trip.

Fiction ends with Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road, and we move on to memoirs and books of essays—my favorite section. Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle is my all-time favorite book. Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things (on loan), tie for second.


Nonfiction continues. Kyle’s art and design textbooks and other large books (like The Wes Anderson Collection and Oh, the Places You’ll Go!) occupy the shelf that’s sagging from all the weight.


We even have a book about our bookshelf on our bookshelf.


Then we have books on economics and history (everybody should read this one about work), The Science of Harry Potter, Literary Rogues, and various books on music. The bottom shelf has reference books, dictionaries, and a section on writing. A couple of astrology books, cookbooks, and travel guides finish it off.


We have a third Billy bookshelf that is primarily filled with board games and LEGOs, but the top shelf houses our anthologies. And a couple coloring books.


My shelfies reveal how many of these books I have yet to read! So many new books were added to my collection when Kyle and I moved in together, and some of my own have never been opened. We’re both trying to make progress through our shared collection, because one day I want to have read every book we own.

What would you pick up from our shelves and read next?

Hazel & Wren Staff Shelfie: Jessica Mayer

2015 September 17
by Jessica Mayer

Editor’s Note: Dear readers – today, we take a break from the normally scheduled What We’re Reading reviews to share with you another one of our shelfies. Aaron shared his here, Wren shared hers last week here, and we’ll have more shelfies from other staff coming up in the next few weeks. Read on, into our dear, writerly souls.

So, full disclosure — I busted out the dust rag in preparation for this post.

I have two (usually dusty) bookshelves in what would be considered my dining room, which I realize is not the most classic arrangement, but alas, I’m an apartment dweller so I make do with the space that I have. The larger of the two was handmade by my father and has since been painted in a weird shade of sage green.


There is a second, smaller book shelf opposite this one, but for the sake of time and space I’m going to leave the details of that shelf out of this post. The smaller shelf contains books like Detroit Redwings: The Illustrated History, and since everyone reading this post probably owns a copy of that book already, I say we needn’t worry about it here.

Back to the big green bookshelf. The lowest shelf has my really weird thrift store finds, like Opening to Channel, The Extended Circle, and an encyclopedia of psychic terms. You never know when that will come in handy! The remainder of the shelf is mostly poetry collections. There are individual collections from poets like Yeats and Thomas, Collins and Kooser, Sharon Olds, Federico Garcia Lorca, Wisława Szymborska, and Tracy K. Smith. There are also plentiful poetry anthologies and periodicals like Poetry and Whetstone. And, since I spend as much time pretending to be a photographer as I do a writer, there are also a good number of photography books.


There’s a nondescript blue book called A Book of Poetry 2 that I purchased secondhand (or thirdhand or fourthhand) many years ago. It’s torn and dog-eared and highlighted. The long-ago purchase of this modest looking book fueled my budding interest in poetry, and I still like to take it down and look at my faded margin notes about things that seemed exciting and foreign when I first read it — things like iambic pentameters. Which, to be fair, can still get my heart racing.

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The top shelf has a special (and very small) section for books about cats, because doesn’t everyone have a cat section in their personal library that’s sandwiched by An Introduction to Poetry and Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual? 


Let’s just take a moment to appreciate that my shelf includes a book called Glamourpuss: The Enchanting World of Kitty Wigs. (Link to book included so you don’t have to Google that somewhat suspect-sounding phrase yourself. I promise it really is just a book about cats wearing wigs.) To give credit where credit’s due (or to save face — ha! Sorry, boyfriend), Glamourpuss actually belongs to my significant other. Ditto for the tome about the Detroit Red Wings, in case you hadn’t guessed.


Opposite the kitty wig chronicles, I have a small but growing section of books I’ve reviewed for Hazel & Wren’s  “What We’re Reading” column, less the ones on loan to friends and relatives. Nick Lantz’s How to Dance as the Roof Caves In remains a favorite of mine.


There are various other places throughout my apartment where books seem to collect: the 15th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style acts as a bedroom door barricade against curious feline roommates and an unabridged dictionary make a nice houseplant stand. A sizable stack of books have made their home on my nightstand, too. There’s a really beat up copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four, a massive Hunter S. Thompson anthology that I’ve never touched, CAConrad’s ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness (on loan from the one and only Timothy), Michael Mlekoday’s The Dead Eat Everything, Eileen Lorsung’s Her Bookand Patricia Kirkpatrick’s Odessa. I also have a (signed!) copy of Joyce Carol Oates’ recent collection of stories, Lovely, Dark, Deep


I’ve downsized my collection with every move, only to build it back up again. I’ll move again in six months and probably throw some of these books into the Little Free Library next door. As always, it will be bittersweet. But unless I plan to ask my dad for another bookshelf, it’s the only way to make room for more.


Hazel & Wren Staff Shelfie: Wren

2015 September 10
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by Wren

The Writing LifeEditor’s Note: Dear readers – today, we take a break from the normally scheduled What We’re Reading reviews to share with you another one of our shelfies. Aaron shared his last week here, and we’ll have more shelfies from other staff coming up in the next few weeks. Read on, into our dear, writerly souls.

My shelfie is a work in progress, since I moved earlier this summer and still am getting settled. I purged a lot of books, too, that will go into the little free library I am planning to build for our new house. So, these shelves are a little lighter.

The first bookshelf is one that you see immediately upon entering the house, so I filled it with my favorites, to greet me after a long day.


These two shelves house some of my favorite fiction (and some nonfiction).  A few favorites: Kira Henehan’s Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles; anything by Toni Morrison; Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding; and much more.

20150907_111812The above shelf is one of my most used. It houses my favorite poetry collections, which heavily leans towards contemporary poets. Some highlights: multiple books by my soul twin Dorianne Laux, Ted Kooser, DA Powell, and so much more. A tiny crate/makeshift shelf that I forgot to take a picture of sits nearby and holds my letterpress poetry chapbooks. These books hold a special place in my heart, as I helped print/bind many of them on various stages during my apprenticeship with Red Dragonfly Press.

I have my literary education shelves in that entryway bookshelf, too20150907_111743. These are full collections, anthologies, and classics that I either read in undergrad or in my beginning adventures into literature to immerse myself in the classical foundation. While I have since drifted towards more contemporary tastes, many of these still hold a special place in my heart. One such favorite is Emily Dickinson, who was my first favorite poet in middle school. I even went so far as to paint lines of her poetry on my bedroom walls, once Hazel had moved out of our shared room for college. I’ve since found many other poets that I love, but dear Emily will always have a place on my shelves.

20150907_111857Upstairs I have this bookshelf, which houses a shelf and a half of Hazel & Wren review copies, many of which I have ended up reviewing. I love that via publishers sending me unsolicited review copies, I’ve discovered so many new writers that excite me.

Below that are more books, mostly fiction. My passion is poetry but its also my magnifying glass and fiction is my escape. I’m often surprised to see how much shelf real estate is devoted to fiction.

With these shelfies, I confess to you my love of the physical book — although I’m sure that comes as a surprise to no one. I just got married and am still riding the emotional high, so get prepared for some warm fuzzies: Many of these books hold sentimental value and I can’t bear to part with them. Even though every time I move, I groan when lugging all of my book boxes, it is worth it to me to have these friends, teachers, escapists, reflectors, adventurers, and powerful observers on my shelves. The emotional and physical heft of one of these books in hand is a magic that this luddite will never abandon.

What does your shelfie confess about you?

Hazel & Wren Staff Shelfie: Aaron King

2015 September 2
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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.