What’s On Your Keeper Shelf?

- by Barbara Bretton

I went upstairs yesterday afternoon to burrow under the covers and try to nap but it was too noisy up there. Too many books, all screaming for my attention. All with stories to tell and memories attached.

You see, we have bookshelves in every room of the house. We’re overflowing with books. If ever the Raritan River decides to flood its banks, I can supply enough books to build us a dam that would reach from here to New Brunswick. All kinds of books, everything from Jackie Collins to Stephen Hawking. The special ones, though, tend to stick together on the bedroom bookshelves. We’re lucky enough to have a big bedroom with a hallway and that hallway is lined with bookshelves, beautiful mahogany shelves that once belonged to my mother and before her to Grandpa’s favorite wife Margie. (He had five of ‘em.) (Wives, not bookshelves.)

I suppose we can be defined in some very important ways by the book company we keep. These then are the books I keep closest to me, the ones I want within reach on a cold winter’s night in central New Jersey.

On the first two shelves, in no particular order:

Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D. H. Lawrence

All of Laurie Colwin‘s works

Csardas - Diane Pearson

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (a book club edition from 1968)

Dance from the Dance – Andrew Holleran

Silences - Tillie Olsen (Her essay “I Stand Here Ironing” always moves me to tears – so many women’s voices lost to us. There’s a poem by Adrienne Rich – I wish I could remember the title. It’s about a man [or maybe a woman] watching an old love as she hangs wash on the line. A phrase lingers: “…bride and lost…”)

Locked Rooms and Open Doors – Anne Morrow Lindbergh (diaries)

The Flower and the Nettle - AML (also diaries)

Living Free - Joy Adamson (this is my childhood copy – a long ago Christmas present. Books were always my favorite presents.)

Iberia - James Michener. Far and away my favorite of Michener’s many books.

In the Flesh – Hilma Wolitzer

Moving On – Larry McMurtry (I re-read this every year or two and have since 1972)

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

Bliss - Elizabeth Gundy

Melbury Square – Dorothy Eden

Men in Love – Nancy Friday

Ladies Man – Richard Price.

Departures - Jane Bernstein

Gus in Bronze – Alexandra Marshall

Meeting Rozzy Halfway – Caroline Leavitt (who amazingly became a friend and knitting blogger last year; life is filled with infinite surprises)

Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell

The Intimate Male - ed. Anthony Pietropinto

The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe

The Complete Works of Robert Frost

The Collected Works of Ogden Nash

The Complete Works of Theodore Roethke – Roethke wrote my favorite poem. (“She was the sickle and I, poor I, the rake…coming behind her for her pretty sake. . .)

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

Evangeline - my Grandpa’s copy with Christy illustrations (published 1905)

The Little Prince – Saint Exupery. Kathy Callahan gave this to us, Christmas 1969.

Elizabeth I - Anne Somerset

Skye O’Malley – Bertrice Small

Swimmer in the Secret Sea – William Kotzwinkle

A Fine and Private Place – Peter S. Beagle

I See By My Outfit – Peter S. Beagle

Prologue to Love – Taylor Caldwell

Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg

The New Diary – Tristine Rainer

Teenage Treasury for Girls – ed. Seon Manley

The Chess Apprentice

Peter Pan – Sir James M. Barrie

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott. (Given to me by my parents, Christmas 1960. Beautiful watercolor frontispiece and pen and ink drawings inside.)

Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates – Mary Mapes Dodge

Swiss Family Robinson – Wyss

The Incredible Journey – Sheila Burnford (easily forty-five years old)

Prayers from the Ark – Carmen Bernos De Gasztold and Rumer Godden

Anais Nin, Vol I – Anais Nin

Linotte - Anais Nin, the early diary

Johnny Panic – Sylvia Plath – journal excerpts and a handful of short stories

Creative Dreaming – Patricia Garfield, PhD

Art of Fiction – John Gardner

The Rebecca Notebooks - Daphne duMaurier

Journeys through Bookland - all ten volumes. (Robert Louis Stevenson’s counterpane poem, the myth of Baucis and Philemon, so many other delights. This was given to my dad on his seventh birthday. Beautifully worn red leather bindings.)

The Romance of Lust or Early Experiences – A Classic Erotic Novel of Victorian England – Anonymous

The Pearl - A Journal of Voluptuous Reading

What’s on your keeper shelves?

4 comments

  1. My keeper shelf is all of Bertrice Small’s earlier books—the Skye O’Malley Series.

  2. One of my all time favorites is SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. This is the first book in his series based on the Cemetery of Forgotten books, a place I’d love to visit!
    Phoebe

  3. Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, J. R. R. Tolkein, Robert A. Heinlein

  4. This is one good looking, sexy theme, love it! What theme are you using?