Monday, April 16, 2012

Alarming things on my bookshelves

Thanks so much to everyone who weighed in on last week's question about the best schedule for my shift to twice-weekly blog posts! Based on your input, I'm going to test out a Monday/Thursday routine and see how that goes. I appreciate all your insights!

Now back to our regularly-scheduled blogging . . .

As an author and the owner of a English Lit degree, I'm required by law to have a minimum of 10 fully-stocked bookshelves in my home. (Sidenote: the Facebook users among you might be interested to see my recent bookshelf refinishing project here).

The problem with having so many books is that you sometimes forget what you own and how its presence might alarm others.

Shortly after we started dating, my gentleman friend began spending more time in my writing office. A photographer and copywriter himself, he's an easy person for me to share creative space with, and I happily made room for him to work nearby.

I was busy writing as he arranged some of his possessions on the bookshelf beside me. Suddenly, he got very quiet.

"Um, what's this?" he asked.

I turned to see him studying this popular title:
My one regret is that I didn't have a camera to capture the "is there something you forgot to mention?" look on his face.

"It's for naming characters in the books I write," I assured him. "Check the bookshelves of every fiction author in America, and I guarantee 90% of them will have one."

Fortunately, he accepted that explanation without question. Unfortunately, I didn't get any smarter about hiding the more delicate titles on my shelves.

My gentleman friend's ex-wife recently dropped off their offspring and needed a few minutes of private discussion with him about kid-related matters. I kept the young'uns occupied in the kitchen with fart jokes while quietly fretting that the office where the grownups conferred looked like a nuclear weapon had been discharged on my desk. Every surface was littered with tax forms, editorial letters, and chewed-up pens. My coaster held a tea mug, a cup of water, and an empty wineglass. I'm pretty sure there was cat puke on the windowsill.

The instant the ex-wife left, I scurried into my office to see whether the mess might warrant a call to the child welfare office. It was then I noticed which title would have been most visible from her vantage-point:
For the record, it's a pretty good book (and yes, it's exactly the sort of fiction you might expect from the title). No one ever said a word about it, which is probably for the best.

My latest round of questionable reading material appeared just a few days ago. A friend who manages a bookstore knows I'm noodling a new story, so she loaned me a title to help me research the heroine's profession.

We were out drinking beer the evening she gave it to me, and when I came home, I tossed it on the kitchen counter and promptly forgot about it.

The next morning, I came down to find the housemates giving me goofy looks. I ignored them and made a beeline for the refrigerator, secretly wondering how I'd drunkenly embarrassed myself the night before.

"So, uh . . . congratulations?" one of them said.

I turned with a well-masked look of alarm. "For what?"

"When's the wedding?"

I stared in horror, my mind doing a slow replay of the previous evening's events. To the best of my recollection, no one had gotten down on one knee in front of me (which is a damn shame, but I digress).

Finally, the other housemate pointed at the book:
Relief flooded my body. "Oh, that. It's research."

They grinned. "Uh-huh. Right."

I'm still not sure they believe me, but maybe that's best. Maybe I'll ask whether they'd prefer wearing fuchsia or lavender bridesmaids dresses.

Is there anything on your bookshelves that would be alarming to others? Please share!

I'll be looking for a copy of How to Dismember Bodies and Get Away With It. Might as well give the housemates something else to ponder.


Mother Hen said...

I have just had a massive clear out of our book shelves as they were falling onto the floor anytime someone ran up or down the stairs. 276 paperbacks went to the charity shops,47 hardbacks to the local hospital and another 30 went to the local library. Now I have to repaint the bookshelves because you can see them!!

Unknown said...

I did have a book with lesbian couple photos by different famous photographers (from VERY explicit to just cute). I must admit I've now hidden it in a box in my basement. My family isn't altogether comfortable about my persuasion we all just pretend the pink elephant isn't there if we don't talk about it.

Other than that I have a very unchallenging collection of books.

chihuahuazero said...

Too bad I don't have anything discriminating on my two-row shelf.

However, that "pure sex" book got a laugh out of me. As a teenager I would never get away with buying such a book.

Patty Blount said...

I have books in nearly every corner of my house. Laurel K. Hamilton's Swallowing Darkness was sitting on my coffee table when my friend John visited. John is a Catholic Deacon. When I found him reading the back cover copy, I nearly sprinted across the living room and hurdled over the coffee table to rip it from his hands.

"Darkness" is a man. *crimson blush*

Deborah Blake said...

Let's start by discounting all the witchcraft titles, since I'm a witch, and well...they come with the territory (although I have noticed that anything with the word "occult" in it tends to make some people blanche). I've also got "The Joy of Writing Sex," a book on how to commit crimes (research! both of them!) and assorted others along those lines :-)

Anonymous said...

I read a fascinating book about the beginnings of modern forensic the lunchroom at work. Frightened a co-worker. Can't imagine why she was worried about me reading "A Poisoner's Handbook."

Jessica Lemmon said...

I just did a blog post on this, and YES there are a few! (, if you are so inclined...) one is called DATING SUCKS and the other is called THE SCRIPT: Things Men Do When They Cheat. As a happily married gal with a fantastic husband, these raise a few eyebrows. So did the article I printed off some time ago entitled, "Why So Many of us Marry the Wrong Person"

Laura Maylene said...

I totally have two baby names books on my shelves at home. I haven't thought about what other people might think because those books already creep *me* out a little.

And I loved Offbeat Bride -- it's a fun book. I also spent quite a lot of time on the Offbeat Bride website when I was planning my bizarre hippie wedding. (A skunk and predatory birds were in attendance, we got married in a planetarium, etc...). Is your character going to be an "offbeat" wedding planner?? I hope so!

Claire Dawn said...

Picturing housemates fight to be Best Man. lol. Thank God for Kindle. Keeps my questionables well-hidden.

Alexa O said...

Yes, I completely feel you on this one! I have the weirdest collection of books. I have weird books anyway, because I'll read almost anything, but also enough books by and about serial killers to make anyone think twice about hanging out with me. Especially since they are housed right next to my collection of books on the history of stigmata and claims of immaculate conception (don't ask).

I had a HUGE baby name book for a long time, but someone made off with it and I never got it back. Thank goodness for the Internet... I now use the official Census site to name my characters.

As to the ex-wife seeing your, ah... intimates... one can only hope she has a sense of humor!

Skye said...

Well, there are the books about kinky sex, both fiction and how-to, the fiction book involving sex toys, the book on poisons for the mystery writer, The Book of O (which I still haven't read), The Athiest's Handbook (real popular down in here the Bible Belt), the knot-tying book. At least I don't mix them with the children's and young adult books ....

Sarah Allen said...

Haha :) This is great! Considering most of my books so far have come from my former high school english teacher and my parents at Christmas, I don't have too many alarming ones. Yet. Although, yeah, I do have a baby names one.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Kendra said...

I once invited a born-again Christian friend over to my parent's house when I was still living there and right on the kitchen table was a book with a rather provocative anti-religion title (which I can't remember). I cannot explain the occurrence, since religion was rather a non-topic in my household and neither of my parents would be interested in reading such a book. To this day I have no idea whose book it was and why the heck it showed up on the kitchen table the one and only time I invited my very sweet, accepting born-again Christian friend over!

Sophie said...

Haha the last sentence made me laugh. Hilarious post!

Laina said...

I have NOTHING. Yeesh. I need to be more exciting. My only research books are about fairies :P

Although I have a Belle Andre book around here, but the cover and blurb are both pretty tame.