[This fragment is available in an audio version.]

A dozen years ago, our growing family created a problem: Too many books! So after I finished ripping our thousand CDs, we repurposed the CD rack into a bookcase, stuffed it with our genre paperbacks, and put it in the guest room. A few years later, the guest room became our son’s room and the pulp fiction went into boxes. But just now after another bout of domestic reorganization, they’re back out among us. I find their dingy colorful presence cheering. Check out the picture!

Bookcase full of pulp fiction

For those who want to pixel-peep authors and titles,
here’s a full-sized version.

There you have it; 7½ shelves of Sci-Fi, 6½ of mysteries and thrillers, 250 or so books. Likely very few of these will feature in Lit Crit courses any time soon, but they are full of imagination and intensity and color, and in aggregate contributed significantly to the comfy and cluttered interior decor of my mind.

Now a few statistics, which I suspect that connoisseurs of 20th-century popular fiction will find pleasing.

  1. Most popular authors: Rex Stout (32 volumes), Gene Wolfe (21), Elmore Leonard (16).

  2. Less-renowned authors whom we apparently enjoy and you might too: Michael Dibdin (9), Clifford D. Simak (8), Sara Paretsky (7).

  3. Special smiles: Delany, Disch, LeGuin, Leiber, Zelazny.

  4. We have moderns! Charlie Stross (9), by which we observe that he became productive before pulp became Kindlified.

  5. Most-loved, judged by the level of tatter: The Mote in God’s Eye and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I’m pretty sure I bought the latter when I was about 14.

  6. Retired due to not having aged well: Travis McGee.

  7. Still on the upstairs shelves due to being mostly hardcover: Gibson and Gaiman.

Their new location means we walk by them when we go upstairs to bed. After another shitty 21st-century day, the appeal of curling up with 20th-century storytelling will be strong.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Rob R (Jan 17 2022, at 18:19)

I think you're a bit harsh on Travis McGee. Anyone who has friend whose boat is named the "Thorstein Veblen" deserves to be cut a little slack.


From: Matěj Cepl (Jan 18 2022, at 09:14)

Uh oh! “Five Red Herrings” twice? Why? It is the weakest of all Lord Peter novels (in my opinion).


From: Nathan (Jan 18 2022, at 09:52)

I will need to check out some of these authors that I don't know, because our overlaps seem to be quite strong. I can certainly identify with some authors and books not aging well, but on the other hand it can be a delight to re-visit an old friend and find that it resonates even more strongly than it did when I first read it (this is why I own so many LeGuin works; I assume that's the case for you as well).


From: Andrew Reilly (Jan 18 2022, at 19:39)

Libraries full of books are good for the soul! Some years ago, in what I guess was either a fit of boredom or interior decorating, my wife re-ordered our bookshelves according to colour of the spine. No easy alphabetic access here! It is surprisingly coherent and soothing to look at, and having to scan the whole collection when looking for something specific has resulted in many surprising and serendipitous (re)finds.

Yours is jarringly anarchic by comparison, whatever the merits of sensible categorization!


From: foresmac (Jan 22 2022, at 00:11)

I definitely have a Clifford D Simak novel: Shakespeare’s Planet. I cannot remember how or why I got this book, but this is the first time I’ve heard his names referenced since I bought it.


From: Luiz Rocha (Jan 23 2022, at 14:17)

LeGuin and Simak also have a special place in my bookshelf.

And "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is the only Heinlein I own. Despite fame, I find his other work meh.


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January 16, 2022
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