A Walk Through My Childhood Bookcase

Greg Zimmerman

Staff Writer

Greg Zimmerman blogs about contemporary literary fiction at The New Dork Review of Books and holds down a full-time gig as a trade magazine editor. Follow him on Twitter: @NewDorkReview.

I spent some time at my parents’ house in Ohio this past weekend, and snapped this photo of my childhood bookshelf. It looks almost exactly the same as it did when I was 12 years old. So I thought it would be fun to do some confessing and reminiscing. Here are a few highlights:

1. These are two volumes titled The World’s Best Fairy Tales. When I took these books off the shelf, they both almost fell apart — not because they’re old (though that’s part of it), but because my brothers and I read these (and had these read to us) more frequently than just about any other book. Also, there are some weird pencil doodles on page 77, the title page of The Three Little Pigs. Shame on my 7-year-old self!

2. Every few months in grade school, our teachers would hand out a Scholastic Books catalog. I always looked forward to “catalog day” and couldn’t wait to take it home to pick out my books. I was usually one of the only ones to return the next day with a filled-out order sheet. This, of course, resulted in my fair share of playground wedgies. Anyway, these Watermill Classic paperbacks are what I normally ordered. I had dozens of them — including The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Call of the Wild, and Dracula. Even then, I was a book hoarder — I bought them with my paper route funds with every intention of reading them, but I only made it through about a third of them. Sound familiar?

3. Sadly, my copy of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is lost, but this copy of the fourth book in the series, Many Waters, remains. Like many growing-up readers, I loved that series! It’s an imagination-opener.

4. The book with the blue spine just to the right of the number is titled Omni Astropilots. It’s by Laura Mixon. It’s also my first ever DNF. A lot of my friends were reading sci-fi, so I thought I’d give it a try. Couldn’t stand it. Was bored silly. Also, early in the novel, the writer uses the expression, “chip on his shoulder.” I have a strangely vivid memory of being utterly confused by what that meant — I thought it meant the main character had a shoulder injury. Strange how we have these selective reading memories, isn’t it?

5. Heidi, by Johanna Spyri. Um…what? Why did I, a sports-loving Metallica fan, have that on his pre-teen bookshelf? Must’ve been my little sister’s?  (Actually, it IS mine, and I loved that book — but that’s not exactly a masculine admission.)

Also lost to history is my EXTENSIVE collection of Hardy Boys novels. I read the sh!t out of those — must’ve had more than 100 of them. Didn’t you?

Do you still have your childhood bookshelf in tact? What are your highlights?