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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Edited by: Lavanya Goswami

I love the crisis that the midterm of the semester throws me into. There I am, existing in my bubble, till that particular week starts and my bubble pops. I get bombarded with a bunch of emails about assignments that I was supposed to have started a long while ago. There are a million things to do, a million things to decide and one of my professors wants single-spaced formatting instead of double-spaced formatting. There is an exam, there is an essay—do I start them? Of course not. I have priorities; I go to reorganize my bookshelves. I use the word ‘reorganize’ but it’s generally a chaotic process whose progress depends on how much energy I have. It starts with military precision, and ends with ‘I give up, please just stay still’.

 I gravitate towards my books anytime life does not go according to plan. So, you’ll find me caressing the spines like a creep, practically every day. They’re great mental support, you know? They don’t ask you about your plans for the future. They don't brag about their partners while you languish in singledom. They don't judge if you start squealing like a pig about to be skewered while reading them. They’ve watched me grow up as silent judgemental grandparents who sniff in disdain at my easily overwhelmed self. There they lie in all their page-bound glory abed a plywood shelf, like the concubines of a great king. It is ironic, isn't it? Bookshelves are dead trees that are made to carry more dead trees. There’s something there about rebirth, cycles, and death—one can’t be bothered to figure it out. 

Arranging my books on the shelves is like a dance routine. It's a set of three repetitions because most of the books I own are trilogies. Bend, pick, twirl, stack– there goes Amanda Hocking’s book Switched. Bend, pick, twirl, stack–that’s Torn. Bend, pick, twirl, stack — finally placed Ascend. I like reading Hocking because her works are easy fantasy reads. She named one of her characters Loki — that’s a gentle nudge to go read it. 

I have the greatest autonomy in this process of classification. No one quite understands why I need to change the arrangements so frequently. It's like a ritual for me. I’ll put Enid Blighton’s works at the very front when it’s not a great time. Roald Dahl’s books are bookshelf VIPs; I'm still mad that the BFG is fictional. Why can’t I have a giant teach me how to trap and mix dreams to create nightmares? 

Is Little Women on the very front of my shelves? Yes, for it is a lovely soldier of a hardback that stands upright against the shelf-board. Josephine ‘Jo’ March single-handedly revolutionized my life, yet I’ve always been like Amy at heart. My sisters can attest to that.

Amy March had a record of stealing stuff. So do I; I ‘borrow’ books that I forget to return. I eventually do give them back after I get my copy. I did return East of Croydon by Sue Perkins after three years to a family friend. It was a pandemic-caused delay. The book was damned funny though. The author was showered with human urine while traveling through India and South East Asia while making a documentary.

There are so many ways to organize a bookshelf. Color, series, alphabetical order– I prefer mood. Why not arrange books according to something as fickle as my mood? Books have personality. They transport me to such vast worlds and induce such emotions in me. I’m going to put all the angst under one section. Then again, so many books don’t stick to one categorical classification either– where am I supposed to put The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller? Historical fiction or a book that made me ugly-cry? I remember how I nearly broke my nose while trying to read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. The thing is, I nodded off while reading it and that was not a smart thing to do. It’s a big chunky book, and the hard edges made quite the bruises on my nose. 

Some books have gilded/silver titles. The metallic sheen of the letters gets smudged away with frequent handling of the book. It is disheartening to see a faded half-title – City of what, exactly? All Cassandra Clare books have such pretty covers though. Fun tip: start with The Infernal Devices. James Carstairs is a gem of a character. The pun I made in the previous sentence is only understandable to those who read the series. My shelves do reflect my love for the underdog — especially the Indian mythological women whose narratives have been erased from the mainstream body of folklore. Lanka’s Princess by Kavita Kane is a book on Surpanakha. Yes, I know. Why read a book about a vindictive she-demon with no self-control? Maybe because Surpanakha is not just someone who lusted after a man and got herself mutilated as a result. Read the book to know more, and trust me, it packs a punch. 

A lot of the books on my shelves are gifts my parents got. The first page always carries the words of a well-wisher. Dear, I hope you do well in life. Dear, I hope you remember me. Some just have a name and date. Some of the books are amazing, some are a hit and miss. I think they just picked it up from airport bookstores because they forgot to get a present. I always use plane tickets as bookmarks for these books. Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet In Heaven is a great pick though. It’s short, it doesn’t ask much from you and it stays with you.

All my books stay with me but physically, they’re on my bookshelves. My badly hand-crafted bookmarks give them company, and souvenir magnets family members bought for me stand guard over them. I can’t cart away all my books to campus. That’s why I have a Kindle. Then again, I can stalk the bookshelves of others. I’ll lurk in the library and pay my respects to those bookshelves. I can build up my hostel bookshelf collection too!

Sthitee is a writer of the content team of the Her Campus Ashoka chapter and is in her first year. She is a huge fan of coffee and loves talking about how awesome nature is. Bribing her with pictures of baby animals is very effective and she's always on the look out for book recommendations.
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