What’s on Emily’s Bookshelf?

Posted: August 14, 2020 9:00:00 AM CDT

If you’re watching the news or any live tv show, you’ve probably noticed that folks like to have a bookshelf in their background. It makes them look cultured, literate, or sometimes downright scary (C’mon Betsy, what’s going on over there?). Some folks on twitter and in the New York Times have taken up sleuthing through the images to see if they can identify any of the books and thus learn glean a fuller picture of the books’ owners.

Since I was at my parent’s home when Nueces County Covid-19 cases started surging, I’ve stayed here for a bit while I work from home. This means folks I web conference with have gotten a glimpse of the books my parents have graciously allowed me to store in my childhood bedroom.

So we’re going to do a deep dive into the bookshelves of Emily Metcalf pre-2018.  

emilys full bookshelf

Top Shelf

On the top shelf are a bunch of books from college. I went to a school called Denison University and majored in English and Religious Studies.

emilys top bookshelf

Some of the books here, including God of the Oppressed by James Cone and Theology of Hope by Jurgan Moltmann, are from classes based on liberation theology, or the belief that Judeo-Christian religions are inherently opposed to oppression and ought to advance principles of freedom and equality.

Other books are from a course in Hinduism, including Encountering Kali: in the margins, at the center, in the west, by Jeffrey J. Kripal and Rachel Fell McDermott, and Darsan: Seeing the divine image in India by Diana L. Eck.

And finally there are just a bunch of books on Lilith, a goddess-then-demon-then-feminist icon who I got super into my senior year and did a bunch of research on.

louise penny books

Also on this shelf are some books by Louise Penny. My dad got me reading her Inspector Gamache series so these sit here and make me feel guilty when I click “Next Episode” on Netflix.  

Middle Shelf

My middle shelf has apparently become my English Literature section. Books include an anthology called The Weird by Ann and Jeff VenderMeer, which is a bunch of short stories and novellas from genres like horror, sci fi, and magical realism. It’s less like “ghosts are cool” and more like “what if you woke up one day in an insane asylum and you were imprisoned for treason but you have no memory of it and the government is run by lizard people who do experiments on you” kind of stuff.

emilys middle bookshelf

You can also see a couple of Norton Anthologies of American Literature. I saved them because I honest to goodness thought, “What if I can’t go to a bookstore or library and need to read something?” I have not picked them up since college.

Also on this shelf are books on Chinese philosophy. Hidden in there you can see The Essential Writings of Zhuangzi, a chinese Daoist philosopher. My favorite piece of his essentially says if a drunk guy falls off a cart, he might get hurt but he’s not going to die ‘cause his body and mind are already super chill from all that wine. He’s in a natural state, as opposed to a sober person who would try to correct the fall or stabilize themself and probably end up with a broken neck. The more ya know, right?

Other books here include Harriet Jacob’s autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Flannery O’Connor’s collection of short stories, A Good Man is Hard to Find, and a couple of John Grisham books that my dad thought I would like. I started one of them once and promptly fell asleep.

Also there’s a stuffed buffalo.

Bottom Shelf

The last shelf is miscellaneous things. There are a bunch of Harry Potter audiobooks as well as Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series on—get this—cassette tape (there’s also an alarming amount of Tamora Pierce books on a second bookshelf that isn’t visible from my webex background). This shelf also has old journals, photoalbums, a varsity letter (did you know you can letter in Band?), and a high school diploma that I don’t know what to do with. 

emilys bottom bookshelf

So if you’re bored and looking for something to do, I recommend you take a look at your shelves! Revisit forgotten stories, reminisce about a time when you had the attention span to read philosophy, and rejoice in your good sense at having removed any Ernest Hemingway from your life years ago.


Emily Metcalf

Instructional Services Librarian

Really Hates Hemingway




By: Emily Metcalf

Category: Library Randomness, Behind the Scenes