Building Your Creative Bookshelf

Megan Eckman - Studio M.M.E.

We all know that our creative inner artists are children. That explains why we are easily amused, love sweet things, and enjoy walks (or strolls or romps or rolls) outside. But have you supplied that child with books that nurture her creative spirit?

I didn’t embrace my creative bookshelf until last year. I’d already been out of school for a year and was packing up my things to move cross-country. As the filled boxes grew and my remaining books seemed to breed, I took a hard look at my collection and realized, “I’m not an English major anymore!”

Yes, I still had that degree, but that didn’t mean I had to have a library identical to the dean’s. No one was going to come by my apartment and make sure I had all of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work. Heck, I loathed Hawthorne! What was I doing packing up his books to go with me?

I had spent years building up a collection that I thought I should have and never considered what I wanted to have.

That sort of thinking meant I was purchasing every copy of Shakespeare’s plays, dry anthologies that contained one poem I enjoyed, and mythological dictionaries by every leader in that field. There’s no denying that I was proud of my collection. I reveled in the fact that it overwhelmed my bookcase and filled box after box on the floor round it. But I never opened a single one of those books after I bought them!

So, what did I do after this major revelation? I sent half of my collection to the thrift store. Half! And then I bought the books I’d always wanted to buy but though were too childish: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Sabriel by Garth Nix, and all of the fairy tales by the Grimms, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Anderson. I also collected books on Elizabethan clothing, dream theory, and 19th century photography. (There may also be a book on cute animals, but I think everyone needs at least one book on cute animals for those gloomy days.) My new collection would make current English majors cringe, but it perfectly suits my work. I play amid my books and, in return, they continually fuel me with new ideas.

If a book doesn’t make you giddy, make you smile, or make those little artsy wheels start turning, don’t keep it.

There are no book police! Your friends won’t care if you love architecture and don’t have any of Frank Lloyd Wright’s drafting books. You need to build your bookshelf to reflect your inner artist.

I now celebrate big accomplishments with buying new children’s books. The Time Warp Trio box set just arrived last week. Yes, it’s meant for age 7-11 boys and yes, as my engineering-major brother put it, my reading level is higher than a grade-schoolers. But I adore them!

So remember your inner child the next time you go book shopping.

Does she really want The History of Art or would she prefer The Fart Book? And if you feel embarrassed about your purchase, I can assure you that most people will be jealous of your collection.

7 thoughts on “Building Your Creative Bookshelf

  1. Megan,

    I completely agree!

    Like you, my book shelf was full of books that were for decoration, and not for reading. Recently I realized that I’d rather get rid of those books and collect the ones that delight me.

    I love the Emily Windsnap series, and anything else by Liz Kessler. I love the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. When I need something really light to read, I like… the Babysitter’s Club series. Not sophisticated, but fun, which is a lot better. You and I seem to have some reading tastes in common, so I think you might love Stroud and Kessler.

    — Sarah

  2. Another great post. I’m an English major too & so is my partner and many of our friends. Oddly enough, most of us turned to the books we love after graduating & those were the creative ones with a sense of play, children’s, young adult, & fantasy–especially by local authors. It was really a case of reeducation: learning to enjoy reading again without a pencil in hand and a Lit. Crit. anthology in mind. Thank you so much for your fab suggestions. Our favourite writers include Hiromi Goto, who is playful whether you are reading her adult lit or children’s & oh so wonderfully creative. Happy reading! :o) mel

    1. Yay for English majors! I agree that we all revert back to what we love immediately after college. It’s a relearning to love books for their simpleness. Maybe in a few more years we’ll go back to being walking Bedford’s literary terminology books.

  3. This is exactly what I have needed to do for a long time but I keep telling myself I might just need that book one day… but I’m going to finally let go now and make room for something new!

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