Some End of Year Housekeeping

It turns out that we never posted about the book group hike from this fall and the Mackintosh Squares! So, for those of you who couldn’t be there, here is the photographic evidence of our picnic at Nichol’s Ledge in Cabot. It was even more beautiful than it looks. Photo by John.


I wish I’d thought to do a quick write-up of the event immediately afterwards because now I’m not entirely sure what to say about it all except that we had a great time. Oh! And George’s orange! Inside joke.

Also, a picture of the making of the Mackintosh Squares. I can’t quite recall how many hours we spent on these. Many. Most of them were productive, except for one late-night attempt that resulted in me sewing Ed’s square inside-out. Twice. But we fixed it, and you can’t tell. Right? Thanks to Josh for this photographic evidence, his assistance, and his patience!

mackintosh squaresFor posterity, I want to point out that we made eight squares, one for each member of Bowling for Jane, and each one featuring a book that we read as a group during the past year. We tried to match the individual with the book when possible. Here is the outcome:

  • Thierry—A Room with a View (because he loves it so!)
  • Ed—Return of the Native (the heath!)
  • John—Barchester Towers (need I elaborate?)
  • Rose—Tender is the Night (her pick after listening to it)
  • Sarah—Howards End (her favorite book)
  • George and Erica—A Passage to India and The Great Gatsby (they got choose which)
  • Michelle—Hard Times (okay, so Michelle got the short end of the stick here, but her square also featured the Jane Austen Trivial Pursuit game, so I think it came out alright in the end)

A note on book shelves. Last year, Michelle gave me a book called Ex Libris about . . . books. One of the chapters described the difficulty of deciding how to organize your books. (There’s also a fabulous chapter on a husband and wife combining their book shelves!) I thought about this a lot because it’s something I’ve changed my mind about many times. Finally, after months of indecisiveness, I reorganized my everything by what I’m currently thinking of as “emotional book shelving.” To me, that means that I started with E.M. Forster (including biography and criticism) right in the middle at eye level, with Jane Austen on one side of him and Zadie Smith on the other, and everything else built around them. I’m not entirely confident that I’ll always know exactly where to look for the book I want, but that’s as it should be. How we feel about certain books and our relationships with them do change over time. Hardy, for me, is a good example. Right now, he’s out on the shelf. Other times he’s been known to inhabit the cupboard below. I’m feeling okay about him right now, although Tess is not allowed to see the light of day. Neither is The Mill on the Floss even though I love all the other Eliot I’ve ever read. Anyway, sorry about the glare in the photo. That’s sunshine.


It should be noted that this is only my most public book shelf. There are books upstairs, in boxes, in baskets, and stacked three deep in the cupboard under these shelves. Also, in piles. But these are the books that matter the most, and that’s why I’ve spent so much time pondering their placement. It’s been this way for about a month now, and so far I’m quite happy with it.

How do you organize your shelves?

Last thing. You’ll all no doubt be happy to know that I’ve finished Whitney, My Love. I’ll draft a post about it at some point, but right now I’m still thinking about how to tackle that. My first inclination was to go all Peter Wells on poor Judith McNaught, but then I decided that wouldn’t be fair in this case because she’s not trying to pretend that her romance is novel is anything other than exactly what it is. There’s a much broader context for what she’s written, but I’m not too familiar with it, so I have to think about that a bit before I can comment.

And that’s all for now!