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Stephanie Rapp organizes her bookshelves to insure her beloved authors have suitable shelf mates.

I recently moved my bookshelves. While books came down haphazardly, I have a painstaking process of returning them to shelves. First I categorize by genre: novels, short stories, poetry and non-fiction. But writers sometimes cross genres, which gives me pause. I debate whether Raymond Carver’s poems belong with his stories or if he’d be happier with Mary Oliver on the poetry shelf.

I engage in literary matchmaking to ensure authors have appropriate shelf mates. It seems fitting that Hemingway join his expat friends Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Women writers express their solidarity through proximity – I like to think that Lorrie Moore and Alice Munro would get on well, and that Flannery O’Connor would grace the head of their table. My favorite shelf houses volumes written by people I know. That shelf is filled to bursting, as my friends are a creative lot.

A home library seems anachronistic in this age of the Kindle. Increasingly I borrow library books, to save money and space. Loaned or owned, I get a thrill from the heft of a book in my hands and the slightly musty smell of paper.

Despite my affection for Marie Kondo’s rules for a spartan life, I find it difficult to shed books. They spark joy, whether I've read them once or many times. Both my sisters loved books. When they died, I inherited their libraries. As a result, I own duplicates of books all of us adored. While I don’t need three copies of Catcher in the Rye, I can’t part with beloved books whose pages were dog-earred by my sisters.


My daughter recently asked me for a book. One copy of Catcher in the Rye now sits on her bookcase, the start, I hope, of her personal library.

With a Perspective,
I’m Stephanie Rapp

Stephanie Rapp works in philanthropy in San Francisco.