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Putting it Together

May 29th, 2011 by Troy Goodfellow · 11 Comments · Me

After three months in my new home, I finally secured a small bookshelf. As someone who has lived most of his life surrounded by books, this was later than I thought it would be, but there are all kinds of things that get in the way of doing what you want to do.

Make no mistake – starting over is surprisingly expensive, even for one person.


I still have hundreds of books in America, and another three or four dozen here in my apartment. I couldn’t put everything there on the shelf, so I had to make some choices. And I think it says a lot about how I think about things.

1) Since this is my only shelf, I have to have that ego thing going on where people look at it and are impressed by the books I own. We all have that bit of vanity, right? Hence, my Shakespeare on the middle shelf, my Fowler’s English Usage and my fading 3 volume Smith Dictionaries of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology on the top. Will I use these books much? Maybe the Fowler’s, but I can get to Shakespeare faster online and the Smith books are great old 19th century library things with tons of errors because even classical history makes progress.

2) There are books I like having in easy reach. My wife’s book is on the bottom shelf tucked beside Grand Theft Childhood, the Art of Game Design and Moneyball. My collection of the Wargame Research Group’s “Armies and Enemies” series is by my Erich Gruen collection – these two sets are things I actually do turn to from time to time to clarify a point or double check a mental image.

3) There are two board games on the bottom shelf – Settlers of Catan and Frontline D-Day – though I own more games than that. These ones were in the living room and not the bedroom, so I could put them there lying flat in a carefully planned effort to look totally casual. (The wooden box to the right is all Command and Colors: Ancients stuff. Whoever buys me the Spartan expansion earns my love.)

4) Plus scattered items that sort of fit but sort of don’t. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, though I know I will never finish it. The Civ Chronicles pack, even though I think the booklet that I contributed to is still in Maryland with a friend. Delbruck and Dodge and Sabin. A book or two on writing non-fiction. Sondheim’s book on lyrics. Historical Baseball Abstract. My dear old friend Plutarch. Other stuff.

It’s hard work to get your first (and so far only) bookshelf looking just right and representing my personality in what really amounts to a footnote. No wall shelves here, no place for my games or music. Just a quick summary.

And for people who have been asking, yes, I’m doing fine.

I have a bookshelf and books. So I sort of have the world.


11 Comments so far ↓

  • Wolfox

    “I have a bookshelf and books. So I sort of have the world.”

    I gotta tell you, Troy – you have a knack for great closing phrases in your articles. Yet another great one right there. Congrats.

  • zipdrive

    Troy, could you expand a little on those “non-fiction writing” books?
    Also, Some recommendations on interesting history books for beginners? Things along the lines of Guns, Germs and Steel, perhaps.

  • Shaun

    While we’re nerding out over our book collections…

    I have a first edition copy of Guderian’s “Panzer Leader”. I have it sitting next to Ernest May’s “Strange Victory” which pretty much anyone who comes to Flash of Steel would enjoy.

    Mr. Goodfellow needs more bookshelves.

  • Peter S (Mind Elemental)

    @zipdrive – Ooh, ooh, ooh, I think I have the perfect book for you: “Why The West Rules — For Now”, by Ian Morris. The title is kind of misleading, because the book is really picking up where Guns, Germs left off — whereas Guns, Germs was effectively a book about prehistory (“Eurasia had better crops/domesticable animals, so everything flows from that!”), Why The West Rules is a book about human technological & organisational prowess, viewed through the lens of Western, Near/Middle Eastern and Chinese history. Or, as one reviewer on Amazon put it, “it’s like playing Civilization.”

    @Troy — Thanks for sharing this post; it’s fascinating to peek at others’ bookshelves. And, hey, cool, that’s the same edition of ROTK (the collection of brown books in the top-left hand corner, right?) that I have!

  • zipdrive

    @Peter- Thanks, I’ll give it a look, even though I was referring more to the style than to the subject matter.

  • Troy


    Is there any particular kind of history you are interested in? I mean, I could recommend books about almost any subject within history.

  • KVolk

    I find stacking them on the floor spines out keeps them just fine until the elsusive new book shelf shows up…

  • Bruce

    When I moved here three years ago I drove down with a car full of essentials and the movers brought most of my stuff a week later. In the car I packed a folding bookshelf and one box of books, which included Sabres Over MiG Alley, Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita, Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, a couple Victor Pelevin translations, a book by Mark Steyn, and a climbing book by Andrew Lindblade. I have no idea why I chose those. I didn’t read any of them during that week.

  • MFToast

    If ever you need another bookshelf for super cheap, you can make a pretty freakin sturdy bookshelf from cinder blocks and wooden planks. Also works great for an aquarium stand or a chopping block on which to behead your freshly defeated enemies. Hang in there, dude!

  • kongming

    “Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism”


  • zipdrive

    Troy, I’m not sure, anything that’s a good read. Drama and good writing, if possible.