A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place, Or, All My Simple Pleasures Are Apparently Bookish Ones

I moved about eight months ago and I’m still unpacking.

Yes, I can hear your gasps of horror and dismay from here, but I defy you to tell me that you don’t have even a single box of miscellaneous stuff from your last move mouldering in the basement or cluttering up a closet.

In my case, I’ve been staring for months at three pesky boxes of categorized office-related stuff taking up floor space in the spare room. The items therein had a purpose but no permanent home. All I needed were suitable furnishings to contain the treasures therein.


Unveiling the Most Gorgeous Bookcase of Life, AKA, how I spent my Sunday night.

Lo and behold, this weekend I acquired the perfect piece to complete my office space. My best friend’s father has been downsizing, and had no further use for what I’ve come to consider the Most Gorgeous Bookcase of Life™. This weekend, a couple of strapping friends packed it up in a pickup truck and brought it to its new home in my little office—“PQL South” as I like to call it.

Of course I couldn’t resist filling said bookcase immediately. Most of my books have a home upstairs in the library, so this little gem was earmarked for bulky items like my printer as well as a whole bunch of work-related notebooks, binders and folders that had been packed away.

It is almost sad, the absurd amount of pleasure I derived from organizing this bookcase. In fact, organizing any bookcase is, for me, among the top ten ways to spend a weekend afternoon. (I’m very much an alphabetical-by-author’s-last-name kind of person, but you do you.)

detail of bookshelf with stuffed hedgehog/porcupine and PQL sign

Detail of the Most Gorgeous Bookcase of Life. (Yes, that is a hedgehog, but people keep giving me hedgehog things thinking they’re porcupine things, so I play along. This one is named Winston Churchquill.)

I think it’s because it gives me an opportunity to appreciate not only have, but where I’ve been. In organizing my bookshelves, I get to to revisit beloved works and read a page or two of my favourite passages. But more, my books are like time machines. I can time-travel back to remember where I was when I discovered and bought and read each one. A friend of mine put me on to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in high school. I read Things Fall Apart as an undergrad and learned that required reading doesn’t have to be boring. I purchased Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore on my first trip to The Strand in New York. I gobbled up The Shadow of the Wind over winter break one year, cozied up under a blanket by the Christmas tree. For a minute or two, I’m brought back to what I was thinking and feeling when I first experienced a given book.

art prints

Found in boxes: art prints to frame and hang. What a score!

It’s not just novels that inspire this effect. In unpacking my office boxes I found relics of PQL seasons past—preparation for sales conference, editorial notes, sales sheets and catalogues. I paged through my first impressions of an early draft of Barbara Sibbald’s The Museum of Possibilities, and one-sheets featuring backlist PQL titles like Sailor Girl and Beasts of New York. I discovered a trove of artwork that I’d forgotten about, just waiting to be framed and hung. I found magazines full of inspiring print designs and a notebook full of observations on conferences I’d attended, like BookExpo, ALA and AWP. Those boxes were something of a time capsule, and in organizing the contents, in finding each item a home, I was able to experience a nice little vacation to the past.

So go unpack a box. Open an old book. Reorganize your shelves. Memories await!


I hope you weren’t too bored by my blathering about the simple pleasure of organizing a bookcase. What can I say? My passions are bookish ones. If you’ve had a similar experience organizing your bookshelves, leave a comment and share your story!


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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.