Thursday, November 5, 2015

Megan Kruse’s Library: A Fortress of Books

Reader:  Megan Kruse
Location:  An attic space in Seattle
Collection Size:  In flux.
The one book I'd run back into a burning building to rescue:  I can only imagine that I’d be tumbling over myself to carry as much as possible. Some of my first great loves were books of poetry, including Michael Ondaatje’s The Cinnamon Peeler and Carolyn Forche’s The Angel of History. I might reach for those.
Favorite book from childhood:  I keep my old copies of Betty Macdonald’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series around. I love the magic in the everyday, the simultaneous tranquility and surprise in those stories.
Guilty pleasure book:  I have a deep love for pop fiction of all types. I do a Bachelor recap podcast called After the Rose, with writer Molly Laich, so I’m currently reading Bachelor host Chris Harrison’s novel, The Perfect Letter. The podcast is one of the most ridiculous and delightful things I’ve ever done.

I recently found a journal from when I was eight or nine, and it is almost entirely an account of my library books—which ones were coming in, which were going out, and where I was hoarding them at given times. For several years I slept on a lumpy, shifting pillow—I kept exactly twelve books underneath, curated anew each night. They were a physical insurance policy against the potential of waking up lonely in the night. I’ve always thought of books that way, as safeguards and tickets. I like to keep a near-fortress of books surrounding me.

There is really no rhyme or reason to my stacks of books, and they tend to rotate out regularly. Since I was seventeen, I’ve never lived in a single place for more than a year or two at a time; I think I’m going on three in Seattle now, a record. I’ll collect books from used bookstores, the library, free boxes, thrift stores, and I live in and around them. Having a varied and nearly inexplicable collection on hand is one of the things that helps me to write—to pick something up and thumb through it; to start something and then start something else.

Since my novel Call Me Home came out, I’ll admit things have gotten a bit out of hand. I toured in bookstores, first of all, and then I’ve been meeting a lot of incredible writers, whose books I want to collect and read. Most of all, though, I’ve eased up on myself—for a while, I would try to keep myself contained to novels, to literary fiction that would help me in my writing. Now, though, I’ve given myself this gift of lavishness, of reading things I’d never considered before. Dystopian novels, even more pop fiction, young adult novels. I’m also always collecting books that are relevant to my current projects, and right now that includes a novel set in the Midwest in the aftermath of World War II, so I’ve got a sort of oddball collection of historical fiction and nonfiction that relate to that time period.

Eventually, the tide goes back out and I worry about fire hazards and have to cull what I want to keep from the collection; I build it up and then I let it go. I remember leaving Missoula, Montana and filling up crates that I couldn’t bring with me, and people would stop by and rifle through all of these lovely books, taking what they wanted. I felt this warm, sustaining currency so powerfully, threads of words that would hold me to this place and these friends even as I moved west. I think that will always be the greatest solace to me. All these worlds and emotions you can hold and then pass on.

Megan Kruse is the author of the acclaimed novel Call Me Home, released by Hawthorne Books, with an introduction by Elizabeth Gilbert. Megan is the 2015-2016 Visiting Writer-in-Residence at Eastern Oregon University’s Low-Residency MFA program, and one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 for 2015. She currently lives in Seattle. Click here to visit her website.

My Library is an intimate look at personal book collections.  Readers are encouraged to send high-resolution photos of their home libraries or bookshelves, along with a description of particular shelving challenges, quirks in sorting (alphabetically? by color?), number of books in the collection, and particular titles which are in the To-Be-Read pile.  Email for more information.

Author photo by David Lattimer

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