Writing Challenge: Details

The latest writing challenge at The Daily Post, “The Devil is in the Details,” prompts us to dive into the details: to practice our powers of observation to bring a person, place, event, scene, or anything else to life. To create a rich picture in a reader’s mind in three paragraphs. I’ve chosen to zoom in on one part of my home: my bookcase.

My Bookcase


I’ve always been fascinated by the bookcases in other peoples’ homes. I sit down on someone’s sofa and see what they have on their shelves, learning about what they read, what they think about, and what they collect. And now, I gaze up at my own bookcase in my living room — three black shelves bolted to the wall. When I moved into my home last year, I filled the middle shelf first, with hardcover books I’ve read and loved — or have yet to read and simply want to show off. Teju Cole’s Open City. Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia. Jared Diamond’s Collapse. And a few recent favorites: Born to Run, about the elusive long-distance running tribe, the Tarahumara; and The Lost City of Z, a riveting nonfiction narrative from one of my favorite writers, David Grann.

This row of books is flanked on the right by a black lantern with a tea candle, which has never been lit, and on the left by a box of old stamps and colorful postcards I’ve collected from around the world, from art museums and record shops. Just underneath, the space is fairly open — piles of magazines and catalogs, organized and fanned just so, for visitors to pick up and flip through while they sit on our couch.

On the top shelf is another stack of books, laid flat — two about poker strategy, one by a political activist, and a trio of coffee table-sized illustration books, all given as gifts. Two plastic Lomo film cameras, black and white, sit on the top right, dusty and unused. There are two decks of playing cards, a glass tray filled with trinkets and small buttons, and an album of photographs from our wedding ceremony. Greeting cards from the holidays, “I Miss You” notes, and framed photos of new babies in the family are scattered about. A stack of lined paper, mixed with financial documents and bank statements, sits in the top left corner, untouched and neglected. I step on a wooden stool against the wall to check the surface of this highest shelf — it’s covered with dust that’s settled, and random fingerprints where I’ve reached up to pull an item off the shelf.

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