Felicia Mitchell grew up in South Carolina and North Carolina and then lived in Georgia and Texas before moving to rural southwestern Virginia in 1987 to teach at Emory & Henry College. In addition to publishing poetry and nonfiction in journals, anthologies, and chapbooks, she has written articles for journals such as College Composition and Communication, Mid-American Review, and Poets & Writers Magazine. Edited projects include Her Words: Diverse Voices in Contemporary Appalachian Women’s Poetry (University of Tennessee Press). Waltzing with Horses is her first full-length collection of poetry.
“By the bed” I will interpret loosely as I talk about books within the vicinity of my bed. Some books are in the bed, tucked inside an iPad, which I tuck under a pillow like a favorite doll before I fall asleep. My iPad has a dull gray, gull gray, cover, but inside are some colorful books. Right now, late in the evening, I am reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch (Little, Brown and Company). I worry that this book will dematerialize before I finish it since I checked it out from the Washington County Public Library almost three weeks ago. Even if this book were made of paper, I would have to return it, though, and find a way to read on.
I like reading on a digital device. For me, it is as rewarding as reading a book with paper pages. Words take me into my imagination wherever I find them. I like being able to make the text larger, too, even with reading glasses making reading easier already. What is not rewarding is the fact that when I am done, if I do buy the book, which I imagine that I will do with The Goldfinch, I do not have a book to set aside in some stack in the house. There are stacks by the bed, stacks by the couch, stacks on the dining room table, stacks by the hearth but not too close to be a fire hazard. I cycle through these stacks, reading and sorting. I give away books all the time. I do not have an e-book buddy with whom to share e-books that I purchase (which is why I have started checking them out of the library now and then). Guilt—it is not difficult for me to feel guilty about something like having a book all to myself. I work around it.
There are other books on the iPad that I am reading now, after a fashion, since I rarely read one book at a time. This morning, I began the first chapter of my brother C. Talmadge Mitchell’s Kindle edition novel, Dark Sings a Distant Herald: A Christmas Story on Holding Back the British Twilight. Will this story come between The Goldfinch and me this evening? Even if it does not, I sense that I will not finish the Tartt novel in a few days. And there are more books in my bed. See below.
Then there are the books beside my bed. The Essential Rumi translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne (HarperCollins) is always close at hand. Underneath that now is Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now (New World Library), a book that I have been intending to read, now, any minute, since 1999. Perhaps I should sleep with it under my pillow and wake up enlightened. Or just open it every few years, which is my strategy, and continue on with my journey through it. Underneath that tome rests Connected: What Remains As We All Change, an anthology from Wising Up Press, which includes my “Need Somebody to Love,” an extended prose poem. I keep it near because this prose poem, just by being near, beneath the covers of that book, reminds me that sometimes I need to put the books down and go stand on the porch to watch the night sky.
Moving down the stack, I find Central Appalachian Wildflowers (Falcon) by Barbara Medina and Victor Medina; Andrea Maloney Schar’s Your Mindful Compass: Breakthrough Strategies for Navigating Life/Work Relationships in Any Social Jungle (Ideas to Action); and Stanley L. Bentley’s Native Orchids of the Southern Appalachian Mountains (UNC Press). Your Mindful Compass belongs to a friend who thinks it might help me become less reclusive. This book is in good company with The Power of Now. It reaches out to me: “Read me!” Sometimes I am just too busy living, or reading, to do that, although I have developed intimate relationships with a long list of other self-help books (another list waiting to be written down). Meanwhile, when I am not reading one book or ignoring another, or going on the porch to look at the night sky most nights, I am always learning something new about flowers (or birds). I am still trying to decide on an identification of a white orchid that I saw on the Appalachian Trail this past Monday. Great Plains Ladies’ Tresses? Maybe so. The book will tell.
Other books residing inside the iPad and sleeping beside me most nights:
Lee Smith, Guests on Earth (Algonquin)
Anuradha Roy, The Folded Earth (Simon & Schuster)
Matt Ridley, Genome (Harper Perennial)
Birds Illustrated by Color Photography 1896 (Nature Study Publishing Company)
Anne Tyler, The Beginner’s Goodbye (Random House)
Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven (Simon & Schuster)
Oliver Sacks, Hallucinations (Knopf)
Ann Patchett, State of Wonder (HarperCollins)
Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behavior (HarperCollins)
Dan Silverman and Idelle Davidson, Your Brain After Chemo (Da Capo)
Deborah Morris Coryell, Good Grief: Healing through the Shadow of Loss (Healing Arts Press)
I also have a hardback copy of Flight Behavior, which has managed to find its way to an actual bookshelf. Why two copies? I found myself at a conference wanting to finish this book, which I had left at home, and bought the e-book to read on my iPhone one evening when I was not out practicing being less reclusive.
How many book depositories in your abode? Do you have more rooms with or without books? How are they arranged?