Reb Livingston Selects Books for Your Personal Library

I came across the article “Jorge Luis Borges Selects 74 Books for Your Personal Library” and I was all who does this Borges guy think he is telling me what books to put in my personal library? It’s my PERSONAL library! Dood don’t even know me.

I thought, I’d sure like to tell people what books to put in their personal libraries.

Then I thought, Hey, what’s stopping me?

Only myself. Nothing is stopping me from telling you what to do.


Instead of giving you one long, arduous list that will make you feel bad because you can’t afford to purchase hundreds of books at once, I’ll post my list in installments. Like layaway. Or maybe more like a car loan. It’ll be over and done with in 5 years. Seven tops. With interest. If you miss an installment, I’ll hound you like a creditor. That’s how this is gonna work.

  1. Harlot by Jill Alexander Essbaum (No Tell Books): If you follow book news, you’ve probably read about Essbaum’s upcoming novel, Hausfrau, being released by Random House next week. You should add that also to your personal library, but I’m here to tell you about one of her poetry collections. Let me state upfront that I personally published this collection with my press. That’s extraordinary because I never much cared for contemporary formal poetry. Or at least I hadn’t until Essbaum’s poems expanded my horizons. Now I like some contemporary formal poetry and I absolutely love Harlot. Funny, sad, heartbreaking poems with a lady hugging an enormous penis on the front cover.

  2. Sleight by Kirsten Kaschock (Coffee House Books): This novel has atrocity, mass murder (same thing?), children, sisters and lots of dancing and acrobatics. It’s a strange story. Many of the books I will select for your library will be strange, but this one is stranger than most, pushing the boundaries of creepiness by truly examining what it means to put atrocity into one’s art. If this book doesn’t disturb you, God help you.

  3. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (Picador): While not Oyeyemi’s most celebrated book-to-date, I’m putting it in your personal library because I think you need a novel with a haunted house/bed and breakfast, twins, insistent dead ancestors and a rather peculiar eating disorder. One of the best parts is the changing voices, including that of the house itself. Mesmerizing.

  4. The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington (Exact Change): We don’t have enough books with elderly protagonists rising up to take control of their lives using witchcraft. Why is that? I don’t know, but it’s a damn shame. Carrington is best known as visual artist and painter, but her writing should not be overlooked. This novel is a masterpiece. The gift of a hearing trumpet informs the heroine of her family’s conspiracy to put her away in an institution. But what an institution it turns out be! One can only dream to be put to pasture in such a fascinating place.

5. Anatomy of the Psyche: Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy (Reality of the Psyche) by Edward F. Edinger (Open Court): Alchemy as the means to explain the human psyche. I’m not a psychotherapist, nor do I have any designs on becoming one. While reading this book, I felt like my mind was expanding to all kinds of possibilities, in both my life and writing, and when I put it down, things began to blur. I could only retain so much, but what I could changed the way I considered things like fire, rotting corpses, baths, etc. It’s like I was Percival waking up in Grail Castle, alone, without asking the important questions. I should probably reread this one.

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