Yesterday I was at a loss for a proposal I've been working on, and a friend of mine pulled out two books that she always prefaces with an explanation, something like "this one is full of horrible little writing exercises. I bought it for $1 from the Borders sale. . ." and a tiny book of conversation starters. I always think it's funny, and cute, that she sort of apologizes for not only having bought, but for using, these dorky little books.
Still, no bones about it, they were helpful. She pulled out two ideas at random and threw them at me -- I chewed on them for a while, and they didn't end up in my proposal, but they did get the wheels turning and I managed to finish a draft of a new proposal by the end of the day. She had me thinking maybe I needed to try to find a couple copies of those books for myself.
We all have some of those books the shelf, the book that we put in a place where no one will notice, or that we preface with "It only cost a dollar" or "A friend gave it to me." But at the end of the day, we get something from them, even if we can only admit it to ourselves.
In my case, it's the copy of Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul -- it pains me to admit I have it, but a friend gave it to me for my birthday, and bless him, he actually apologized in the card (I think he might have threatened me if I let anyone know he sent it). Chicken Soup books are pretty much one of the few books I swore I would never have in my home, the ones that make me shudder when I see them at the bookstore, seeping their sentimentality and stories of "if only I'd sent her flowers before she died" to teach us life's lessons.
However, I pick it up and read it now and then because I love my friend, and he gave it to me, and I want to honor that. In truth, the book is full of short essays by writers I like: Ray Bradbury, Sue Grafton, Clive Cussler among them. When I bring myself to read them, there are inspirational bits and pieces, and there's even some good advice in the book (though there are still the requisite stories about people who died...). If nothing else, it makes me think of my friend, and gives me a laugh every time I think that he actually sent me this book. And it's something I can hold over him should I have to. ;)
What are the books hidden on your shelf? Feel free to make apologies and excuses as necessary... ;)