Byproduct: City Shelves Curated By John Helling

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City Shelves are small, themed collections of books placed strategically around Kansas City in locations where people have a little bit of spare time.  The idea is to enable people to use that spare time to do something it’s harder and harder to find time to do these days:  sit down and escape into a good book.  But these aren’t just any books…they’re chosen by a librarian to form a collection that is carefully curated.  Nothing boring or lame here, this is just the good stuff. Readers will have access to a project blog where they can leave their thoughts, book reviews, photos, or whatever else.

City Shelves:  The Mainsail Collection at the Walnut Place Laundromat (4241 Walnut St. KCMO) sets sail on 5/10/13.  Borrow a book, then send your thoughts to All Submissions will get posted to 

The ocean is enormous and terrifying and beautiful.  It’s brutal enough to produce the Great White Shark, which is an animal that reached peak efficiency at killing things millions of years ago and basically stopped evolving.  It’s vast enough that the Giant Squid, twice as long as a giraffe is tall, has been able to stay hidden from science until the 21st Century.  It’s so alluring that human beings, perhaps compelled by some primordial memory, have never been able to rid themselves of the urge to conquer it, an urge so powerful that they set out on journeys of many thousands of miles over hostile water in vehicles made of wood and tar and powered by the wind, for god’s sake.  The books in this collection contain stories, some fictional and some factual, of people who heard the call and were driven by their imaginations into the blue wilderness. Or, they are of people who had no intention of braving the open ocean but had it thrust upon them by fate and chose to survive.  All of them, whatever the circumstance, found themselves at some point at death’s door in a strange place.

Written, organized and curated by John Helling.


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