my ideal bookshelf

David Sedaris's ideal bookshelf

This is just. The best thing. The Ideal Bookshelf project features portraits of book spines. Painter Jane Mount and writer Thessaly La Force have published a book with interviews and bookshelf paintings from 100 writers, actors, chefs, musicians, designers, artists, and directors. My favorite thing to do when I first meet someone is browse through their books– I love peeking at new bookshelves packed with books I recognize, love, can’t wait to read, have never heard of– and the Ideal Bookshelf is like a really great Suggested Reading list. Above is David Sedaris’s ideal shelf.

It’s funny. Sometimes I have a hard time seeing myself or understanding how others see me. I’ve always used books as a way to help me recognize myself a little more. I read and my identity feels less shifting, I feel tethered to my own experience in a new way. Which seems paradoxical– I need something outside of myself to keep me attached to what’s inside of me– but there is something about the bond between writer and reader, something about the recognition of the same thing across time and space that makes me feel less lonely, more at home. Some books, some stories, some words just stick, become a part of me, make me find myself in a whole new way. Yay. I love that books have the power to do that. Here is what my ideal bookshelf might look like (for now– it’s always kind of changing, huh?). These are some of the books I keep coming back to, that I think of long after I’ve put them down, that I can see echos of in my own life.

My Ideal Bookshelf

  • The Known World, Edward P. Jones
  • It, Stephen King
  • The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm
  • The Color Purple, Alice Walker
  • Consider the Lobster, David Foster Wallace
  • Demonology, Rick Moody
  • After Henry, Joan Didion
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
  • What I Loved, Siri Hustvedt
  • The Secret History, Donna Tartt
  • The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
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3 thoughts on “my ideal bookshelf

  1. I tried to make an ideal bookshelf myself and I’ve gotten through four books of it pretty nicely, but I’m just scared I’m going to mess it up. I do have a set of cards from her website though and I send them to all my bookish friends. 🙂 I haven’t read ANY of Joan Didion’s fiction which makes me sound like a terrible reader, but I want to now that I see it on your list. (Here’s to hoping that isn’t another memoir and I sound like an even bigger fool). I love that you picked one Harry Potter book as well and not all seven!

    • Cassie, I love those postcards! And would love to hear what’s on your ideal bookshelf. I actually haven’t read much of Joan Didion’s fiction, either. I think I’ve only finished “Play it as it Lays.” “After Henry” is nonfiction, haha, but you should definitely give it a try. And yes to the Harry Potter inclusion! I had a rough time picking between books 3 and 4, but I think “Goblet of Fire” might be my favorite.

  2. Pingback: alice munro | life is a wagon

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