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

i love florida


Photograph by Slim Aarons

I don’t totally understand my fascination with Florida. I’ve only been to visit three times, I’ve never stayed longer than a week, and there is something about the politics and confused culture of the state that is really terrifying.

And yet.

I used to have a fantasy of moving to Florida after college and renting a pink house and driving a mint green pickup truck and having a boyfriend named Beau and a dog named Stitch and always leaving the front door open and post-dinner walks to get ice cream and there is definitely a porch swing in there somewhere and yes to beach hair and bare feet and tanned shoulders and shorts all year and fried seafood in front of a sunset.

But see most of this could take place anywhere, right? That could be easily be southern California or Massachusetts or even New Jersey during warm months. The pink house might be a little tricky, but I could attempt to make most of my fantasy come true right here in Brooklyn. But there’s just something about Florida. I think it’s the landscape, the beaches, the swamps, the flatlands. It’s the climate, the mugginess, the winding tree-lined coastal roads, the cultural indecision, the proximity to Cuba, there is something about all of these things lumped together that fascinates me.

Or it could just be my white hot desire to live a life of leisure that doesn’t include a soggy, sweaty, smells like my nose is packed between someone’s butt cheeks subway car. Rush hour commuting creates in me an ardent need to lounge and loll in white bloomies by the pool waiting for absolutely nothing at all.