Hello Everyone! This post is inspired by my latest find: Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books, “a book about bookshelves” edited by Leah Price. It spotlights libraries of several writers, among them Junot Diaz, Edmund White, Gary Shteyngart, Philip Pullman, Jonathan Lethem, Claire Messud and John Wood. In the Introduction Price asserts “You are what you read–or, perhaps, what you own.” Books=identity? “To expose a bookshelf is to compose a self,” she writes and adds “A self without a shelf remains cryptic; a home without books naked.” How many of you look at other people’s bookshelves in order to form an opinion? I know I do. I want to know what you read if we are to be friends.
Price interviews the writers about their home libraries, reading habits, book buying routines etc. Beautiful and colorful photos of libraries and shelves accompany these interviews. In addition, each writer was asked to pick ten books which are important for them for some reason. I wanted to partake in that game and chose my own top ten:
1. The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers – the only book I read while walking, as I simply couldn’t part with it before I was done reading it.
2. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – went to a reading with Diaz and when it was my turn to have my book signed I asked him to dedicate it to my future children who will be reading this book at some point in the future. What he had written, made me cry so hard it felt very cleansing. I am very fond of my copy.
3. Dom dzienny, dom nocny (House of Day, House of Night) by Olga Tokarczuk – my favorite Polish author. She lives in my hometown and I have met her. Her writing sometimes reminds me of Louise Erdrich’s style. During a lonely Christmas away from home while I was living in Minnesota, she sent me one of her books. It was the only gift I received from “home” and it made my day.
4. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich – I’ve read it so many times and still find it moving. I envy every single person who has not read the book and will read it for the first time.
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker – wrote my MA thesis on it and used to know the book inside and out.
6. Shadowlands by Louise Gluck – intelligent and emotional poetry book. I asked Ms. Gluck to sign it for my ex, but the way she wrote his name, it uncannily looks like mine, so this particular coincidence always touches and perplexes me, particularly because I didn’t tell her what my name was.
7. The Lover by Marguerite Duras – love the book and love the movie. Duras’ short, crisp, and erotic writing is unmatched.
8. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers – I want to be Dave Eggers and to write like that! The honesty is indeed heartbreaking. I have read every book by Eggers and every single book was a treat.
9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Scout and Atticus Finch, need I say more?
10. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman – read the trilogy within less than a week. Sent to me by my dear friends, Betsy and Jeff.
My library consists of roughly 656 books placed on four white Billy bookcases. I have arranged my books according to categories: there is a Louise Erdrich shelf, a shelf with academic novels, books in German, in Polish, children’s books, dictionaries, TASCHEN books, textbooks and everything else is American literature.
You can view my books here.