What’s on YOUR Bookshelf?


I’ve had some really interesting conversations this week, many stemming from thoughts on the books we’ve been reading.

I think the sort of books you read tells a story about the kind of person you are and what life is like in your head. Walking by my bookshelf the other day I noticed this little corner of it pretty much covers every aspect of my personality; a stack of books that tells the story of me.

Now, in an act of intellectual voyeurism, I must ask …what’s on YOUR bookshelf?

12 thoughts on “What’s on YOUR Bookshelf?

  1. Hey All,
    Too many books to list,
    so here are a few faves
    and current reads..

    • Sit Down and Shut Up by Brad Warner
    Known for several books on Buddhism and punk rock, Brad’s sincere and hardcore style of writting makes Buddhism an approachable and entertaining read.
    • The Eagle’s Gift by Carlos Castaneda
    another in the reality writings of Castaneda, it’s lessons in the Yaqui Mexican Indian way of knowledge.
    • This is Your Brain on Music by nueroscientist Daniel J Levitin
    a book on human culture and how music is hardwired into the evolution and modern functions of the human mind.
    • CHEW ( ongoing comicbook series in graphic novel fmt)
    After the bird flu made chicken illegal in most countries, Tony Chu is a chibopath, a psychic through the sense of taste, so somewhere between aliens and canibalsim Tony must find a way to survive assassins, dirty cops and FDA Agents.. : the art and story make this and awesome read.

    and many many more..


  2. There are at least 10 bookshelves in my house – four of which house primarily, if not exclusively, my collection of books, including two in my bedroom. There’s also an ever-growing stack of reads beside my bed and a newly-established pile of poetry gaining height beside the door. I *might* have a problem…

    Clearly, far too many to name, but like Bryan, I can hand-pick a few of note currently taking up real estate beside my pillow:

    Wicked by Gregory Maguire
    – One of my favorite books that instantly made Maguire one of my favorite authors. His back-story of the Wicked Witch of the West is quirky, sharp and surprisingly naughty in places. I’ve read it twice and – when I find time in my reading life – can’t wait to read the rest of the series. I saw the musical in London because I loved it so much, even though the musical differs a bit from the book, and isn’t nearly as naughty.

    Rumi, The Book of Love compiled by Coleman Barks
    – I discovered Rumi, in great part to you, and have been enjoying slowly reading snippets of his work for about a year now. This is a great collection.

    The Know-It All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs
    – One of the multiple books I’m working on right now. I read Jacobs’ second book, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, a year or so ago and loved it instantly. His writing style is clear, witty, charming and just sucks you in. I started The Know-It All a few months ago, but got distracted by book club reads. It’s now worked its way back in to my usual rotation.

    The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
    – Another current, on-the-go read. I read that this book is one of – if not the – foundation pieces of literature of the Steampunk movement, so I’ve been enjoying it. I’ve also got, The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists and Strange Literature by Jeff VanderMeer and S.J. Chambers, which is fascinating.

    The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov
    – Just read this for last month’s book club and really enjoyed it. I don’t read a lot of Sci-Fi (anymore) and while at first Asimov’s somewhat archaic writing style stuck out, I soon fell into it. He’s one of the great writers of the genre, and it was fantastic to step outside my usual book-reading zone and enjoy something new.

    The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
    – I use this is a reference all the time and, upon looking something up, or reading it recently, it made it made it’s way to my bedside stack.

    In the Garden of the North American Martyrs by Tobias Wolff
    – A collection of short stories, many of which are heart-wrenching, by the incredible Tobias Wolff, who I never would have heard of had I not seen David Sedaris live last year.

    Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris
    – I love David Sedaris – his dry humor and slow drawling passages are perfection. I have two copies of this sitting by my bed – one that was a Christmas gift from a friend, and one I bought a year earlier that I got signed by the author. While I’ve read When You Are Engulfed in Flames, and have Me Talk Pretty One Day, Naked, and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim on my bedside to-read list, I personally think Sedaris is one of the few authors who’re best heard rather than read. I also have Holidays on Ice, Live at Carnegie Hall, and David Sedaris Live for Your Listening Pleasure, as well as multiple New Yorker excerpts on my iPod. He’s truly amazing.

    Visiting Hours by Shane Koyczan
    – The first collection from my favorite spoken word artist. I have two copies, both signed by the poet – one I’ve had for years, that’s dog-eared, notated and flagged, and one that I keep in mint condition just because. If you’ve never heard him – again, another who should really be heard rather than read – then YouTube him. Now.

    The Liar by Stephen Fry
    – One of several Fry books I own. I adore Stephen Fry. He’s the most brilliant person I can think if – funny, smart, remarkably well-spoken, and a gifted and creative writer. He’s another writer I feel needs to be heard. Even though I love reading his books, I prefer to hear him read them. I haven’t started reading this one yet, as I’m currently on The Hippopotamus – audiobook – but it, as well as Making History, Moab Is My Washpot, and The Fry Chronicles are all beside my bed waiting to be read.

    There are so many more that I’m loving right now: Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don’t Float: Classic Lit Signs on to Facebook by Sarah Schmelling (a Christmas gift from a friend who knows me really, really well); A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabladon (the sixth book in the Outlander series by one of my very favorite authors); The Western Canon by Harold Bloom (one of the greatest literary critics/theorists of all time, in my opinion. I’ve been using him as a resource since I was in my undergrad); Persuasion by Jane Austen (I’ve never read a Jane Austen, though I’ve seen all the films. So this year I’m determined to read her); and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (I’m probably the last person in the world to read this book).


  3. So far what I glean is that Valerie has a group of friends who are bibliophiles. I think that it is an interesting question to think about how our collections reflect who we are, what we think about, etc. It’s not only the books that we hold near and dear to us that does this but I think how we arrange the books on the shelves, and the location of the shelves that can give us these insights.

    For guests in my home the first thing that may strike them is how my ethnicity is important to me. I have an entire bookcase devoted to books about Chinese culture – classic, ancient and pop, Chinese Martial arts and health practices, Chinese art and calligraphy, Chinese poetry and literature, fiction, biography, children’s books and the collection also includes books about the experience of Chinese North Americans. The book case is placed in a location that bridges the eating area and the visiting area and it the first thing a visitor sees when they enter my home.

    I have several other bookcases in my home, one holds quite an eclectic mix of books – poetry, fiction, fantasy, biography, philosophy, travel, etc. One small bookcase is in my studio and is my small collection of fine art, ceramic and craft books to inspire my creative spark. One case sits in my study almost empty waiting for who knows what (which is the same waiting condition my study is in). I have a whole case of children’s picture books in the basement for myself, for my kids to reminisce with and for possible future grandchildren to enjoy. Then there is my bedroom which is the repository of current reads.

    When I was looking for a bed I looked everywhere for an affordable bed frame that had a bookshelf headboard. I finally found one in a garage sale. Very shabby vintage chic from the 50’s with melamine fake wood grain veneer of an odd grey brown colour, but who cares, it had a book shelf. The sliding doors to the shelves didn’t work but I didn’t care. I just wanted a place to put current reads. Reading to me is a bedtime buddy who lulls me to sleep, keeps me company when I am ill, is my companion in solitude. It’s my comfort food for the mind and soul.

    Here is what is on my headboard shelf:
    The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to French Phrases
    A Complete Idiot’s Guide to learning French
    Rumi Wisdom: daily Teachings from the Great Sufi Master by Timothy Freke
    Mon Petit amour by Steven Michael King
    China: The world’s Last Steam Railway by J. Tickner et al
    Chinese Brush Painting by Helen Tse
    More than Keeping Cool – Chinese Fans and Fan Painting by Ka Bo Tsang
    Tibetan Calligraphy by Sanje Elliot
    Learn World Calligraphy by Margaret Shepherd
    Pearl of China by Anchee Min
    The Concubine’s Daughter by Pai Kit Fai
    The Hungry Ghosts by Anne Berry
    Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
    Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor
    Solitude by Robert Kull
    The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran
    Rumi the Fire of Love by Nahal Tajadod
    and the crowning glory of the current reads:
    The Zen of Zombie – Better Living through the Undead by Scott Kenemore
    (This is my Christmas gift from my wise 15 yr old daughter who thought I’d like a self help handbook about how to stay calm during the zombie apocalypse.)

    There you have it – who am I?


    1. I forgot to mention that my book collection was the only thing that my oldest son wanted to inherit from me. A chip off the old block. He will need to have a house big enough to house his own collection as well as mine. And he will need a case devoted strictly for his own work. He just received a grant to publish his first graphic novel (he is both a writer and illustrator.)


    2. I think Donna, to sum up, your reading collection says you’re a spiritual, deep thinker, adventurer …and a bit of a weirdo. :)


  4. Wow! Overall I have to say I’ll be stealing from all of this for ideas on what to read next. Some very thorough (and yet I know not even remotely exhaustive) lists of what you’re reading! Cool stuff!


  5. Replying to the photo post, before I read comments.

    I have a checkout list on my library card… and bookshelves, and boxes. Right now
    – Amit Chaudheri – his short stories. (Does it help to be bengali?)
    – _Wise Man’s Fear_, by Patrick Rothfuss. And lots of other not quite trashy fantasy and sci fi. Ah, escapism.
    – Candace Savage, _Prairie_. Nonfiction. Instead of going for a walk…
    – Japanese Haikus – some tattered book from the sixties
    – Quiet, Loud – a library discard baby board book
    – Birds of North America – the most necessary book in my house. Yes, I’d request a regional bird book for any desert island exile.
    I also really liked Eat Pray Love. And Shane Koyczan can always make me sob, which is a good thing.

    When I can I will certainly read all of these posts, not just skim.


    1. Actually, what’s really interesting is _how little_ overlap there is between our shelves. Now, back to Non-Protien Nitrogen, sigh…


      1. That is perhaps why we have such interesting conversations. I love hearing your unique perspective on things, it nourishes my mind (like a whole new food group!).


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