My Ideal Bookshelf

Each year we exchange names for Christmas on Tom’s side of the family and send our Christmas lists to Santa (some people call Santa “Mom”) to distribute the right lists to the right people, since only she knows who has whose name until gifts are exchanged. This past holiday season I emailed her my list, and directly afterward, my friend Johnnie tweeted a picture of a group of books he called “my ideal bookshelf.” Further information from him indicated there was a book by this name. I looked it up and saw that more than a hundred “leading cultural figures” submitted a list of books they had to have on their shelves, and these lists were turned into illustrations for My Ideal Bookshelf.

“Dammit,” I muttered. “I already sent off my Christmas list.”

I began to write random titles of books that would be on my own ideal bookshelf, but the list grew insanely long. That’s probably why I have so many bookcases. I don’t have any memory of mentioning the book to anyone else; I made a mental note to look for it the next time I was in a bookstore.

Then we received a box of Christmas goodies in the mail that included a beautifully wrapped package for me. When I ripped off the paper, I found:

Santa is not always called “Mom.” Sometimes Santa is called “David and Geri,” and I LOVE THIS BOOK. My 2013 masthead is a photo of my ideal bookshelf (a larger version of the photo is here if you can’t read all the titles). It tormented me to condense my list, leaving off some of the books that I did: Andrew Holleran’s Dancer From The Dance, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and specific poets come to mind immediately. I tried to include books that changed something in me: the way I see the world, the way I see myself, the way I read and write fiction. Even though I’m one edition behind on my dictionary and two editions behind on my style manual, if I were lost on an island in the middle of the sea, those two books could keep me endlessly preoccupied.

Thank you, Geri and David, and indirectly, Johnnie, for My Ideal Bookshelf.

Feel free to add your favorites in comments, or if you put them online somewhere, give me a link. Book love is great love–and reading is hot!


35 thoughts on “My Ideal Bookshelf”

    1. It’s a good one! It came out the same time as Felice Picano’s and gives a broader view, but Picano’s ended up on the shelf because the image in the ending always leaves me a sobbing mess.

      Though I have only the first of Mordden’s Buddies books here, the entire series is on my read-over-and-over list. I would love to get a story from him for an anthology, but I don’t know how to make that happen.

      1. Good reason! I read the Mordden before the Picano, which is probably why the one edges out the other for me. This has started me thinking about what else would be on my ideal bookshelf. One that I love and give to others is Paul Gallico’s “The Man Who Was Magic.” I need to find more copies, as I’m down to my reading copy.

    2. I would include The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy set. Not the movie, as I thought the BBC televised version better. Then, Wicked…

      1. I would have said I read that set just this last year, but apparently I read them in 2011. Time flies when you go to the end of the universe and back!

        Another good addition!

  1. This put a huge smile on my face! It was really hard to limit the books when I was putting mine together. As soon as I snapped the picture I realized I had left two really important books off.

    It’s such a neat book, and I love learning about people from the books they would put on their shelf. Thanks for sharing your ideal bookshelf!

  2. My books would be: Tom Sawyer,The Complete Works of Edgar Alan Poe, The Complete book of Grimm’s Fairytales, one edition in German and one in English, The Scarlet Letter, Practical Magic, Judas Kiss, Crocodile on the Sandbank, Dragonwyck, The Spectre Bride, The Beguiled, American Eve, The Girls of Murder City, The Lords of Discipline — and how big is my bookshelf. I have more.

        1. It’s sort of a parody of Le Morte d’Author and the history of King Arthur, but not in the sense of The Holy Grail nor Spamalot.

          1. My first husband loved the movie Excalibur, so I think I got him this book. But I never got around to reading it myself.

            1. I don’t think it’s a parody as much as it is a retelling that is super accessible and just as powerful. Of course, I might think that because I had so much trouble reading the other books, I couldn’t do it … but this one was just wonderful.

              Interesting Marika fact, I thought Perzival as well as Tristan and Isolde were GERMAN stories ( thank you Wolfgang, thank you Richard … ) until I read the Once And Future King. 14 year old mind? BLOWN! At least I still have Siegfried, Brunnhilde and Tanhauser.

  3. Bel Canto! Oh, I love that book.

    My bookshelf would include:

    At Swim, Two Boys (Jamie O’Neill)
    The Berlin Stories (Christopher Isherwood)
    A Single Man (Isherwood)
    Dancer from the Dance (Andrew Holleran)
    Tales of the City (Armistead Maupin)
    The Line of Beauty (Alan Hollinghurst)
    Call Me by Your Name (Andre Aciman)
    Grief (Holleran)

    1. Lest anyone should think my bookshelf only houses gay titles, I would also include:

      The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton)
      The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
      Moveable Feast (Hemingway)
      The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
      To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
      The Women of Brewster Place (Gloria Naylor)
      Truth & Beauty (Ann Patchett)
      About a Boy (Nick Hornby)
      A Long Way Down (Hornby)
      The Color Purple (Alice Walker) **Okay, another gay one!**

      1. AAAIIIIIEEEE! The Grapes of Wrath is supposed to be in this photo. It was on the list! I thought it was here!

        I’m a Hemingway nut, you know, even though it’s not fashionable for a woman to say that these days. Whatever. I have Interview With The Vampire on my shelf; it’s clear I walk my own, corpse-strewn path.

        1. I’m a Hemingway devotee too, despite his well documented homophobia. Wish Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas had taken him to the Pride parade more often.

          1. That’s a funny ghost story waiting to be written.

            At least I managed to get one Hemingway title onto my shelf. (And I, too, love A Movable Feast.)

            I can’t believe there’s no Steinbeck, when I’ve read and loved so many. But especially because when I read The Grapes of Wrath in college, I stopped being able to eat for a while. Talk about life changing.

      1. I should read Bel Canto again soon. Although I remember the entire story clearly. It’s one of those marvelous books that stays with you long after you reach the last page.

  4. My favourite book of all time is Great Expectations, with Tess of the D’Urberville’s a close second. On my ideal bookshelf, though, I would have to include Jane Eyre, Emma, A Tale of Two Cities, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *