Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books

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I saw it across the room and it was love at first sight. Naturally, it was a book, and I decided to buy it without cracking the spine!  That’s rare, even for me. But I knew from the cover that I would love it, and I do – so, so much. The book is Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books. The cover is so beautiful that I want to walk around holding it. This book is definitely an argument for physical books. I would not enjoy this on my Nook.

Since buying it about a week ago, I’ve been treating myself to looking at one author’s book shelves every day. It makes the day sweeter just knowing that the book is waiting on my nightstand. Edited by Leah Price, Unpacking My Books is a peek at the bookshelves of 13 authors, including Philip Pullman, Junot Diaz and Alison Bechdel. The first line of Price’s introduction is this: “As a teenaged babysitter, I went straight for the books.”  Oh my gosh – Price is a soulmate! When I was a teenage babysitter, the car would not be down the driveway before I was looking at the parent’s bookshelves and writing down books I wanted to read.

Years ago, when I lived in Washington,D.C., I used to babysit for the children of a Congressman (from Ohio, of course) and his wife. I recall taking lots of notes about their bookshelves, thinking that whatever the Congressman was reading contributed to his success.  His young children used to tell me their dad “helped the President.” 

Back to Price’s book. There are so many fun things to look at. For example, each author is asked to name their Top Ten Books. Two (out of 13) name a Tintin book.  James Wood includes Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop which may (on some days) make it into my personal Top Ten. Philip Pullman has a cute old teddy bear on one of his shelves.  

Unpacking My Library is the perfect book for the bibliophile on your list. The pictures are stunning. The short interviews with each author are interesting. And most of all, since looking at what people are reading is much harder since the advent of e-readers, Price’s book allows us to, as she says, “read over the shoulders of giants.”

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One thought on “Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books

  1. Sounds like a fascinating book, but what I really want to know is…how does a librarian organize her bookshelves at home? Are your books in categories? Alphabetical? Or are you so fed up with organizing books that yours are thrown on the shelf in random order? (We all know that a plumber’s toilet is often out of order, so there is precedent for librarians…you can tell us, Shelley!)

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