Gwen & Kate's Library

Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.

My Ideal Bookshelf: A Review and Response

My mom picked this book up at the library, and I leafed through it all the way home, completely immersed in the illustrations. This book is truly unique — an anthology of short essays by approximately 100 famous writers, cooks, artists, musicians, dancers, architects, etc., each describing their ideal bookshelf. Their bookshelves are then illustrated on the opposite page in the beautiful painted style of Jane Mount. 

My Ideal Bookshelf, edited by Thessaly La Force, illustrated by Jane Mount

Series: None

Genres: Non Fiction, Writing, Art, Anthology

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 5 stars!

Description:

The books that we choose to keep –let alone read– can say a lot about who we are and how we see ourselves. In My Ideal Bookshelf, dozens of leading cultural figures share the books that matter to them most; books that define their dreams and ambitions and in many cases helped them find their way in the world. Contributors include Malcolm Gladwell, Thomas Keller, Michael Chabon, Alice Waters, James Patterson, Maira Kalman, Judd Apatow, Chuck Klosterman, Miranda July, Alex Ross, Nancy Pearl, David Chang, Patti Smith, Jennifer Egan, and Dave Eggers, among many others. With colorful and endearingly hand-rendered images of book spines by Jane Mount, and first-person commentary from all the contributors, this is a perfect gift for avid readers, writers, and all who have known the influence of a great book.

Review:

My mom picked this book up at the library, and I leafed through it all the way home, completely immersed in the illustrations. This book is truly unique — an anthology of short essays by approximately 100 famous writers, cooks, artists, musicians, dancers, architects, etc., each describing their ideal bookshelf. Their bookshelves are then illustrated on the opposite page in the beautiful painted style of Jane Mount, who also sells her many prints on her website, which I encourage all to look at.

When I first glanced at the list of contributors, the only ones I recognized where Stephenie Meyer and James Patterson, neither of whom I’d read/enjoyed any books by. I opened up the book to the second essay, and began to read:

“When I began to write, at about the age of seven–stories in pencil with crayon illustrations, which my poor mother was obligated to read–I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading. All my characters were white and drank ginger beer, because the British characters in the books I read drank at lot of ginger beer, Never mind that I had no idea what ginger beer was.”

My first reaction to this quote was that it was well-written, but very unoriginal. I felt as if I had read those same words somewhere else very recently — and indeed I had! Upon looking up to see who the author was, it turned out to be Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the same author who did my favorite TED Talk entitled The Danger of a Single Story:

This was the first excitement I felt when reading this book, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Many entries later, in the “M” section by author last name, I stumbled upon Stephenie Meyer’s ideal bookshelf, the author of Twilight, not a book I had enjoyed. However, I loved her favorite book list, which included one of my favorites too (The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale), along with many on my to-read list (Pride and Prejudice by Jan Austen, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman):

Although I admit I did not read every single essay, I did examine each bookshelf, no matter the owner.

My Response:

My Ideal Bookshelf greatly inspired me, and I decided to paint my own ideal bookshelf, as the authors recommend you do with their template at the back of the book:

Kate’s ideal bookshelf is easy to guess, and handily enough, is already made by Jane Mount:

Here is my own Ideal Bookshelf, which took me far too long to actually complete. I attempted to copy Jane Mount’s style almost exactly, and used a mix of watercolor and acrylic paints for the backgrounds, with gel pens for the titles layered on top.

My Ideal Bookshelf:

P1040014

A real or beautifully illustrated stack of books I love is one of the most satisfying things to look at, and this book is a joy to read or simply to admire! Highly recommended!

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One comment on “My Ideal Bookshelf: A Review and Response

  1. bobandkilehgotoalaska
    January 3, 2016

    Thanks Gwen, I really enjoyed your post on The Ideal Bookshelf. I’d like to make mine and also read the book. It was very inspiring.

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This entry was posted on January 3, 2016 by in Author: Gwen, Favorites, Library, Review and tagged , , , .
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