Everyone's making their holiday gift guides. I have no definitive guide of my own as of yet, but I do have a book to suggest. My Ideal Bookshelf [Little, Brown and Company; November 13, 2012; $24.99; Hardcover] captures the art of Jane Mount in book form. Mount began the Ideal Bookshelf project in 2007. "I paint portraits of people through the spines of their favorite books: the ones that changed your life, that defined who you are, that you read again and again," she states on her website.
The book compiles the ideal bookshelves of "more than 100 leading cultural figures," to quote the jacket flap: writers, actors, designers, artists, chefs, musicians, and more. (And librarians - Nancy Pearl!) Children's book author & illustrator Oliver Jeffers chose his books based purely on what their spines looked like. I was thrilled to see The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder appear on the shelf of Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket. I, too, was a big Snyder fan as a kid, although my favorite was The Headless Cupid. Michael Chabon's ideal bookshelf includes The Most of S.J. Perelman, a favorite of my husband's. I smiled seeing that Chabon's wife, Ayelet Waldman, had included Chabon's own The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
The essays are short and informative, accompanying each painting on the opposite page. Some essayists choose to wax rhapsodic about one or two of the titles on their shelves, leaving you to wonder about the rest. Occasionally this is irritating, such as when a particular favorite of mine shows up on a shelf, but the shelf's owner fails to mention why they chose it. Most of the time, though, I'm content to follow the author's train of thought wherever it leads, especially when it leads to musings on the love of books and how they shape our lives, which I always appreciate.
The book would make an ideal gift for a book lover, sure, but pay a visit to Jane Mount's website for even more wonderful gift ideas. There are affordable prints and cards, or take the plunge and order a gift card for a customized original painting.
So what would be on my ideal bookshelf? I scanned all of our shelves, and started grabbing things that truly jumped out at me. Perhaps it would look something like this:
Wait - no Jane Austen? No Brontes represented period? Ugh. Where's my copy of Rebecca? Little Women? I know me. All of these should be on my shelf. Oh, how funny - I could be describing Stephenie Meyer's ideal bookshelf. Who would have thought...
So lovely readers, what would be on your ideal bookshelf? Are you like me, in love with so many books you couldn't possibly choose the right ones? Do you have any long-term, die-hard favorites? I'd love to know.
Disclosure: I received a copy of My Ideal Bookshelf from the publisher, but all opinions expressed in this post are my own. Because you knooooooow I just had to love a book like this, right?