The Bookshelf Project

DSC_1834I blame the movie Julie & Julia. Do you know how many times I’ve thought about cooking through every recipe in one of my 46 cookbooks? It messes with my all-or-nothing propensities. So many times, I’m browsing among the books and think: wouldn’t it be fun to read exclusively from this shelf until I’ve read everything?

The all-or-nothing system hasn’t been good to me. Because, you know, the nothing side hits the playground pavement with a bang and the all side is swaying, suspended in the air above the teeter-totter.

So I made a bargain. I eyed the shelves and did the math. What if? I whispered to myself. Stop! the other me warned. No, this is reasonable, I countered. What if I committed to reading one book from every shelf on the big white bookshelf? There are 30 shelves in total. Subtract three that hold CDs, Audio books, and DVDs. Subtract the one narrow shelf about which I can say, “I’ve read them all.”

26 books from my own shelves. That’s about half of the number of books I read in a year, so it allows room for the books in other rooms in my house, on my Kindle, or yet to be published.

I’m not going to decide which title on each shelf right now. I’m a bit schizophrenic in my reading. When I am mindful of how little time I have left on the earth, I determine to only read the best books. When I think about making room on the shelves, I read the book I want to read, but don’t think I’ll want to keep. And when I don’t want to work, I go for easy reading.

And I won’t shelve a new book, so I can say I read it off my shelves. Dirty pool!

So here’s a glance at my options:

DSC_8173There are two shelves of history. On the top shelf I’m inclined toward The Pity Of War: Explaining World War Ior The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill.

On the lower shelf, it’s an excruciating decision. McCullough’s book on the Brooklyn Bridge, Barbara Tuchman, Stephen Ambrose or Paul Johnson?

DSC_8174Oh, man. Several titles on these two shelves come highly recommended. The Widow of the Southis set in Franklin, TN. I want to read The Monuments Men before the movie comes out this year.

DSC_8175Two sets of Churchill to choose from: I’ve read A History of the English-Speaking Peoples and would like to re-read them. But Edmund Burke  beguiles me.  Three sets sit on the bottom shelf: 13 years of Cook’s Illustrated, a set of Dumas and a set of Dickens.

DSC_8176Short biographies, a collection of collections, and Willa Cather.

DSC_8177Small books with short stories and gorgeous books about Britain with watercolor plates.

DSC_8178Business and culture.

DSC_8201Classics. My husband and I are enjoying A Study in Scarlet, so we may well continue with more Conan Doyle. But I’ve never read Kimso I may choose Kipling.

DSC_8180Education and Witold Rybczynski.

DSC_8181I insist on reading one science book a year, weak as I am in science. I highly recommend Microbe Huntersand Longitudeif you need your science in narrative form. I think Lives of a Cellis calling my name.

DSC_8182Oh to have room to store my beloved Penguin collection upright! Whoever invented orange covers ought to be shot. I would love to read all those orange Trollopes so I can be done with them.

DSC_8183These two shelves are at the center of my collection. Deep. love.

DSC_8184More groups of authors that I love.

DSC_8185This shelf is a pass on my read-from-my-shelves project. Jan, Anne, and Mma.

DSC_8186Foodie books!

DSC_8187More foodie books.

DSC_8194True story: it’s easier for me to read about various methods of eradicating dust bunnies than to bend over and pick up the dust bunny.

DSC_8195Books on writing and books on books. Pure deliciousness.

DSC_8196Music. Poetry.


Children’s books, theology, travel and memoirs have their own bookcases. But they will have to get in line.

Intentional reading: the good life.

Hey! You with the eye for interior design? What would you recommend for the tops of my shelves? I’ve thought about framed photos (in matching frames) but I’m afraid they will make it too busy. Woven baskets? Eclectic collection of pottery/baskets? Empty? Your opinion is welcome.


20 thoughts on “The Bookshelf Project

  1. My votes are for: The Last Lion (excellent bio of Winston Churchill! I loved the first two books and have the third that Manchester started and Paul Reid finished); Paul Johnson – because everything I’ve read by him has been good, although I’ve also liked the few books by Ambrose that I’ve read, too; Cook’s Illustrated, definitely!!!; Dickens, too; Willa Cather, and if you can only read one of the three you have then please let it be Death Comes for the Archbishop, although I love the other two also; Shakespeareland! – because I also have that book; Brave New World and Economics in One Lesson (wouldn’t that be a re-read for you?); Kim! And Martin Chuzzlewit!; anything and everything by Witold Rybczynski; Lewis Thomas is good, too; at least one Trollope, one Wilder, and one Wodehouse; and I’ve never read Helprin, so please urge me to do so and tell me why I must!

    Regarding the tops of your shelves – dear Carol, since mine are filled with more books, I will pass on that and hope that someone with excellent decorating sense can direct you to something esthetically pleasing.

  2. Your shelves are a marvel. Oh my lanta, the choices. May I add: you be smart.

    My favorite line: “True story: it’s easier for me to read about various methods of eradicating dust bunnies than to bend over and pick up the dust bunny.” HA! Nodding my head in agreement.

    Finally, I think a few hand woven, groovy baskets on top would be lovely.

  3. I loved this post. Bookshelves with good books are a true wonder to behold! As for decorating ideas, some sort of small lamp or lamps that can shine down on those beauties, dried flowers in vases, perhaps artwork on wooden easels, or glass terrariums with real greens likes mosses or small ferns or then again, just fill them with candles and nature keepsakes that won’t die. 🙂

  4. I am going to run and grab and pencil so I can copy down all those foodie book titles I have not read. Can’t wait to hear about what you have read this year!


  5. I see on your shelf, The Art of Eating, by M. F. K. Fisher; did you like it? I read a recently published book, Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste by Luke Barr, and it referred to The Art of Eating quite a bit.

  6. Oh, my. I loved these photos and commentary.
    Shelf #1: I have a copy of The Last Lion that I rescued from the packers-of-my-house, and I plan to read it soon. So we could read it together!
    Shelf #2: I love Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror, along with Costain’s four book series on the Middle Ages in England (The Conquering Family, The Magnificent Century, The Three Edwards, and The Last Plantagenets). The Tuchman book covers the same time period in France as The Three Edwards and the first part of The Last Plantagenets, so I have read them together. Delicious!

    Oh, my I have to get ready to go to a wedding, and I’ve only commented on the first two shelves. Later, if I can get back to it. I can’t resist recommending and commenting on books.

  7. What an admirable plan you have before you and what lovely books. We share an interest in the Foodie section (as well as many other sections and authors) with Laurie Colwin. Imagine what she could have written if she had not died so young. In her More Home Cooking book, I have a post-it note sticking out of the page for her roast chicken that states…Best Roast Chicken. A couple of books that you might enjoy: On Rue Tatin Living and Cooking in a French Town by Susan Herrmann Loomis and An Embarrassment of Mangoes A Caribbean Interlude by Ann Vanderhoof.
    love and prayers, jep

  8. I love the bookshelves! They already show a fine piece of decorating…at first glance I thought the photo was from an interior decorating magazine…

  9. What a treat to see your bookshelves…so many wonderful titles. What a lovely collection. As far as decorating ideas, perhaps you could consider a white classical bust (to see what I mean, type in “white bonded marble bust” on will see some of Shakespeare, the goddess Diana, etc.) sitting next to a long harvest basket (also type in “harvest basket” on Ebay for ideas). Just what I would consider for a timeless look, but the possibilities are endless. Your post has given me a lot of good reading ideas for the year!

    Debbie Z.

    • Oh, and just as a another idea (if you aren’t into the classical look) would be three to five pieces of art pottery spaced along the top of the bookshelves. This could make your heart sing as well. : )

      Debbie Z.

  10. Oh, dear. I have discovered a subject upon which we profoundly disagree. I believe that whomever invented orange covers ought to be showered with accolades, inducted into knighthood, and given a ticker-tape parade.

  11. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: January 11, 2014 | Semicolon

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