Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books

by on April 20th, 2012

Happy list:
Books about Writers
Books about Libraries
Books about Writers’ Libraries

This lovely little book, edited by Harvard English Professor Leah Price, is delightful in a number of ways. First, it’s smaller than the average book at 8″ x 5.5″ or so. Second, it has images and lots of white space, perfect for weary eyes at the end of a day. Third, the images are books on bookshelves. Fourth, it has lists of books.

Price asks a group of writers these questions: How much do you mark up your books? How far back does your collection go? What books were not on the shelves that you permitted us to photograph (wink wink nudge nudge)? Do you use an e-reader?

And then there are the bookshelves themselves. Some super organized in lovely custom white cubes (Rebecca Goldstein and Steven Pinker), and some overflowing and outgrowing readymade wooden bookshelves (Edmund White).

But the ultimate delight is what’s on those shelves. I found myself peering at every title, rotating “Unpacking My Library” for optimum snoopability. The photographs, although just two-dimensional, have the quality of a third dimension; you can nearly put your hand on each title on the shelf. You can nearly touch the space between titles. You can nearly take each book down and discover its contents for yourself.

Each writer also offers a top ten list of books from their shelves with a photograph of each cover on the recto page.

This book is like taking high tea, without the crumpet but still delightful.

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