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My Ideal Bookshelf Hardcover – November 13, 2012

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First read by millions worldwide in The New York Times. Gratitude brings together four essays written over the last two years of Sacks' life. Check out "Gratitude". | See more by Oliver Sacks
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Editorial Reviews


"A perfect gift for avid and reluctant readers alike--a celebration of the depth and breadth of the written word's shaping of our lives that will guide readers to new favorites while simultaneously causing them to think about their own ideal bookshelves."―Shelf Awareness

"The books we cherish speak volumes about us, and the delightful new hardcover My Ideal Bookshelf offers a peek at those that have shaped the lives of dozens of celebrities, including rocker Patti Smith, writer Malcolm Gladwell, and skateboarder Tony Hawk, who says his choices 'are about pushing the boundaries of the mainstream.' Charmingly illustrated by Jane Mount, this is a book to savor and share."―Parade

"A bibliophilic feast for the eye, mind, heart and soul."―Kirkus

"a perfect coffee table book. . ."―Publisher's Weekly

"the 100 writers, designers, chefs, artists, musicians, and others collected here turned in titles that, taken together, conspire to form the ultimate creative person's reading list."―Vogue

". . . so addicting and thoughtful it makes a solid mainstream case for bookshelf porn."―-Chicago Tribune

". . . the colorful, wonderful new offering edited by Thessaly La Force and illustrated in bookish splendor by Jane Mount."―- New York Daily News

About the Author

Jane Mount is an artist and illustrator. Her paintings of bookshelves have caught the eye of media outlets like The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Daily Candy, and InStyle, among others. She lives in northern California with her husband and two cats.

Thessaly La Force is a writer and editor who has worked at The Paris Review, The New Yorker, and the New York Public Library. She is currently attending the Iowa Writer's Workshop and is working on a collection of short stories about objects and aesthetics. Thessaly divides her time between Iowa City and New York City; she also has two cats and shares a birthday with Jane.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1St Edition edition (November 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316200905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316200905
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Bitter Lawyer on November 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
DISCLAIMER: I was given a free copy of this book for review purposes.

My Ideal Bookshelf is an interesting thought experiment. A great deal of the pleasure in reading it comes from spotting a familiar title on one of these imaginary bookshelves, then scanning your own real world library and seeing a physical copy of it nestled between bookends. It's also great fun trying to create your own list of essentials. What books changed you as a person, formed you into the embittered attorney or giddy anesthesiologist or cheeky carpenter you are today? Which novels or essays do you carry around inside your skull?

The range of people who answered these questions is interesting, but narrow. Most are familiar names from the worlds of writing, film, and art. The book goes through them alphabetically and assumes you know who each person is, although you will find single paragraph micro-biographies at the very back of the book if you find yourself asking, "Who?" There's no explanation as to why this particular set of folks was chosen, which suggests convenience and cooperation as the motivating factors, but you should be able to find at least two or three who grab your attention, no matter what your interests.

The real strength of this book is the illustrations. Each book spine is beautifully detailed and painstakingly accurate. You will be surprised by how a font or particular shade of orange will instantly call up a memory of the novel before you even look at the title. Book covers are designed to seize hold of your eyes as you scan a crowded shelf, and the drawings here display the many different ways publishers have tried to make their products stand out. Simplicity, explosions of color, delicate linework, or blocky leaden letters.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Therese Mulvihill-Wang on November 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book. Imagine your bookshelf published. You are what you read. The Ideal Bookshelf is a very interesting perspective on favorite books of people from a variety of successful, creative, artistic careers. A wide range of creativity is represented; from Tony Hawks the professional snowboarder to the poet Jorie Graham. The idea is to relay to the reader how and why certain books influenced these individuals, in their own words, and perhaps get you to ask a few questions of yourself. Do your most memorable books affect your lot in life, or does your lot in life determine what you read and relish? Is your bookshelf were to be published would you be honest, or maybe pick books that make you look deep, insightful, smart? Either way you are influenced by the books you put on your bookshelf. But would you have the confidence to make it public? These showcased individuals did. An illustration accompanies each bookshelf narrative creating a colorful picturesque coffee table book. What is on your bookshelf?
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Donovan on November 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I'm a bona fide bookworm, and so books about books are always appealing to me. As a bookworm, I'm not sure I got what I expected from this book, because I would have preferred in-depth discussion about specific titles that might have been familiar to me.

However, I'm still giving this 4-stars, because of the whole package. My teen daughter is an artist, and so I've become much more aware of art, and this is a BEAUTIFUL book, so it would be perfect as a coffee table book or library feature. The entry from each person appears on one side of the page, and the other side has a full-page drawing of the books (similar to the one featured on the cover).

There are quite a few authors featured, but there are also several artists -- from all sorts of fields -- chefs and professionals from other careers, so the books that are featured are not for bookworms only.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Melissa K. on January 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
If you walk into a person's house for a first time and immediately start scoping out their bookshelves (and wondering what their reading choices say about them), then you will LOVE this book.

If you take pleasure in browsing bookstores and libraries, you will love this book. If you are looking for book recommendations from a diverse group of people (including writers, artists, designers, musicians, movie stars and athletes), you will love this book. If you want to learn more about (or simply pass judgment on) that diverse group of people, you will love this book. If you appreciate aesthetically pleasing book covers (or spines, as is the case here), you will love this book.

If you're against the idea of reading a book about books, you are not going to like this book. If the names Stephenie Meyer and James Patterson are enough to make you write off a book that also includes entries from Jennifer Egan, George Saunders, Michael Chabon and Junot Diaz...well, get over yourself.
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29 of 37 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I was really looking forward to this book. It has more than 100 people telling what their favorite books are. There are chefs, designers, actors; each with 2 pages devoted to them - one to the description and the next a lovely watercolour type drawing of the books.
There is an account, in the back of the book, of each contributor in alphabetical order with their professional category and the list of their books.

The problem occurs when you read their narrative; 10 books might be pictured, but they only describe a few of them. It's almost like a tease; I really was expecting a full portrayal of their perfect bookshelf, not just a sampling of a few.
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