‘My Ideal Bookshelf’ by Thessaly La Force and Jane Mount

I just came into possession of the most divine book – My Ideal Bookshelf, edited by Thessaly La Force and illustrated by Jane Mount. Let me stress, if you’re looking for a Christmas gift for book lovers (and they are difficult to buy for because you don’t know what they’ve already read…) this book is perfect.

Artist Jane Mount began the Ideal Bookshelf project in 2007. She paints portraits of people through the spines of their favorite books: the ones that changed their life, that define who they are, that they read over and over. I know. HOW WONDERFUL IS THAT?! Mount does portraits on commission (husband, please note) or you can buy prints – for example the Ideal Kids Bookshelf, travel, book group (shown above), Jane Austen and so forth. All of the drawings are exquisite.

Recently, Mount joined forces with writer Thessaly La Force, and together they’ve published My Ideal Bookshelf. The book is a collection of ‘portraits’ (i.e. the favourite books) of more than a hundred creative thinkers from various creative fields (from writers and chefs to artists, app developers and musicians) accompanied by a description of their book choices.

So many names jumped out at me as soon as I opened the book – Malcolm Gladwell, Dave Eggers, Michael Chabon, David Sedaris, Leanne Shapton, Oliver Jeffers, Ayelet Waldman… goodness, I barely knew where to start.

As an example, Dave Eggers’ selection of twelve books includes For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway, Herzog by Bellow, Lolita by Nabokov and A Star Called Henry by Doyle. Eggers says of his bookshelf – “It surprised me to realize how dark so many of these books are… My main goal was to limit the choices to those books that have hit me hardest. That was the only criterion: each book had to have made a huge impact on me when I first read it… These are the books that crushed me, changed me when I first read them, and to which I’ve returned many times since, always finding more in them.”

From Oliver Jeffers, who picked his shelf based on aesthetics – “I think you should always judge a book by its cover… I collect books rather than hoard them. There’s an editorial sense of selection that occurs.”

Twilight fans might be interested to know that Stephanie Meyer’s influences include Austen, Bronte, Montgomery and Alcott – it’s kind of comforting to know that none of us ever stray far from Elizabeth, Jane, Anne and Jo, isn’t it?

I was somewhat amused by Ayelet Waldman including one of her husband’s (Michael Chabon) own titles on her ideal bookshelf. I’m sure there are other oddities in the bookshelves that will occur to me when I browse through this book more. Certainly when you read the interviews, you can automatically tell which books people are really passionate about (as opposed to ones that they have included for other reasons).

Everything about this book is simply perfect – the lush, landscape format; the crisp and generous white space; the thick, varnished pages; and of course the incredibly beautiful illustrations. It’s a feast for the eye and a feast for the soul. And just when you think it couldn’t get better, the end paper features a drawing of ten book spines, so that you can add your own Ideal Bookshelf (which you’re invited to share via Twitter). *Sigh* I love this project to bits.

It was difficult to find the perfect match for this book – it couldn’t be something that might give you dirty fingers! *God forbid you mark the pages* But I settled on the comforting, chocolately goodness of a Chocolate Milkshake to have with My Ideal Bookshelf. Kitchen Chronicles has the word on making the perfect milkshake.

5/5 This is a must-have coffee-table book.

8 responses

    • I’m thinking long and hard about that before I ‘draw’ my shelf! It will of course include Irving (but how many???); also Room With a View; some Henry James… and then after that it gets really tricky! I’ll post a pic when I’ve done my shelf.

      • It’s going to be tough! My Facebook quote (because THAT makes it official) is from Henry James (she felt in italics and thought in capitals). I don’t know which of his I would choose or if I could only choose one Irving. The pressure’s intense 🙂

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