Free Range Reader: Bookshelves and what’s on them

Posted in Blogs, Literary

BY ZIA GIPSON, Aug. 16, 2013

In our house we have books in virtually all the rooms. Some rooms have bookshelves. Other rooms just have piles. We have bookshelves made from bamboo flooring, custom-made for a previous house. We have beautiful bookshelves made by my husband, and by companies no longer in existence. All of the shelves are crammed full of books and magazines mixed with the occasional bibelot or objet d‘art.

Hence my interest in “Bookshelf,” by Alex Johnson.

Guest Blog Gipson Bookshelf

This visual delight is about the functional furniture items that hold our beloved readable materials. This is a book about the bookshelf as art, bookshelf as engineering marvel, and bookshelf as whimsy and wonder.

“Bookshelf” is published by Thames and Hudson. Over the last decade, I have found Thames and Hudson one of the most consistently excellent publishers in English on earth. I know that when I encounter a Thames and Hudson book I can count on great images and interesting editorial, and I almost always want to read the book (no matter the subject)—immediately. Looking for a book storage solution? I recommend “Bookshelf,” this lovely small tome. It will delight and amuse you.

My other bookshelf read is “My Ideal Bookshelf,” edited by Thessaly La Force, with art by Jane Mount. This is a book where leading cultural figures confess to what is on their bookshelves. Some of the cultural figures selected to reveal their personal library holdings were known to me: Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Chabon, Judd Apatow, Nancy Pearl, Dave Eggers and Patti Smith, for example. Others, too numerous to list here, are brand-new names to me. Perhaps my literary/cultural chops are not what they could be. Or maybe this book is way too “New York-centric.”

In any case, it’s fun to see who owns (and has kept) which books. One finds “Moby Dick” on a lot of bookshelves, which I find puzzling as I know not one much-reading person who has even touched the famous novel since they were required to read it in high school or college. I am sure I will hear from those of you who treasure the book still. Good for you, may the whale reign supremely in your consciousness.

To the book’s credit, the library sleuthing has covered more than writers’ shelves. There are a lot of visual types included in “My Ideal Bookshelf,” from artists to designers of a variety of stripes. I enjoyed browsing the lists of library titles and reading what the contributors had to say about their collections, although there is limited space for text.

Personally, I would love to see what’s on the shelves of some of our more well-known Whidbey readers. I know from experience at library sales that we are an amazingly well-read population. Perhaps that’s a topic for a future column.

In the meantime, if you are looking for ideas of what to read, “My Ideal Bookshelf” is a good place to start.

My “Catch of the Day” is  “2000 Pattern Combinations” by Jane Callendar from Batsford.

In the meantime, don’t forget to put libraries and librarians in your bedtime prayers. I love my library!

Zia Gipson is a mixed-media artist who is packing artwork to send to Tilamook, Oregon for Whidbey Island Surface Design’s exhibition “Life on the Left Edge” at Latimer Quilt and Textile Center.

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