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My Ideal Bookshelf

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  1,947 ratings  ·  380 reviews
The books that we choose to keep --let alone read-- can say a lot about who we are and how we see ourselves. In MY IDEAL BOOKSHELF, dozens of leading cultural figures share the books that matter to them most; books that define their dreams and ambitions and in many cases helped them find their way in the world. Contributors include Malcolm Gladwell, Thomas Keller, Michael ...more
Hardcover, 226 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Little, Brown and Company
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Nov 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
I LOVE reading about what other people love to read. I want to know what everyone's favorite books are. That's the main reason I joined Goodreads, after all.

The writer of this book asked over 100 "creative" people to compile lists of their favorite books; all the titles that would be displayed proudly on their "ideal" bookshelves. The artist, Jane Mount then lovingly rendered the spines of the selections in what appears to be watercolor and ink. The resulting colorful paintings are very eye-catc
Nov 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Not only am I comfortable judging books by their covers, but I'm also comfortable judging writers by their bookshelves and books by their spines.
I have my very own personalized Ideal Bookshelf painting heading my way early January (SO hard to choose the books!) so of course I had to read this book! For those of you who don't know what it is, please visit Such a genius idea! Art + books + unique, personal concept = love! It's a way of making a statement, "Hey, I know I have about 300 books crowding my apartment but these are the ones that REALLY matter!"

I was a little disappointed by some of the essays. Som
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-bookstores
[3.5] I loved "Bibliophile," also illustrated by Jane Mount, so had high hopes for this volume. This book does have pretty illustrations of book stacks owned by various artists and I enjoyed gazing at them. But it pales next to Bibliophile. The illustrations even seem more washed out. When I put it side by side with Bibliophile, it turns out that it is not the pictures - but the subjects.

It seems that when famous (or not so famous) people are asked about their books, their choices tend to be se
Peter Derk
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
I thought it would be really interesting to see what a bunch of different people would put on their bookshelves. And it was. Sort of. Sometimes.

This book is a fun idea, but there were two big disappoints for me.

The first was that, as with any collection where multiple writers contribute, the writing was really uneven and the reading experience suffers.

Half way through this book, it hit me: Is this why people are always telling me that they don't get into short stories? Is part of the problem th
Dec 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
At parties, you can find me inspecting the host’s book collection. If someone’s reading on a bus, I must see the book’s cover. When television interview subjects sit in front of their bookshelves, I don’t hear a thing because I am reading the shelves. So obviously My Ideal Bookshelf is the perfect book for a nosey, what-are-you-reading person like me! The authors have chosen more than 100 writers, artists, musicians, designers and others and asked them to share lists of the books that mean the m ...more
It's interesting to see what others consider their must-read books. I got some ideas for books I want to add to my list (as if I don't have enough on there as it is)! I enjoyed reading the lists of people I had heard of such as authors and entertainers the most. The illustrations of the book spines are well done. It's fun to see why people love to read. If I'm not reading I feel a huge void in my life.

Some favorite quotes include:

"A room is not a room without books." - Mira Nair

"I think books f
Dec 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: bookishness, art
This book has a cute concept. A bunch of distinguished (to varying degrees) people were asked to list the books they would put on a small ideal bookshelf, and artist Jane Mount created paintings of the spines of the books. The paintings are charming, and somehow seem to make the books more like living presences than a photograph of the spines would. A goodreads friend of mine in the UK complains that 3/4 of the contributors are not known outside of the US. I would say that at least that many are ...more
C.E. G
Apr 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
An artist illustrates the "ideal bookshelves" of a bunch of famous people. Definitely a fun coffee-table book. I have a full page of new book recommendations now. And I'm looking forward to thinking up my own list of books that have changed my life and made me who I am.

But holy crap, did this book ever point out how much people love male authors. Seriously, people (esp men) would have 15-20 books with only 1 or 2 by a woman, if even that many.


OK so after 10
Oct 27, 2012 rated it liked it
When I won this book through the First Reads program here on the site, I was really excited - and now I'm just disappointed. I really like the idea of this book, but the execution left something to be desired. Another reviewer wrote on here that this book is "more sentimental than useful in identifying new books to read," and that is pretty much the heart of the problem. The main audience of this book is going to be people looking for new books to read and I wish the little essays had focused mo ...more
Anne Bogel
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a fun coffee-table book for book lovers to dip in and out of. I spent as long examining the illustrations as I did reading the text.
Dec 05, 2012 rated it liked it
I really liked the idea of this book, and it of course made me want to choose my ideal bookshelf!!! The problem is I would have several bookshelves, and the one I would want the world to see would be vastly different than the one that truly illustrated my reading interests. I was growing increasingly upset when I couldn't name one book that "changed my life" or "made me who I am". Then I figured it out-my love of reading is my life and who I am. Many books have moved me to tears and laughter(som ...more
Molly Voorheis
Mar 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My Ideal Bookshelf is for book-lovers what reading The National Inquirer is for the celebrity-stricken. This visually fun and surprisingly readable compilation gives you an illustrated bookshelf and notes for a variety of people--an opportunity to crush on your favorite cultural icons without feeling like you've been reduced to reading People in your dentist's office. Find out why Mary Karr loves To Kill A Mockingbird, why Season on the Brink meant so much to Chuck Klosterman, and what motivated ...more
Who knew that Stephenie Meyer's ideal bookshelf would be so close to my own ideal bookshelf? I certainly didn't.

I really love the concept of Jane Mount's breathtakingly beautiful art and the many ideal bookshelves she has created over the years. While Jane Mount only paints books and writes book titles she always manages to portray the person behind the bookshelf as well. The books we choose to represent ourselves can sometimes be arranged into something extremely revealing and deeply personal.

Dec 07, 2012 rated it liked it
It's a nice idea and the art is pretty but... it's just pictures of books and people talking about their influences and I found that interesting but wanted... more, wanted the book to be less literally tied to the title.
I am smitten with this book. The concept. The paintings. The featured cultural figures :: writers, foodies, artists, photographers. This is book-porn for bibliophiles. LOVE.

Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was very different. The read was good, but I felt disconnected at times if I didn’t know who the artist or writer was.
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013, nonfiction
I love to check out people's bookshelves whenever I go to their houses, so this book was a deliciously fun read - a collection of various artists'/writers' "ideal bookshelves," illustrated beautifully by Jane Mount, and a short description accompanying each shelf. The bookshelves themselves were uneven - some really did give me a sense of why this person had the shelf she did, but others talked about something else entirely from their bookshelf. It is overall a book I'd recommend for those who l ...more
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
OK so you may have heard recently that I just won a goodreads giveaway of the Rook sequel, Stiletto! In fact I am starting to read it…just as soon as I finish typing this in. So I got an email a couple weeks ago telling me I won it and it arrived today. AWESOME! SO excited.

So the last time I won a giveaway… I didn't know. I didn't get an email that time or if I did, I overlooked it. So when the book, this book, The Ideal Bookshelf, arrived in the mail, I couldn't figure it out. I thought I had o
Jan 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Not as pleasurable as I wished it. At first I thought it was the heavy hipster/New York/Significance quotient, with the "one hundred leading cultural figures" having rather similar tastes for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, David Foster Wallace, Lolita, and Raymond Carver. There's some of that, but then there are the chefs and designers and app developers and musicians--and even writers--who add some unhip and/or idiosyncratic choices. We could've used more of that: how about the uncool and the unc ...more
Nov 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
Interesting. I would have liked some background on how the editors chose the participants. There were a lot of husband/wife ex-husband/ex-wife submissions (were they afraid to ask one and not the other?), Pulitzer Prize winning types, a ton of chefs and artists and...Stephenie Meyer.

This is not a knock on Ms. Meyer AT ALL because frankly, her contribution was one of the more interesting ones. (There were at least a dozen "I picked this book because of the way it looked" choices.) It was easy to
Dec 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting concept for a book, but perhaps is more sentimental than useful in identifying new books to read. The essays are short (one page) and succinct and the book's layout is very attractive.

A great many of the books mentioned are old which means most libraries and book stores don't carry them any more though you could probably find a copy with diligence. Quite a number of titles are specific to an industry such as food preparation. Quite a few "classics" are listed which I always question
Dec 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Daisy by: Allison
Shelves: readers
You imagine what'd be on your ideal bookshelf and you wish you'd be asked to contribute. (You can--on the very last page.)
I learn I'd respect and want to read other books by anyone who has PG Wodehouse on his/her shelf.
What a surprise to find Mark Bittman loves Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love.
This is a great resource. And so pretty.
Jun 04, 2015 added it
Shelves: read-in-2015
More of a reference book than something I feel comfortable rating. My favorite part was surprisingly James Patterson's contribution. Not his bookshelf, but his explanation, if for no other reason than this quote:

"I think it'd be disastrous if everyone wrote the way I do. But I think it's good that somebody does."
Barbara VA
Aug 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have a confession to make - I am a bookaholic. I cannot stop adding titles to my TBR list. It is obscene, here on GoodReads the list is officially at 588 but I also have another list here at home, another in the notebook I carry in my purse, a list in Notes on my cell phone, and even photos on my phone AND camera. I cannot stop!! My decorating mantra is “Less is more” except for books. But on my birthday last month I decided that I would really should behave and finish 3 of my reading goals t ...more
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting collection of book lists by a wide variety of people, some of them widely famous. The editor asked each to make a list of the books that would fit on a bookshelf that have most influenced them throughout their live. The choices are interesting because it's not just a collection of favorites but books that have in some way influenced thinking.

I so loved the idea that my book club made their lists, and at our next book club, we shared our lists, gave each member a copy, and
Sep 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting book. Enjoyed the concept of people putting together their "ultimate" bookshelf, and the way the artist would paint it. Saw many books and authors I had never heard of. Some people seemed to have books that were meant more to impress, while others seemed to have a broad range of genres (enjoyed those the best) "Lolita" and "On the Road" seemed to be very popular amongst many of the contributors. I enjoyed it. Quick read for me. I will admit I looked more at the pictures and only r ...more
Mary Ellen
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 ane
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is not the book I would have thought to have been reviewing as 2012 draws to a close, nor will this be the pithy-ish kind of review I generally post. I am just too excited about "My Ideal Bookshelf" to give it short shrift.

Knowledge of this unique book came upon me completely by surprise when I received a package on Wednesday from a beloved young friend. It was a set of painted note cards by the artist Jane Mount, and they were so colorful and attractive that I went to her website, only to
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely love everything about this book. I saw it @ my library and was immediately enthralled. The concept is beyond cool and the execution fulfills my expectation now I have read through each entry completely. I adore books and quake to think of a time when they might exist only in digital form or anachronistically in museums formally known as libraries. I suppose I eventually accepted CDs but my love for album covers is a fraction of that reserved for books.
I was curious about some simil
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Methods 771: Ideal Bookshelf 25 19 Feb 04, 2018 08:52PM  
The Novella Club: My Ideal Bookshelf - books you can't live without 11 59 Nov 24, 2012 06:58AM  

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“I think books find their way to you when you need them. Whenever I feel like I'm not going to live to read all the books I want to read, I remind myself that the important ones find their way to me" (Rosanne Cash (Musician/Write)” 14 likes
“The thing about this bookshelf is that each of these books is a vast experience unto itself, while also being both self-contained and superbly useless. Reading any one of them doesn't get you anywhere particularly meaningful; you haven't arrived or graduated; you've just gone and done something that passed the time. It's like taking a long walk with a friend who's got a lot to say. There's not cumulative purpose to it - it's just an excellent way to waste your life.” 4 likes
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