Have you ever wondered which books inspire your favourite authors? Surely, a piece of literature or a specific writer must have played a role in influencing an author to start writing in the first place. This question never crossed my mind until my friend, Rohan Thakar, generously gave me one of the most unique books I have ever received as a birthday gift.
Editor Thessaly La Force and artist Jane Mount unveil this interesting question in My Ideal Bookshelf. They interview some of the most famous authors, fashion designers, journalists, cookbook authors, artists, architects, curators and even book cover designers to reveal which books “define their dreams and ambitions,” and as La Force and Mount suggest, “books [that] in many cases helped them find their way in the world”.
This literary project sounds simple on the onset. “Select a small shelf of books that represent you– the books that have changed your life, that made you who you are today, your favorite favorites.” I took one glimpse at my book shelf, and dug out some of the books I have in storage, and realized this question is far more complex than I ever imagined (AKA Blog Post #2- My Ideal Bookshelf Part II).
You probably want a glimpse of what is revealed in the book. I’m quite sure that if you’re reading this blog, you probably at some point in your life, have read or heard of Malcolm Gladwell. If you have not — you will.
Malcolm Gladwell’s bookshelf surprised me. His Ideal Bookshelf is basically filled with books about power and crime. For example, Popular Crime, The Business of Crime, The American Mafia, and Black Mafia, are just a few of the books he chose to put on his Ideal Bookshelf. Interestingly enough, he writes that these books influence him because he is very interested in the strategies we use to keep people who are powerless in check. (A question that literally drove me to complete a Master of Laws — this is probably a good indicator of why I became obsessed with Outliers a few years ago).
While backpacking in Europe in 2010, I picked up a book by an author I had never heard of, about a subject that sounded bizarre enough to keep me entertained as I jumped from plane to plane. This book also won the Pulitzer Prize. The name of the book is called The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. I have never read something that has such extensive and hilarious footnotes referencing Trujillo, one of the Dominican Republic’s most infamous dictators. The first sentence on the back of the book is as follows: “Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love.” Did I mention this book won the Pulitzer Prize? I’m sold.
Naturally, Díaz has The Fellowship of the Rings, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King on his Ideal Bookshelf. Díaz indicates that immigration first got him reading. “I arrived at six years old, in 1974, in central New Jersey. At the time, the United States was a profoundly hostile environment for immigrants….” “In reading, no one could criticize my English…” “I wish I could summon my younger self to explain why I fell in love with The Lord of the Rings…”
I find this so fascinating. I guess a Pulitzer Prize winning author’s life story doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Needless to say, this book rocks. I wish I could draw on many of the several other authors, but I heard that authors and publishers aren’t very fond of plagiarism and copyright infringement. So, I’ll leave it at that, and please find a way to browse through this book in some capacity. Many thanks to Rohan for giving me a wonderful coffee table book which inspired me to write a blog post. Also, check out www.idealbookshelf.com.
In conclusion, I pose these questions:
- What books would you choose to put on your ideal bookshelf?
- What do your books say about you?
- Has a book ever changed your life?
I will provide my own answers in “My Ideal Bookshelf Part II”.