The Written Image: My Ideal Bookshelf

From the November/December 2012 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

The assignment, notes the preface to My Ideal Bookshelf, was simple: “Select a small shelf of books that represent you—the books that have changed your life, that have made you who you are today, your favorite favorites.” Artist Jane Mount and editor Thessaly La Force solicited ideas for more than a hundred such bookshelves from creative people around the world—writers, artists, musicians, designers, and pursuers of every discipline in between—to create the new collection of art and essays, published this month by Little, Brown. Each shelf displays the spines of loved, inspiring, and influential books—some aligned neatly, some stacked askew—all hand-illustrated and painted by Mount, and each accompanied by an essay from its contributor.

Pictured above are the dream shelves of writers Mary Karr (top), who felt “less like a weirdo” after reading The House at Pooh Corner and more proud of her roots because of To Kill a Mockingbird, and George Saunders, who, as a geo-physicist fresh out of college, spent long stretches in the Sumatran jungle during which he first discovered, and then devoured, Chekov, Kerouac, and Steinbeck. To commission your own ideal bookshelf, visit