Saturday, February 04, 2012

Book Review: "Unpacking My Library"

Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books (Yale University Press, 2011) is the second (architects came first) in Yale's series of small coffee-table books featuring short interviews with well-known people about their libraries alongside images of the writers' libraries.

Leah Price provides a short introduction and conducted the interviews, with writers Alison Bechdel, Stephen Carter, Junot Diaz, Rebecca Goldstein & Stephen Pinker, Lev Grossman & Sophie Gee, Jonathan Lethem, Claire Messud & James Wood, Philip Pullman, Gary Shteyngart, and Edmund White. Most of the writers were asked the same series of questions, with slight variants depending on the person: which books weren't on the public shelves, whether they listen to audiobooks or read ebooks, how the books are organized, whether they've gotten rid of books as they've moved, &c.

While it's interesting to see different writers respond to the same questions, some additional variation might have made the interviews just a bit more lively. And of course, some of the responses are better than others, as you'd expect (not surprisingly, I liked Philip Pullman's better than Edmund White's, particularly this line of Pullman's, which rang very true: "Every time I go into town I accidentally buy two or three books").

Overall, certainly an enjoyable book to leaf through (and shelf-browse), and Price's introductory essay is nicely done.

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