One entire wall from floor to ceiling in my writing room is covered in bookshelves. When I’m writing, all I have to do is scoot my chair across the floor and at my fingertips are incredible books like The Blind Assassin, timeless books like Jane Eyre, helpful books like Roget’s Thesaurus, childhood books like The Wizard of Oz, secrets-from-my-past books like a whole series of Dorothy Dunnett’s historical romances and you-just-never-know-when-you-might-need-it second hand book stall purchases like World Furniture.
I don’t organise my books by colour, author, title - it’s a rather haphazard arrangement and because I take books from the shelf so often for one reason or another, haphazardness suits me fine. I don’t have to be particular about whereabouts on the shelf the book goes back - wherever it fits works best for me.
I do have two shelves though, which are organised and specific. One of these shelves is the My Favourite Books shelf and it has to be a very special book to make it into this hallowed space, alongside the likes of Margaret Atwood, Joan Didion, AS Byatt, Hilary Mantel and Ian McEwan. (You might be able to see in the picture that I’ve snuck my own book onto that shelf because I think you have to love your own books the best, flaws and all, to be able to send so many years writing them).
My other organised shelf is the Research Shelf. This shelf changes from book to book. When I was writing If I Should Lose You, it held memoirs from female heart transplant surgeons, memoirs from an intern about her experience dissecting bodies in an anatomy lab, book about the beliefs and ethics of organ donation procedures in different parts of the world. It currently holds a lot of material about New York because that’s where the book I’m currently writing is set, as well as books about having babies, which you’d think I would know something about, having managed to do it three times myself. Just not in the 1920s though, which is when my new book is set.
Books do migrate off the shelf and onto my desk from time to time. When I’m writing a book, I always have a couple of books on my desk that are like touchstones - something about those books connects me to the world I’m trying to create in my own writing. Currently on my desk as I tap away on my New York novel are Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility and Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, two very different books which are oddly evocative of the themes and characters I am writing into being.
So that’s a sneak peek into the hundreds of books on my shelves - I’d better stop now before I launch into pictures of my French shelf, my I’m-never-going-to-read-these-books-again shelf and all the other shelves organised in peculiar ways that I hadn’t realised I’d done until I started writing this post!
Natasha Lester is an author, a mother, a teacher and an all around superstar! You can read her blog at http://whilethekidsaresleeping.wordpress.com/ or visit her author website at www.natashalester.com.au
This blog appears as part of a series of guest posts by authors kind enough to take an interest in the journey of an emerging artist. You can read previous posts in the collection by clicking here.