By Caitlin Kelly
We all do it when visiting someone’s home — sneak a peek at their bookshelves to see what they read.
If I ever visit a home without a lot of books, I wonder about its occupants. Even when we’re broke, there’s the library.
So, for a change, I thought I’d show you some of my shelves and a look at my reading tastes; there are more in the living room. These are only one unit in the bedroom:
I have a lot of reference books! The top one is an absolute gem, written by an Australian stylist and full of terrific images, great visual inspiration. Here’s her blog.
The second was a gift from the curator of Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum after I wrote about their exhibit of Manolo Blahnik.
The Log of the Molly B we bought from its illustrator, who was selling his watercolors on a Dublin street.
The Ear Inn is one of the coolest spots in New York City. I wrote about them in this story for The New York Times; the house is the oldest remaining structure in Manhattan — 1817 — and I was lucky enough to go upstairs from the bar/restaurant and see it for myself. It’s on the very western edge of Spring Street, many long blocks past where the cool kid tourists give up.
The Confident Collector and Old Silver speak to my love of antiques. The only way to score a true bargain, especially at country auctions, thrift shops and flea markets (as I have) is to study the genre of item you seek. If you study silver, for example, you know that EPNS stands for electro plated nickel silver, i.e. not sterling. If it’s sterling, it’s hallmarked and there’s an amazing array of symbols to know or memorize, like lions and castles, which are stamped into each piece and which offer information about where and when they were made.
I don’t typically arrange my books by color, as many people now do, but these went nicely together. The marble-covered ones are my journals, which I haven’t read in a long long time; 1984 was a fantastic year (finally hired into my dream job, as a reporter for The Globe & Mail) but some of the others…not so much.
Skyfaring is one of the best books I’ve ever read, about the life of a 747 British Airways pilot. He now writes a weekly column for the Financial Times. His writing is exquisite and his insights really lovely; if you enjoy travel and aviation, I highly recommend it.
And, of course, a book on how to write better. I have a small collection of these which I use when I teach but also to refresh my own skills.
And a Sonos speaker — we love these things!
So this is pretty eclectic!
The letters of Martha Gellhorn are quite something; she was a legendary journalist and war correspondent.
My battered/beloved Narnia books, treasured since childhood.
The Net of Fireflies is a much treasured gift, signed, from my father on my 12th birthday. The illustrations are gorgeous and it’s a book of haiku.
I keep dreaming of writing a biography but can never seem to find a good subject.
The Nellie McClung book was a gift from her grand-daughter, a good friend of mine; McClung helped Canadian women win the vote and, for a while, was pictured on Canada’s $50 bill.
Hmmm, think I like Paris?!
Mais, oui, mes chér(e)s. I lived there at 25 on a journalism fellowship for eight months and have been back many times since.
I admit I haven’t yet read the next two books, very serious topics.
The HOME book is one of the best I’ve ever read. Instead of lavish and costly celebrity homes, it includes a wide array of real people, each of whom tell great stories about theirs.
Some recent obesssions, like the Weimar Republic.
I stayed in a friend’s borrowed flat in Paris over Christmas 2014-2015 and on her shelf was a fantastic history of the period I quickly consumed. I’ve been fascinated by it ever since. Add to that my favorite TV series, Babylon Berlin, set in the same period, and the film Cabaret, it seems like a good rabbit hole to explore further; the top book, horizontally, was the basis for Cabaret.
The two MacFarlane books are nice to dip into, about landscape and how we experience it.
The Moomins are the best! If you’ve never read Tove Jansson, they’re really fun.
The Montreal guidebook is really excellent. We go up a few times a year — about a six-hour drive.
The fat book, What Paintings Say, was a gift for Jose but he wasn’t into it, so I’m dipping in and out — same for the History of the World in 100 Objects, which I first heard about in 2010. Here’s the link.
I never read romance, science-fiction, fantasy or horror. Guilty pleasures include mass-market fiction, occasionally, and detective series like the Inspector Gamache books by fellow Canadian Louise Penny.
Occasionally, memoir. I admit, I’ve found the most popular ones — huge best-sellers like Educated and The Glass Castle — just too damn depressing, regardless of the authors’ later redemption.
I almost never read — and should! — essays, short stories and poetry.
As you can see, I massively prefer non-fiction to fiction.
I also really enjoy social history, like a book on 18th c London I read a few years ago.
What sort of books would I find on your shelves?