We don’t mean to pry; we don’t mean to be rude. But we can’t resist. When we go to someone’s house, we openly browse their shelves. We sneak a peek at the books that are stacked on the living room table under the reading lamp. We go into the bathroom and we don’t care what’s in the medicine chest — we care which books and magazines are in the basket by the tub.
Most of us will never get into the homes of our favorite writers, but fortunately 10 Minnesota writers — each with a new book out this fall — are willing to share their bookshelves with us. Organized, messy, studded with artifacts, built of particle board, built of Minnesota timber, taller than they are, taller than they can reach — their shelves are, at times, symbolic of themselves.
I’ve lived in Minnesota for seven years now and consider the state my home. But I grew up out West, and the geography, history, culture, politics and myths of the region are an important part of who I am. On these two shelves, you can see a reflection of that. A small library of books — mostly nonfiction — about the West of yesterday and today. You’ll find here everything from the journal of a trapper to “Undaunted Courage” to the essays of David Treuer. The shelf below complements the books above by featuring native art from Alaska.
Benjamin Percy’s story collection “Suicide Woods” will be published Oct. 15 by Graywolf Press.
I live in a bungalow; and so, happily, there are a lot of built-ins, all of which are filled with books. I remember when a friend came over for the first time and said: “Oh, wow. You put books in your built-ins.” And I said, “What are you supposed to put there?” And she said, “Your china.” My china! I still laugh about that one.
There are bookshelves in every room of the house. Including the kitchen. There’s no system, really, to anything.
Books I return to a lot are on the shelf in this picture — Eudora Welty, Isak Dinesen, Ann Patchett, Alice Munro, Zora Neale Hurston, Anne Tyler, Hans Christian Andersen, Maurice Sendak’s “The Juniper Tree.”
In my office, I have a bookshelf that holds books on writing, and another that is filled with books for children. There’s a bookcase filled with poetry upstairs.
But truly, everything is kind of everywhere. And a lot of times, I can’t find what I’m looking for. But I always enjoy the search.
Kate DiCamillo’s new novel for middle-grade readers, “Beverly, Right Here,” will be published Sept. 24 by Candlewick.
I have numerous bookshelves in both my main floor of my house and the half-story upstairs, stocked with everything from middle grade graphic novels and picture books for kids (my children’s domain, in their room upstairs), to adult fiction and nonfiction, YA, and my own work (downstairs). However, my family and I live for and at the library, the East Lake branch just a few minutes from our house in Powderhorn. We are always there, picking up or dropping off the next “Wings of Fire” novel for my son, a new Chico Bon-Bon picture book for my daughter, or a book with themes of adoption for me.
Shannon Gibney is co-editor, with Kao Kalia Yang, of the anthology “What God Is Honored Here?” to be published Oct. 15 by University of Minnesota Press.
I share these bookshelves with Fiona McCrae, director of Graywolf Press, so we have plenty of books to select. They are loosely organized by fiction, nonfiction, poetry and children’s books. When I search too long for a particular title, I think they could be arranged better, but that thought passes quickly. The bookcases are full so whenever I add a book, I have to take one out, but fortunately, we have other bookcases in the house that still have room.
John Coy’s “My Mighty Journey,” with illustrations by Gaylord Schanilec, will be published Oct. 1 by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.
Most of the books in my office are slim volumes of poetry arranged on bookshelves that my father made out of oak from the woods on the farm where I grew up. I keep my books in casual alphabetical order. Just now I checked a section of M’s and found three volumes of Les Murray, followed by two of Paul Muldoon, followed by Lisel Mueller. Perfect library order would be nice, but I can locate most books in under a minute, and that’s what counts! Ask me which one of Connie Wanek’s poems to read first, and I’ll have “Rival Gardens” open faster than you can say “Mrs. God”!
Joyce Sutphen’s new poetry collection, “Carrying Water to the Field,” will be published Oct. 1 by the University of Nebraska Press.
As a longtime book nerd, it’s probably no surprise I have four main bookshelves: one for poetry, one for graphic novels, one for books I absolutely have to read right this moment, and one for fiction, nonfiction, and memoir (pictured). It’s a discontinued Ikea bookshelf I bought for cheap off a suburban family that sold it on Craigslist. There’s a hole in the particle board on one side where someone had punched it, and when I move I have to remember to hide that side when I put it back together. It’s unwieldy and untethered, it’s ugly and can barely manage to hold together to do what I ask it to, which means it’s basically me in particle board form. It takes up a ton of space in my small bedroom and it’s the first thing I see every morning, and I’m reminded first thing to be thankful to all the people who had a hand in bringing those books into existence, and letting me into their worlds.
Bao Phi’s second picture book, “My Footprints,” will be published Sept. 1 by Capstone.
I have around 5,000 books at home. I give away books I have finished, so I haven’t yet read any of the volumes filling bookcases in nearly every room of our home, except for a few I keep for research. I organize books onto shelves devoted to nonfiction and fiction, categories I read in equal measure. I often tell my daughters that all these books will be my inheritance to them, and I’ve found nothing else that leaves them so speechless.
Jack El-Hai’s “The Lost Brothers: A Family’s Decades-Long Search,” will be published Oct. 22 by University of Minnesota Press.
In this tech age, I remain a Luddite, not on the internet even for research. The books in my office are my resources, and they range from “The Chicago Manual of Style” to U.S. and world history to chronicles of popular music and film to “Weeds of the North Central States,” published by the University of Illinois at Urbana, to. … Well, you get it. They are my comrades, lately born or old and tattered. They are cherished, trusted. Unlike human friends, they will live as long as I do. Occasionally, I ponder whether I should lug them with me into the crematorium.
Faith Sullivan’s new novel, “Ruby & Roland,” will be published Sept. 10 by Milkweed Editions.
William Kent Krueger
My wife and I have four bookshelves just like this one placed around the house. We also have several stacks of books in our bedroom and spare bedroom. When the stacks grow too high and threaten to tumble, we cull the collection. As with most elements of my life, there’s very little rhyme or reason in how the books are shelved or which remain when we cull and which are selected for gifting. I’m never much concerned about what I give away. My own belief is that, from the very beginning, stories have been meant to be shared.
William Kent Krueger’s “This Tender Land” will be published Sept. 3 by Atria Books.
Kao Kalia Yang
The books I can’t reach are important but not immediately necessary. The books I can reach, I leave there because I like to flip through them for inspirations and ideas, references, and/or other more sentimental reasons. The bottom shelf is for the books I’m most personally engaged with, books I’m part of or books that are part of me. The shelf is organized very much like me: practical, a little messy, but entirely accessible.
Kao Kalia Yang’s picture book “A Map Into the World,” illustrated by Seo Kim, will be published Oct. 1 by Carolrhoda Books.