Hiding books from rabbits, the Shelf of Guilt, and more. {Other People’s Bookshelves}

other peoples bookshelves

Today we’re continuing our Other People’s Bookshelves series. View the previous posts here. For a reminder on how this series got started, head here

Today we’re snooping the shelves of Ed Cyzewski, Christian author, blogger, and freelance writer. I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with Ed at Story Chicago and the Festival of Faith and Writing, and wish for your sakes you could all have a chance to do the same.

Ed’s gracious, smart, and a real pro. If you ever need someone to help you with your book proposal, he’s your guy.

When Ed recommends a book, I add it to my list. Period.


1. Tell us a little bit about your shelves.

Most of our books are upstairs in our bedroom since my wife’s graduate school research takes up our two main bookshelves downstairs and the rest of our home is devoted to trains, bouncers, a play kitchen, and stuffed animal rabbits for our kids.

The location of our books was be a big deal for me since I used to hide my theology books. After I graduated from seminary, I was completely burned out on church, and I didn’t want any Christians I met to know that I had a seminary degree, lest they start hassling me to attend meetings on weekday evenings.

I’m over that now. We go to church. A few people know I have a seminary degree. They also know we have two kids, my wife’s in graduate school, and I don’t have much free time.

house rabbits Ed

Keeping our books upstairs also protects them from our house rabbits who have torn some of our books to shreds. In fact, the spines on the shelf of fiction and nonfiction books have been nibbled quite a bit. The spine of Operating Instructions is the one with the white, diagonal tear. It’s still one of my wife’s favorite books of all time.


2. How are your books organized?

We have one shelf with fiction and fun nonfiction. Of course there’s David Sedaris and Jasper Fforde, as well as our absolute favorite books: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Cold Comfort Farm. Cold Comfort Farm is a parody of English literature, and it’s such a perfect book that it’s hard to imagine anyone not liking it.

Another shelf has a bunch of Bible study and theology books up top and then a series of shelves with Christian living and spirituality books. Shane Claiborne, Henri Nouwen, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer have been the most life-changing reads, while Lauren Winner and Anne Lamott write books I return to over and over again.

I keep a few of the most important books downstairs on my desk:


3. Do you have a favorite shelf?

The little shelf on my desk holds the books that have been personally significant to me and remind me of who I am and what I believe. G.E. Ladd’s Theology of the New Testament (Helloooooooo Vineyard!) and N.T. Wright’s books about the New Testament and Jesus opened my eyes to read scripture quite differently than I had been, and they generally sum up (in about 2000 collective pages) what I believe.

There’s also the spirituality stuff with The Divine Hours, Fred Buechner, Mystically Wired, and an Ignatian Spirituality book. Buechner is one of the few theologians who really tells it like it is but in a way that is breathtakingly poetic—a gift I do not have!

I also just received copies of Our Great Big American God and Speak, both of which I enthusiastically endorsed. They are not on the Shelf of Guilt to the left (outside of the picture), which is full of books from my friends that I have yet to read, review, or endorse.


4. Any special titles you’d like to point out?

Well, since you asked, these pictures show random piles of my books, including The Good News of Revelation and Unfollowers: Unlikely Lessons on Faith from Those Who Doubted Jesus. I don’t really have a good place for them, so I just pile them in front of my existing books (Can anyone find the book that’s been translated into Korean?). Such is the glory of an author’s life!

My latest book, A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth, is piled up on my desk next to my favorite books as a reminder to keep telling people about it and to keep mailing free copies to youth pastors and college ministers who may be able to use it for their ministries. It has been a labor of love for the past four years, and it is by far the most gratifying book project I’ve put together so far because I finally let myself ask all of the hard questions I’ve wanted to ask about my faith. This book shares what I learned.

*****     *****     *****

Thanks so much to Ed for sharing his shelves with us!

If you’re new to Ed’s work, I recommend taking a look at his blog or his latest book. (It’s the book I wish I’d had in college, and that I wish my church youth leaders had read, too.) If you’re a writer, definitely check out Ed’s free guide A Path to Publishing.

Ed is also responsible for the Examine app (free) that now lives on my phone, and The Divine Hours, which now lives on my bookshelf. If you’re a meditative sort, or would like to be, I highly recommend giving both a look.

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  1. Kelsey H says:

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has to hide books from the resident bunnies! After they ruined (added character to?) countless books, we finally had to institute a “no books on the bottom shelf” rule in our house.

  2. Emily says:

    I once housesat for someone with a rabbit who loved paper who “donated” a phone book to the cause.

    But seriously, other than talking rabbits, thanks for the recommendations. I am a year out of divinity school and have found myself gravitating toward a lot of fiction and (non-theology) fiction to take a break from three years of non-stop reading on religion. I am a theology nerd at heart, though, and know I will enjoy many of your picks.

    • ed cyzewski says:

      Our Great Big American God will be balm for your theology-weary soul. Also Nouwen and Mystically Wired will be good to help you balance out the theological reading you’ve been doing. Almost every seminary grad I know has had a period of theology book burn out after graduating.

    • ed cyzewski says:

      Also, our new solution for the rabbits is we got a metal futon and placed phone books and boxes and tubes under it, then we just let them go to town and try not to think about how much dust and scraps of paper are down there. 😉

  3. Kate says:

    My friend’s Dane/Mastiff mix ate most of her Harry Potters. They ended up putting metal rods across their bookshelves to stop him grazing.

    I’m getting lots of good ideas for authors to check out as I squint at your shelves!

  4. The Shelf of Guilt! Hilarious.

    I too loved Operating Instructions, especially the second time I read it. which was when my first son was about two weeks old. That belongs in every new mom’s survival kit, I think.

  5. Deborah Larson says:

    This post was made for me! We have 8 bookshelves in our home packed with books and FOUR rabbit members in our family and none of them have tried to eat my books. They, do, however, enjoy being read to. Even our rabbit named Nibblet doesn’t nibble on books as Ed C. said his rabbits do. 🙂

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