“When I’m tired or stressed, I climb into bed with a stack of cookbooks and read them like novels.”

Shauna Niequist's book recommendations for writers

Today we’re continuing our Other People’s Bookshelves series. View the previous posts here

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I am over-the-moon to have Shauna Niequist–and her bookshelves–on the blog today. Shauna wrote one of my favorite books of 2013, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes. (And based on your favorite books lists, I’m in good company.)

Shauna Niequist shares what's on her bookshelf

Shauna is a devoted reader (my library holds list exploded after she rattled off a list of books writers should be reading at Influence last fall), and I couldn’t wait to see what her personal bookshelves held.

Please note the “More Love, Less Hustle” print on her nightstand. It’s perfect, right?

shauna-21. Tell us a little bit about your shelves.

Like every devoted reader, I have stacks of books all over the house—on the nightstand, above the kitchen cabinets, under the coffee table—but the main spot is the big bookcases, the first pieces of “grown-up” furniture I bought after college—even though I didn’t yet have a house of my own, I fell in love with these bookcases. They were floor models at Z Gallerie, marked down and banged up, and I practically ran to the counter to buy them, then called my uncle in a panic—“Can I borrow a truck?” Then I persuaded my mom to let me keep them in her living room until I moved into my own house.

When I left, she tried to talk me into leaving them, because she’s the original book lover in our family, and she had filled them right up. Aside from our kitchen table, the bookcases are my favorite piece of furniture. I love how banged up and heavy they are, and I love how books provide texture and story and personality to any space.

shauna-42. How are your books organized?

Vaguely. Very very vaguely. The right side is mostly cookbooks and food writing, the center is mostly novels, with classics in the center, books on writing and memoir at the bottom, and spirituality creeping in along the top. The left side is mostly my husband’s—meaning books on music and theology. And all three cases are overly full and two stacks deep—a stack of British novels behind a stack of cookbooks with seashells on top, for example.

There are all sorts of treasures mixed in with the books: an antique mustard pot my friend Catrina gave me, and the Irish crystal ice bucket one of my bridesmaids gave us for our wedding. There are candlesticks from the south of France and another set that I bartered for in the Old City of Jerusalem in college. I like that it feels like a time capsule almost, the stories of our lives all stacked up on those shelves.

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3. Do you have a favorite shelf?

I do especially love cookbooks—when I’m really, really tired or stressed, I climb into bed with a whole stack of cookbooks, and I read them like novels.

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

More than anything, I’m a novel lover—Updike’s Rabbit series is an all time favorite, and I love DH Lawrence and Henry James and especially Edith Wharton. I adore Jenny Rosentrach’s Dinner: A Love Story, and Melanie Dunea’s My Last Supper is beautiful and inspiring.

Thanks to Shauna for sharing her shelves with us!

If you haven’t read her work, Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life (her first book) and Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way (her second) are both on sale today for $4.99 each. If you haven’t read Bread and Wine, read it first. (But buy the hardback: it’s gorgeous, and you’ll want to re-read it.)

Give Shauna some love in comments, and while you’re at it, tell us your favorite cookbook to read like a novel.

40 comments

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  1. Amy says:

    I read Dinner: A Love Story cover to cover, I think at Shauna’s recommendation. The author lived through the experience of 2 kids under 2, which was my reality for about 8 months after my younger son was born. I totally related to her descriptions of the chaos it is to have two babies, and I ADORE her pizza recipe. We’ve made it a dozen times, at least.

  2. Leanne Penny says:

    You are not alone, I keep Bread and Wine in my kitchen on top of the random stack of mail because I refer to it a least a couple of times a week. It’s splattered with ingredients and oil fingerprints, which makes me love it all the more.

    Your book organization system looks good to me, I will never be one to keep things perfectly organized but at least loosely so. I’m a novel lover to the end and I actually have to push my way through most non fiction and I wish this were not the case but if it changes it’s going to have to be gradually.

  3. Polly Balint says:

    Oh! It’s so heart-warming to see Shauna’s bookshelves!!! I love to find people who love books: who love reading books and find great comfort in being surrounded with books! What is it about books? Actual books. Old school. Turned page corners and curled book covers (paperback ones of course!). Shauna’s got a supernatural gift of hospitality — it’s huge. She invites the world to dinner with her wonderful books and ministry. Thank you for sharing this, Mrs. Darcy. Love your blog! Blessings…. 🙂 Polly Balint

  4. Robin says:

    I’m reading Bread and Wine now. It inspired me to invite some old girlfriends over for a dinner party tomorrow night. My family is cutely confused by this. “Why are they coming over?” “Just to sit around the table,” I say.

  5. Love seeing these shelves! I climb into bed with cookbooks too, glad to know I am not alone. The one thing I dream about when we have more space (Chicago city dwellers currently, with books crammed EVERYWHERE) is more shelving! My fantasy is floor to ceiling books, with souvenirs of life in the nooks and crannies. Thanks for sharing Shauna’s collection!

  6. Darlene @ Lost in Literature says:

    I love the peek into other people’s bookshelves!!
    I read Bread and Wine last summer and I loved it!
    One cookbook I’ve enjoyed reading like a novel is Barefoot Contessa Family Style.
    Now i have two more books to add to my never ending To Be Read pile.:)

  7. Karlyne says:

    My daughter found a shelf of M.F.K. Fisher and Elizabeth David for me at a thrift store for my birthday, and to say that I was thrilled is an understatement! “A Cordial Water” is an amazing little book, and the rest of them are just thrilling reads, too.

  8. Breanne says:

    I love this series, Anne and I was delighted to have this peek into Shauna’s bookshelves. I like what she said about their bookshelves being a time capsule of their lives.

    One of my favourite cookbooks are Julie Le Clerc, she’s a NZ author/chef/cafe owner – we ate from her recipes when we were in New Zealand and her book was one of the first my husband bought for me.

  9. Nicole says:

    I LOVE Shauna’s books. My women’s bible study read both Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet. Bread and Wine is certainly on our list as well. I love how real she is in her writing. It’s very inspiring for my own writing. Thanks for sharing, Shauna, and keep writing, so we can all keep reading. 🙂

  10. Kimberly says:

    I truly dislike cooking, but Bread and Wine was one of my favorite books last year. Shauna made me feel as if I might, someday, if the weather is right and the planets aligned and my soul hangs in just the right inner space, I might enjoy cooking. Someday. Maybe. 😉

    I love looking at your shelves, Shauna! Thanks for sharing them with us.

  11. Bonnie says:

    I will dream about those bookshelves now! I wish for a whole wall full of them…and I’m sure it would still not hold all my books. Such fun seeing her shelves.

  12. I just started reading Bread & Wine yesterday and love it. I’ll probably have it finished within the next day or two. This post has me scheming to get even more bookshelves into our home; we’re quickly outgrowing ours.

  13. Allison says:

    Would you mind sharing Shauna’s list of books writers should be reading? I’d love to see it! Many thanks!

  14. Bonnie-Jean says:

    I love cookbooks and they’re always top of my list for birthdays and christmas and I’m also always checking them out from the library. Anytime I get a new one I have to read it thoroughly from front to back – just like a novel – no peeking ahead!

    Mourad – New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou was one of my favourites in the last year.
    I’m currently reading The Food Of Morocco by Paula Wolfert which is beautiful also.

    I love just about any of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks, particularly Jamie’s Italy & Jamie’s America (I’m Aussie though so I’m not sure what Americans would think of that one).

    Oh and I have to mention the first one that I ever really read as a novel that wasn’t just a recipe book – The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond.

  15. Shannon H says:

    I recommend Stephanie Izard’s cookbook Girl in the Kitchen–the recipes are too elaborate for me but lots of narrative, I read it like a book. (She is also a family friend which made it funner to read her stories.)

  16. The cookbook I love reading is any and all, well mostly. After my second was born, I checked out cookbook after cookbook from the library. It was like Christmas. I have loved Rose Levy Beranbaum for her devotion to precision in instructing proper cake making. Another I have enjoyed is Alice Waters. Michelle Tams new one Nom Nom Paleo is both beautiful and inviting. I am a sucker for dessert cookbooks; but, Once Upon a Tart is captivating in how one of the authors tells of his growing up in France. I could go on and on.

  17. Meghan says:

    When I saw this post title, I could not pass it up. There are very few things that make me laugh out loud at 6am!

    My favorite cookbook to read like a novel is “Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen” by Maria Helm Sinskey. Lovely book, although a bit too ambitious for me 🙂

  18. Kristen says:

    I’m loving those shelves, and the story behind them! I have an assortment of small shelves throughout my house, but dream of the day I get to put my books on a shelf like that. Lovely!

    And–the cookbooks! I love Shauna’s collection. I’ve been slowly savoring Robert Farrar Capon’s Supper of the Lamb. (I’m not sure it would technically be considered a cookbook, but it does include recipes.) Inspired by your post from a couple days ago, I ordered Bread and Wine. It just arrived today and I can’t wait to sit down with it!

  19. So fun! My favorite is MFK Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf – the revised version. In it, she makes comments on her original published recipes and thoughts and it is hilarious. Plus, just the cooking style from WWII era is so fascinating.

    • Karlyne says:

      Every time I’m trying to get the grease off my hands while juggling a couple of pans and a few kids, I remember MFK Fisher’s comment about how she NEVER USED SOAP and had amazingly soft hands. Makes me laugh everytime!

  20. Sally Tibbetts says:

    I also love to be surrounded by books…again, every room in the house has a pile–except maybe the bathrooms (books and water not good). I’ve been in the process of trying to clear some of my books out and that is such a hard undertaking…I usually donate to our local library for their book sales. But if a book comes in my house it likes to stay. And why do I love cookbooks? Any time I work the library sales (very dangerous ) we have TONS of cookbooks. We even have a once a year cookbooks only sale. People are getting rid of their cookbooks like they’ve gotten rid of their rolling pins (I have a rolling pin collection too). They seem to prefer going on line for recipes which I agree is nice…but on the other hand…I love the real cookbook I can browze through and enjoy slipping papers between the pages that feature what I want to make. I’ve even got my mother’s old “Good Housekeeping” cookbook from the 40’s.

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