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

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

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


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.


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.


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.

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