Home Is Where Your Books Are (Or, At Least Some of Them)

I’m very pleased to share a new publication–and a “creative” one at that, not that I don’t consider critical writing and/or blogging to be creative. But, being in a somewhat reflective place in life right now, I’ve been, well, reflecting, and that has kick-started a pretty fertile run of not-review, not-blog-related writing.

This piece, entitled, “Finding Home: Unpacking My Library in Iceland,” started as a reasonably straightforward concept about practical ways in which to create a sense of home when one is living in a space not entirely their own, or is between homes, or isn’t even sure where “home” is. I thought it would read almost like an amateur list of home decorating or relocation tips (but, you know, good). I also thought that my personal narrative about moving to Iceland would have more to do with…Iceland. Instead, I ended up getting all muse-y and, as the lovely editor at BlogHer pointed out, the piece ended up having actually very little to do with Iceland per se. Instead, I talk about books. My (our) own collection of books, and the grand adventure of winnowing our enormous home library down to just 100 books that could come with us on our journey. (I know, first world problems: which 100 books will you take with you when you move abroad for an indefinite amount of time?)

I am really pleased with how the piece came out–it’s a lot more interesting, I think, than my amateur home decorating tips would have been–and I invite you to take a read on the BlogHer website, here.

Also, if you have the time and inclination, I invite you to report back on what (some of) your top 100 books to travel with would be. I was actually rather surprised at the ones which made it onto my own list, but found the process incredibly clarifying.

9 thoughts on “Home Is Where Your Books Are (Or, At Least Some of Them)

  1. 100 books! That’s a lot to move. I only own about 100 books in total, but I do tend to weed them out every 3 or four years. My top ten (no order):

    Under the Glacier, Halldór Laxness
    Chronicles, Bob Dylan
    Bleak House, Charles Dickens
    Growing Pains, Wanda Gág
    The Music of Failure, Bill Holm
    The Work of Frank Lloyd Wright (Wendingen Edition), Frank Lloyd Wright
    Faroese Short Stories, ed. by Hedin Brønner
    Kristen Lavransdatter, Sigrid Undset
    Collected Works, Edgar Allan Poe
    Barbara, Jørgen-Frantz Jacobsen

    I have read most of these books many times, and know that I will visit them again. I could have added more Laxness, but I could make a top ten list from his work alone. One might say that I already have:


    • Under the Glacier is my favorite Laxness thus far, so I am pleased to see it on your list, Professor. And I have been meaning to read both Kristen Lavransdatter and some of Hedin Bru’s work–is he included in the Faroese collection you mention? Also, have you ever read The Windows at Brimness by Bill Holm? It is a collection of essays about Iceland, and quite lovely.

      • If you do read Kristin, make sure it’s the new translation by Tiina Nunnally, it’s 100% better. The Faroese stories include several by Brú, including the best Christmas story I’ve ever read.
        I’ve read a lot of Bill Holm’s work, including Brimness/i>. I had dinner with Bill once, he is much missed and, by coincidence, he died four years ago today. You should be able to easily find a copy of Barbara, it is stunning.

      • There have been many books I have read simply because Tiina Nunnally translated them–I actually didn’t realize she had a translation of Kristin, but now that I do, I will certainly look for it!

  2. Yikes! I don’t think I could whittle down to 100. (My toddler has more than that.) I even have multiple copies of certain books that I haven’t been able to part with because, say I like the cover better on one, but a dear friend gave me the other.
    I think my bookshelves could get their own show on TLC.

    Loved the article.

    • I was just saying to someone else, Leigh, that I have a couple of books which I specifically bought lending copies of because I felt really nervous about lending out my sentimental, often falling-apart copies. (Music for Chameleons and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter most notably…) I am glad to not be the only multi-copy-keeper out there…

      And your toddler is already the coolest.

    • Oh, Shayne! I was just waiting for someone to ask. Here is my own list of 25 books in no particular order (I can post the 50 shared, too, if you really want…):

      Some of these are books I just knew I wanted to read (Swamplandia!, Louise Erdich, some of them were comfort keepers (Capote, McCullers, Heyer, Lockhart), and some were for Icelandic edification (the poetic edda, for one). Looking back, I can definitely see what mood I was in–there are a lot of long, “important,” and frequently moody titles in here. I apparently thought that the long, dark winter was going to put me in a mood to read long, dark books…

      1. Swamplandia! Karen Russell
      2. Small Lives: Pierre Michon
      3. The Red Convertible and Other Stories: Louise Erdrich
      4. The Collected Stories: Carson McCullers
      5. A People’s History of the United States: Howard Zinn
      6. Illuminations: Walter Benjamin
      7. Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything David Bellos
      8. The Chukchi Bible: Yuri Rytkheu
      9. My Struggle: Book One: Karl Ove Knausgaard
      10. It’s Fine By Me: Per Petterson
      11. The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll: Alvaro Mutis
      12. Zone: Mathias Enard
      13. The Master and Margarita: Mikhail Bulgakov
      14. We, The Drowned: Carsten Jensen
      15. The Deptford Trilogy: Robertson Davies
      16. The Masqueraders: Georgette Heyer
      17. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks: E. Lockhart
      18. Music for Chameleons: Truman Capote
      19. Goodbye to Berlin: Christopher Isherwood
      20. Hildur, Queen of the Elves, and Other Icelandic Legends: J.M. Bedell
      21. Children in the Reindeer Woods: Kristin Omarsdottir
      22. The Sagas of Icelanders
      23. Angels of the Universe: Einar Mar Gudmundsson
      24. Njal’s Saga
      25. The Elder Edda

      • Fascinating, it’s always fun to snoop in other peoples’ bookshelves. I’m a big Erdrich fan as well, my fave is The Painted Drum, I’ve given it to a couple of Icelandic correspondents.

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