Ideal Bookshelf 2013

My Ideal BookshelfWe've been in love with Jane Mount's "ideal bookshelf" paintings for a long time. Having seen them featured in dozens of book blogs and in The New Yorker, Paris Review, InStyle and elsewhere, we've often longed for one of our own. After all, where better to display a cheery illustrated shelf of life-changing books than a bookstore? And what better way to acquaint yourself with a team of booksellers than by knowing which books most profoundly changed, defined, or enhanced their lives?

Last spring we learned that many of Jane's paintings, plus dozens of new ones, were being compiled for a new book: My Ideal Bookshelf. That was it. We decided to go for it!

Ideal Bookshelf WindowEach Changing Hands staffer selected one book (his or her all-time favorite, which was no easy task) and we sent the list of 33 titles to Jane. When she finished, we were thrilled. The original illustrations are hanging above our magazine racks, and a huge banner now dominates our front window. The books are also on display in the store, so we hope you'll stop by and discover one you haven't read yet. You can also browse below and learn more about who picked which book, and why.

When you're finished, feel free to visit our Facebook page and keep the conversation going. Which books would you pick for your own Ideal Bookshelf? We'd love to know.
Staff Pick Badge
The Goose Girl Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781582349909
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC - May 1st, 2005

To read this clever and heartwarming adaption of the Grimm fairy tale of the same title is to rediscover the pleasures of fantasy writing itself. Compelling personalities, vivid settings and Hale's overall impeccable storytelling easily transport you into another world where things like communicating with animals and controlling the wind feel entirely feasible, and indeed, like home.


Embers (Vintage International) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375707421
Availability: Not Available In-Store - Usually Ships from Warehouse in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - August 13th, 2002

The most haunting book I have ever read, Embers takes the reader on a journey of friendship betrayed and the calculating patience of vengeance. Marai grabs his readers with subtle brilliance, elegance and emotions barely recognized until the last hypnotic sentence.


Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780618711659
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mariner Books - April 4th, 2006

The voice of the nine-year-old narrator has stayed with me over the years, as has the joy and wonder I felt when reading this amazing novel. If you haven't read it yet, I'm jealous.


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The Night Circus Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307744432
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anchor - July 3rd, 2012

Who doesn't want to escape to the circus? The Night Circus is the type of book that makes me smile to the very core. It cheers me when I am down and lets me explore a world in which magic is real. I love fantasy and I love historical fiction, and this has a little bit of both.


The Adventures of Augie March Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143039570
Availability: Not Available In-Store - Usually Ships from Warehouse in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Classics - October 3rd, 2006

Saul Bellow is the greatest writer of American prose, period. And this is his breakout novel. Augie March won the first of Bellow's three National Book Awards and established him as a major literary figure. But it's also his breakout in the sense that, after two short apprentice novels, this is where he broke free linguistically. With Augie came that astonishing style of his—that exhilarating torrent of high-flown purple prose and gritty Chicago street vernacular, often deployed in the same sentence. Of course, astonishing prose isn't the only reason to read Augie March. Augie's story—of a poor boy growing up during the Great Depression, of a young man ricocheting from job to job and from relationship to relationship, of a restless man yearning for freedom while longing for a sense of home, of a man forever slipping punches and breaking free of anything or anyone with the power to constrain him—is uniquely American, and seems as relevant now as it did when it was first published in 1953. I agree with Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, and many others: The Adventures of Augie March is the Great American Novel.


Les Miserables: Complete and Unabridged Cover Image
By Victor Hugo, Lee Fahnestock (Translator), Norman MacAfee (Translator)
ISBN: 9780451525260
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Signet Classics - March 3rd, 1987

Les Miserables is one of those books I can read over and over and never get bored. I love that each time I read it I find something new I never noticed or realized that I can enjoy.


Jellicoe Road Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061431852
Availability: Not Available In-Store - Usually Ships from Warehouse in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperTeen - March 9th, 2010

Each time I read Jellicoe Road, the outside world disappears and I am completely ensnared by the tragic mystery at the center of Marchetta's YA masterpiece. It's not just the heartbreaking story either; Marchetta's eloquent writing imbues the novel with an almost magical quality. Very few books can make me laugh on one page and cry on the next, but Marchetta is a master at getting to the emotional core of her readers. Her beautiful writing and brutally realistic characters affect me deeply, every time we meet.


One Hundred Years of Solitude Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060883287
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial Modern Classics - February 21st, 2006

One Hundred Years of Solitude is the quintessential Latin American novel. This extraordinary tale is layered with magical realism, true historical realities, epic family tales, sadness, solitude, and comedy, all woven together in beautiful prose.


Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Drop Caps) Cover Image
By Jane Austen, Jessica Hische (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780143123163
Availability: Not Available In-Store - Usually Ships from Warehouse in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - December 12th, 2012

Jane Austen had an amazing ability to see the humor and contradictions in everyday life. In Pride and Prejudice, she used those observations to create a witty social commentary helmed by the intelligent and outspoken Lizzie Bennett, all while still embracing the ideals of family, love, and romance in ways that make every woman want to find her own Mr. Darcy.


Ask the Dust Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060822552
Availability: Not Available In-Store - Usually Ships from Warehouse in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco - February 7th, 2006

In John Fante's Ask the Dust, Arturo Bandini believes so strongly in his writing that he leaves his family behind and moves to Los Angeles. Any semblance of success eludes him, and he confronts poverty and soul-crippling depression as the rejection letters pile up. His suspicion is that he can't write a great novel because he has yet to experience love, so he goes about the city trying to find it with prostitutes and a mutually destructive relationship with a local waitress named Camilla. Set in Depression-era Los Angeles, Fante's novel captures both the grit and the romance of a struggling writer with its portrayal of the tragic American idealist, Arturo Bandini. Fante creates a world so compelling, realistic and bleak that it serves as a precursor to all the gritty literature that has come since.


Revolutionary Road (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375708442
Availability: Not Available In-Store - Usually Ships from Warehouse in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - April 25th, 2000

With an ease close to breathing, Richard Yates casts open the gate to the dark soul of 1950s American culture. It will ring on and on as an indictment of the American dream and the values we think are our only savior.


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Behold a Pale Horse Cover Image
ISBN: 9780929385228
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Light Technology Publications - December 1st, 2019

William Cooper claimed it was his duty to inform and empower his audience, thereby placing a great responsibility on society to do what is right. After reading Behold A Pale Horse, I had to get everyone to read it and find the truth for themselves.


Bridge to Terabithia 40th Anniversary Edition Cover Image
By Katherine Paterson, Donna Diamond (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780064401845
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperCollins - May 2nd, 2017

Being able to help a child discover the joy of reading is one of the most rewarding things I do, and I owe it all to this book. It was the first children's novel I read as an adult, and without it I would never have realized that a life surrounded by children's literature could be as fulfilling as it has been for me.


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Penguin Clothbound Classics) Cover Image
By Lewis Carroll, Hugh Haughton (Introduction by), Hugh Haughton (Notes by), John Tenniel (Illustrator), Coralie Bickford-Smith (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780141192468
Availability: Not Available In-Store - Usually Ships from Warehouse in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Classics - March 10th, 2010

Every time I read Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland it is a reminder that the world doesn't make sense and it never will, but that's okay, there's a whole lot of fun and adventure to be had anyway. I could read and reread Alice my entire life and never be bored by it.


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The Iliad: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Cover Image
By Homer, Robert Fagles (Translated by), Bernard Knox (Introduction by), Bernard Knox (Notes by)
ISBN: 9780140275360
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Classics - November 1st, 1998

I remember being assigned The Iliad in ninth grade, and again in my eleventh grade Latin class. Both times — reading it first in English, then in Latin — were experiences that I'll never forget. There was everything I could wish for: epic battles, vengence, melodrama, and the sense of reading something important, something that had been told and retold for thousands of years. In college, I found a renewed love of ancient Greece, spending days and many courses reading the works of philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Democritus. And I got the impulse to return to Homer, this time of my own volition, in Fagles' transcendent translation. I consumed every stanza, footnote and glossary. It all returned to me, that feeling that through this prose, this plot, I was as infinite as history — inextricably, tangibly entangled in time. That is what a book, a story, should embody to me: something infinite, unchangeable. A living, human relic that cannot be lost or consumed, that connects each of us to something like divinity.


Geek Love: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375713347
Availability: Not Available In-Store - Usually Ships from Warehouse in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - June 11th, 2002

Geek Love is one of my favorite books, not only because the story is great and has incredible characters, but it also has some of the best things to say about our individuality. The performers in Dunn's traveling freak show despise 'the norms,' who come to spectate, and they embrace what makes them different.


The Stand Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780307743688
Published: Anchor - June 28th, 2011

The Stand was my introduction to Stephen King, and after reading it, I was completely hooked.


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Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781416586296
Availability: Not Available In-Store - Usually Ships from Warehouse in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner - September 7th, 2010

In Half Broke Horses, Lily Casey's many adventures are brought to life by author Jeannette Walls, Casey's granddaughter. Because of their relation, Walls is able to share her grandmother's story in a first-person voice that is both authentic and irresistible. Casey's life of adventure certainly wasn't boring or dull—she was a mustang breaker, schoolteacher, ranch wife, bootlegger, poker player, racehorse rider, bush pilot and mother of two. I really enjoyed Walls' crisp, clear language which evoked deep emotion keeping the narrative moving. This would be a great book club book.


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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Series #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307454546
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard - June 23rd, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a fantastic book that sends you on a roller coaster ride of emotions and keeps you guessing until the very end. The two main characters, Mikael and Lisbeth, are easy to relate to and amaze you throughout the novel with their resourcefulness and desire for finding the truth. The Millennium Trilogy is one that you will want to come back to time and again.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower Cover Image
ISBN: 9780671027346
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: MTV Books - February 1st, 1999

Charlie spoke to me, and years later I'm still thinking about the way this book carried me though the darkest of times.


Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345326492
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ballantine Books - January 12th, 1985

Probably the most important book ever written about the Colorado Plateau, Abbey's masterpiece is a gruff and passionate account of life in an unforgiving environment. Imagine Kerouac without his aunt's checkbook. Imagine if Henry David Thoreau had known what "roughing it" really is. Edward Abbey was the real deal and will forever be remembered as the "Desert Anarchist."


The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer Cover Image
ISBN: 9781439170915
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner - August 9th, 2011

Of the many books written about cancer, Murkherjee demystifies the subject like none other. Cancer's ability to flourish in all life forms, not just people, ensures its continued existence. In spite of lifesaving treatments and cures, Murkherjee shows that cancer will always be with us. This realization is one of the many insights that made me love this book.


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Free Your Voice: Awaken to Life Through Singing Cover Image
ISBN: 9781604078008
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Sounds True - August 1st, 2012

Yoga of the Voice is a path of personal devotion that brings us therapeutic and spiritual experiences. Silvia Nakkach skillfully incorporates her 30 years of Indian singing studies into her teaching of indigenous chanting. Her method utilizes call-and-response, so memorization is not an issue. Free Your Voice gives readers an opportunity to practice the exercises Silvia has gathered, and is accompanied by a free audio download from, which adds to a fuller experience of learning from this dynamic teacher, scholar, and music therapist.


Little Brother Cover Image
ISBN: 9780765323118
Availability: Not Available In-Store - Usually Ships from Warehouse in 1-5 Days
Published: Tor Teen - April 13th, 2010

In an age of ever-increasing digital awareness, no author's work has been so influential to me than that of Cory Doctorow. He has advocated for digital rights and education through his work with the Electronic Frontier Foundation ( as well as in his prolific fiction. The supposedly 'teen' novel encapsulates the incredibly real issues facing us today with regard to government control in the "war on terror " and the stark reality of the consequences of what could — and does — happen when you're on the wrong side of the accepted rules of engagement. I don't say this lightly: everyone should read this book.


Beowulf Cover Image
By Seamus Heaney (Editor)
ISBN: 9780393320978
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - February 17th, 2001

Beowulf is a classic poem of living by the warriors code and finding balance between being a wise leader and a dutiful warrior. It still resonates within the context of our own contemporary society and values.


In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex Cover Image
ISBN: 9780141001821
Availability: Not Available In-Store - Usually Ships from Warehouse in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - May 1st, 2001

In the Heart of the Sea is an incredible true story of tragedy and survival. The author, Nathanial Philbrick, writes in a historically and emotionally engaging way about the doomed whaling voyage of the Essex, the inspiration for Melville's Moby-Dick. Truth can be stranger than fiction, however, and when the book opens, we find a second whaling vessel has come upon an open dinghy where there are two emaciated men gnawing on the bones of their dead crewmates. It's quite gruesome, but in an I-can't-stop-reading-this kind of way. Philbrick tells a compelling and insightful tale of America's whaling industry at its height, and of the frailty of men thousands of miles from home, at the mercy of the sea.


Sometimes a Great Notion Cover Image
ISBN: 9780140045291
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - July 28th, 1977

"Sometimes I live in the country,
Sometimes I live in the town;
Sometimes I get a great notion
To jump in the' drown."
—From the song "Good Night, Irene" by Huddie Ledbetter and Jon Lomax

Sweet, sad, funny and tragic, Sometimes a Great Notion is American icon Ken Kesey's best novel. Kesey's rugged Oregon upbringing and counterculture middle-age gave him rare insight into the conflicted nature of American character in the 20th century, and he poured it all into this amazing book.


The Phantom Tollbooth Cover Image
By Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780394820378
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Yearling - October 12th, 1988

Milo is incredibly bored. He doesn't understand why he has to learn things like math and reading—that is, until he comes home from school one day to find a tollbooth in his bedroom. In the car that came with the tollbooth, Milo embarks on an adventure in the "Land Beyond," where he meets an amazing array of characters in his quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason.


Outlander: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780440212560
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dell - June 2nd, 1992

If I were stranded on a desert island, this is the book and series I would want with me. It has action, drama, humor, love and sex as well as some of the best writing ever. Not to mention the men in kilts ...