Unpacking My Library

Writers and Their Books

Edited by Leah Price

View Inside Price: $20.00


November 29, 2011
208 pages, 8 x 5 1/2
270 color illus.
ISBN: 9780300170924
HC - Paper over Board


As words and stories are increasingly disseminated through digital means, the significance of the book as object—whether pristine collectible or battered relic—is growing as well. Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books spotlights the personal libraries of thirteen favorite novelists who share their collections with readers. Stunning photographs provide full views of the libraries and close-ups of individual volumes: first editions, worn textbooks, pristine hardcovers, and childhood companions.


In her introduction, Leah Price muses on the history and future of the bookshelf, asking what books can tell us about their owners and what readers can tell us about their collections. Supplementing the photographs are Price's interviews with each author, which probe the relation of writing to reading, collecting, and arranging books. Each writer provides a list of top ten favorite titles, offering unique personal histories along with suggestions for every bibliophile.


Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books features the personal libraries of Alison Bechdel, Stephen Carter, Junot Díaz, Rebecca Goldstein and Steven Pinker, Lev Grossman and Sophie Gee, Jonathan Lethem, Claire Messud and James Wood, Philip Pullman, Gary Shteyngart, and Edmund White.

Leah Price is professor of English at Harvard University. She is the author of The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel, Literary Secretaries/Secretarial Culture, and How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain. She writes on old and new media for the New York Times Book Review, the London Review of Books, and the Boston Globe.

“In its beautiful design, Unpacking My Library is itself an argument for the continuing vitality of physical books and the libraries that contain them.”—The Boston Globe

"Equal parts voyeuristically indulgent and unapoligetically stimulating."--The Atlantic

"Filled with juicy details about how writers read, collect, and live with their books.”—Jean Temarin, The Chronicle of Higher Education

"From handsome, custom-made libraries with rolling ladders, to sagging IKEA shelves spilling paperbacks into the kitchen, these collections offer satisfying peeks into the minds of contemporary writers."--NPR Books

"The best thing about this book is the way it lingers, at length, over each author's actual bookshelves, with results that fall midway between autobiography and intellectual EKG."--The Observer (Very Short List)

"Featuring sumptuous photographs of thirteen well-known writers’ bookshelves . . . Unpacking is coffee-table fodder for the nerd set."--The Rumpus

"[M]any of the observations may help disorganized book nuts bring some shape to the mishmash of books we call our own libraries."—Alan Bisbort, The Sunday Republican

Unpacking My Library is a wild, wide world of authors and their books.  Maul it savagely or gently caress it.”—Fine Books & Collections

"There are many expensive coffee table books about books and libraries, but for a relatively modest cost, Price's volume offers a gorgeous set of pictures . . . [a] lovely book."—Harvey Freedenberg, Harrisburg Magazine

"The quality of the photos is superb. . . . There is so much in these pages for any reader."—John Wilson, Books & Culture

“Browsing among the bookshelves of the writers featured in Leah Price’s enchanting little book, which I found difficult to set aside, I noted that several writers went in for The Adventures of Tin Tin, the children’s stories of CS Lewis (a favourite of theirs and mine was The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe) along with Milton’s Paradise Lost…Ah you always return to the great classics at some time in your life. Nobody seemed to have any of the Harry Potter series, so the spell of the boy wizard was not as widespread as I thought!”—Richard Edmonds, Birmingham Post

"[A] sensual pleasure for the eyes, and a book fans of the writers, and of books and libraries, will enjoy."—Jeff Bursey, Rain Taxi

"Leah Price, professor of English at Harvard, has put together a captivating little collection that will leave you wanting more." Alexander R. Lent, Springer.

Winner of the 2012 New York Book Show Award in General Trade Jacket, as given by the New York Book Show