If you could have only 10 books on your shelf, what would they be?

What are your favorite books? The ones you will always have on your bookshelf and that define who you are?

Those are agonizing question for book lovers to answer. How to choose from a vast array of books that have touched our lives in various ways and at different stages of life?

My Ideal Bookshelf gave such an assignment to an assortment of writers, chefs, musicians and a host of others.

It was: Select a small shelf of books that represent you — the books that have changed your life. Gee, that’s heavy stuff!

They were not limited to a certain number although it’s a small book shelf they’re given to work with. In most cases there are ten to fifteen selections. The idea is to stand the books up as they stand on a shelf, but a few contributors cheat and stack some books on top of each other horizontally. The illustrations by Jane Mount are colorful and accurately portray the books’ spines.

The same books do not appear over and over although certainly the classics and time-honored authors are well represented. But, because these are personal choices and those responding come from different walks of life, the selected books are widely diverse. For instance, the bookshelf of Jen Bekman, a gallery curator and entrepreneur, includes a children’s book, Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. I was delighted to see it because I discovered that book when I read it with my oldest daughter many years ago. She and I both loved it and re-read it several times.

Daughter number two came along and she didn’t like Harriet the Spy one bit even though she was — and is — a voracious reader.

Another favorite of mine that’s on Bekman’s shelf is Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. If you don’t think a book about commas and the ways they can change the meaning of a sentence can be humorous, then you must read this book.

Artist William Wegman has an odd assortment that includes a cookbook, volume three of Child Craft, volume G of World Book, The House on the Cliff from the Hardy Boys series and the Handbook for Boys. Maybe my bookshelf wouldn’t look so strange after all ’cause it would definitely include Where the Wild Things Are.

The neat thing about this book is the last page with My Ideal Bookshelf and 10 blank book spines where the reader can fill in his or her selections. In pencil, of course, so you can change the titles from time to time. It’s a fun book.

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