Ideal Bookshelf: Memphis Edition

We got this idea from artist Jane Mount, who is an artist and illustrator and hosts the blog She began the Ideal Bookshelf Project in 2007, painting portraits of people through the spines of their favorite books: the ones that changed your life, that defined who you are, that you read again and again. 

In 2010, she began working with the writer Thessaly La Force, and together we've made a book called My Ideal Bookshelf, published in November 2012. She painted the favorite books of over 100 creative thinkers from all fields (from writers and chefs to artists, ballet dancers, and musicians), and Thessaly interviewed them about their choices and how they became who they are today.

With her blessing, we are creating My Ideal Bookshelf: Memphis Edition by asking Memphians to submit their ideal bookshelves to create a portrait of Memphis through the books read by its citizens. Send us your ideal bookshelf---10 books that are meaningful to you, that you couldn't live without, that changed you in some way, that you want to share.

Submit your ideal bookshelf here on Tumblr.You may submit your list in one of several ways:

  • Take a photo of the books
  • Send a list of titles
  • Use the page of blank spines provided (print one here) and scan or photo it and send to us

Please include your name and (if you choose) age, occupation, and a few sentences about the list.

All submissions will be posted so that you can see what other Memphians are reading. We have solicited lists from many prominent Memphians (don't you want to know what's on Mayor Wharton's list?). And spread the word---we want as many folks to participate as possible.

Win a painting of your Ideal Bookshelf! We will have a random drawing from all submitted entries for a custom painting of the winning Ideal Bookshelf by artist Jane Mount. The deadline for entries for the drawing is June 30th.

One last thing: while we are trying to build submissions from as many present and former Memphians as possible, we would also like to hear from you non-Memphians also. Send us your lists!

Here, to get the ball rolling, are Corey and Cheryl's (co-owners of Burke's) Ideal Bookshelves:

Corey Mesler:


  1. Darconville's Cat by Alexander Theroux
  2. The Philosopher's Pupil by Iris Murdoch
  3. Talk: A Novel in Dialogue by Corey Mesler
  4. Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson
  5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov
  6. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  7. Edwin Mullhouse by Steven Millhauser
  8. Ulysses by James Joyce
  9. Little,Big by John Crowley
  10. The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake

Cheryl Mesler:


  1. The Annotated Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  2. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  3. Howard's End by E.M. Forster
  4. The Bone People by Keri Hulme
  5. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  7. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  8. We Are Billion-Year-Old Carbon by Corey Mesler
  9. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  10. The Wall by Marlen Haushofer

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