What Do Famous People’s Bookshelves Reveal?

Bibliophiles do not approach bookshelves lightly. A stranger’s collection is to us a window to their soul. We peruse with judgment, sometimes admiration and occasionally repulsion (Ayn Rand?!). With celebrities now frequently speaking on television in front of their home libraries, a voyeuristic pleasure presents itself: Are they actually really like us?

1. “Postcapitalism,” by Paul Mason: Information technology is killing capitalism as we know it. But this could be a good thing.

2. “Moscow 1937,” by Karl Schlögel: A portrait of the Soviet capital at the height of Stalin’s reign.

3. The Oxford English Dictionary: It’s 20 volumes. 21,728 pages. 171,476 words. And she owns them all.

1. “Africa Adorned,” by Angela Fisher: A photography book from 1984 with a fascination for the body art and natural jewelry of Africa.

2. “The Night Tiger,” by Yangsze Choo: Set in 1930s colonial Malaya, this 2019 novel is the kind of book reviewers like to call “sumptuous,” with a plot featuring the search for a severed finger and a supernatural tiger.

1. “Stubbs,” by Basil Taylor: A biography of the 18th-century English painter best known for his depictions of horses.

2. “Shattered,” by Dick Francis: From the master of the equine thriller, a novel of horse-racing and glassblowing.

3. “Kings in Grass Castles,” by Mary Durack: A 1959 Australian classic about the outback during the 19th century. He probably also owns the sequel: “Sons in the Saddle.”

1. “A Little Life,” by Hanya Yanagihara: A tale of New York City unhappiness and quarter-life crises.

2. “Live From New York,” by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales: A gossip-rich, exhaustive oral history of “Saturday Night Live.”

3. “Freedom,” by Jonathan Franzen: A tale of Midwestern unhappiness and midlife crises.

1. “Time Zero,” by Carolyn Cohagan: A dystopian novel about a future Manhattan that is controlled by misogynistic extremists who don’t allow girls to go school. Then comes along a plucky 15-year-old and her rebellious grandmother.

2. “Blitzed,” by Norman Ohler: Did you know the Nazis were high on crystal meth? This 2017 history book was a revelation when it showed how everyone from factory workers to housewives to millions of German soldier were, well, “blitzed.”

3. “Peeves,” by Mike Van Waes: A children’s book about a boy who accidentally sets loose a bunch of irritating little monsters who wreak havoc.

1. “The Nix,” by Nathan Hill: A panoramic novel of social satire that chews off a lot, from 1960s radical politics to Occupy Wall Street, 1940s Norway to Chicago in the ’80s.

2. “Naming Names,” by Victor S. Navasky: The classic account of the House Committee on Un-American Activities investigation of Hollywood for its supposed Communist allegiances. It’s all here, the cruelty, the back-stabbing, the moments of truth under the hot lights.

1. The Hidden Target,” by Helen MacInnes: This 1980 spy novel tells the story of an American college student on a world tour who becomes entangled with secret agents looking to stop a terrorist plot.

2. “The End of Food,” by Thomas F. Pawlick: Danger abounds at the grocery store in this 2006 expose of our current method of food production. Pawlick reveals that the vitamin, mineral and nutritional content of food is in shocking decline.

1. “Heart of the Ngoni,” by Harold Courlander with Ousmane Sako: A collection of centuries-old stories from the Malian kingdom of Segu, translated from the original Bambara, that recount trials and tribulations of chiefs and tribal battles.

2.Minders of Make-Believe,” by Leonard S. Marcus: A history of children’s literature, from the colonial era until today, along with a running account of the battles that were waged over what young people should read.

3. “Losing My Cool,” by Thomas Chatterton Williams: Williams tells the story of how his father saved him from hip-hop culture by deploying books, lots of them, to give a wider view of the world.

1. “Code of Conduct,” by Brad Thor: The 15th installment in Thor’s thriller series has counterterrorism operative Scot Harvath uncovering the inner workings of a secretive committee of elites running the world.

2. “Jude the Obscure,” by Thomas Hardy: The classic 1895 novel of a young, working-class man who yearns to become a scholar but is thwarted by society and love.

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