Every book on my bookshelf. - SHELF 1

Every book on my bookshelf.


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I got rid of a lot of things before I left to travel. It was a nice feeling to purge everything unnecessary, everything unneeded, from my life. In the end I sold, threw out, or donated over two-thirds of my belongings. Still, I kept many things, a couple of boxes of books included. (Plus a few more boxes dedicated entirely to The Baby-Sitters Club…)

I cut down my book collection to one slightly-overflowing bookshelf worth. I did keep most of my travel books, all the ones I read and perused and lusted over as I planned for my trip. (And I also amassed more guidebooks over the past few years, mailing them home When I left countries or regions, unable to bring myself to throw them out.) I kept the dance books I loved as a child. I kept a collection of young adult favorites. I kept anything I had by Palahniuk and Sylvia Plath among other favorites like The Catcher in the Rye and Perks of Being a Wallflower. I kept a handful of writing manuals from grad school.

Admittedly, I also have a couple of stacks stashed away in my dining room console. Those are mostly computer manuals — HTML, CSS, etc. etc. — that are probably too outdated to be useful but were too expensive to begin with to want to get rid of.

I still, sometimes, buy books. It’s hard not to when Amazon is so convenient and when you live down the block from a book store that also serves wine. But I just got a library card, my first since college, so I’m hoping to start borrowing more than purchasing. And no, no I have no desire to get an e-reader. I like having the physical pages in my hand.

It was interesting to take stock in the books I have. There are a handful I forgot I had, a handful I’ve completely forgotten the plot of, and a handful that I’ve never even read in the first place. So I guess I should read or re-read some of those in the near future.

Or just buy a bunch of new ones and a new bookcase?

One of those.

Here are all the books on my bookshelf…



Every book on my bookshelf. - SHELF 1

Shelf One

Sylvia Plath: Drawings

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
From which I took the name, Choosing Figs.

The Journals of Sylvia Plath

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Three copies…the paperback I’ve had since college, an edition from England, and a sign hardcover.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Beach by Alex Garland

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
You’re going to notice a lot of Palahniuk…

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
A guy once read a passage from this to me and I fainted. I can’t read this without putting it down and walking away several times.

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk

Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk

Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Naked by David Sedaris

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud



Every book on my bookshelf. - SHELF 2

Shelf Two

Jim Henson’s “the Storyteller”
Also a wonderful TV show, I own the DVDs too.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
I got a copy from work in preparation for the opera we debuted in December.

Brave New Girl by Louisa Luna

Pieces: A Collection of New Voices edited by Stephen Chbosky

Namedropper by Emma Forrest

Cherries in the Snow by Emma Forrest

Thin Skin by Emma Forrest

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

The Camera My Mother Gave Me by Susanna Kaysen

Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Normal Girl by Molly Jong-Fast

Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn

Cupcake by Rachel Cohn

Shrimp by Rachel Cohn

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Doing It by Melvin Burgess

The Art of the Personal Essay by Phillip Lopate
Some books I kept from grad school.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular by L. Rust Hills

Ballet Magic by Nancy Robison
Ballet books were my favorite books growing up.

Cammy Takes a Bow by Karen Strickler Dean

Maggie Adams, Dancer by Karen Strickler Dean

Samantha on Stage by Susan Clement Farrar

To Be A Dancer (Satin Slippers #1) by Elizabeth Bernard

Center Stage (Satin Slippers #2) by Elizabeth Bernard

Stars in her Eyes (Satin Slippers #3) by Elizabeth Bernard



Every book on my bookshelf. - SHELF 3

Shelf Three

Let’s just call this the Lonely Planet shelf…

Lonely Planet South America on a shoestring
I actually own two copies, different editions.

Lonely Planet South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland
I haven’t yet been to South Africa, but I keep saying I’m going there next.

Lonely Planet Amsterdam

Lonely Planet Seattle

Lonely Planet Australia
Australia is the only other guidebook I have for somewhere I haven’t yet been.

Lonely Planet The World: A Traveller’s Guide to the Planet

Lonely Planet Ireland

The Rough Guide to Bali and Lombok
I get used to the format, so I usually buy Lonely Planet. I couldn’t find one when I need one for Bali. So…

Lonely Planet Philippines

Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a shoestring

Lonely Planet England

Lonely Planet Central America on a shoestring

Lonely Planet India

Cool Barcelona A Non-Standard Guide
A gift from the woman whose AirBNB I stayed at in Barcelona.



Every book on my bookshelf. - SHELF 4

Shelf Four

Grammar Lessons: Translating a Life in Spain by Michele Morano
Written by one of my professors in grad school.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman

Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts

The Art of Travel by Alain De Botton

How Not to Travel the World by Lauren Juliff

Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story by Tony Wheeler and Maureen Wheeler

Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business by Bruce Poon Tip

The 10 Best of Everything: An Ultimate Guide for Travelers
I read a lot of books in preparation for my travels…

1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz

The Big Trip: Your Ultimate Guide to Gap Years and Overseas Adventures

Hamburger America by George Motz

Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing by Don George

A Year of Adventures by Andrew Bain

Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Photography

Lonely Planet 1000 Ultimate Experiences

Once in a Lifetime Trips: The World’s 50 Most Extraordinary and Memorable Travel Experiences

Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth

Photo Trekking: A Traveling Photographer’s Guide to Capturing Moments Around the World


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What's on your bookshelf?

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

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