Some, like Pulphead essayist John Jeremiah Sullivan, opted for the desert-island approach, grabbing the works that would prove as sustaining as water, while others' bookshelves, like the one that belongs to designer Sophie Buhai, serve as inspiration boards-the occult encyclopedia Man, Myth, and Magic, she says, is the source of many of Vena Cava's print motifs. Thurston Moore surrounds himself with the aspirational-the books he hasn't yet read-while Dave Eggers keeps close copies of Lolita and Herzog when he writes.
Most of the shelves included in My Ideal Bookshelf (Little, Brown and Company), however, depict the evolution of an artistic sensibility. Junot Diaz's is an A to Z of his understanding of fiction and of the world; unfolding across Judd Apatow's shelf, from Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes to a biography of Lenny Bruce, is the story of the film director's take on comedy. If you read these books, Apatow promises, you will "reap untold benefits: money, fame, women, and a level of insecurity that cannot be measured by modern technology."
It is not such a far-off concept. When asked by painter Jane Mount and editor Thessaly La Force to assemble their ideal bookshelf, the 100 writers, designers, chefs, artists, musicians, and others collected here turned in titles that, taken together, conspire to form the ultimate creative person's reading list.
"Nothing is more beautiful than a wall of books," insists decorator Tom Delavan, and My Ideal Bookshelf supports this: Mount chooses to paint the books' spines, rather than their covers, and her gouaches show how oddly captivating that overlooked component can be. The books become graphic elements in and of themselves, aesthetically pleasing arrangements of colors and sizes that reveal subtle differences and symmetries. Visually and literally, they are building blocks. "Reading is not unlike that moment when you go into a thrift store: There's always this element of chance, where you don't really know what will be there and what you'll find," writes contributor Lisa Mayock, whose bookshelf includes John Fowles's novel The Magus and seventies-interiors cult favorite The House Book. "It's an opportunity to create a new self."