Shelf Life

Shelf Life

by Anna North

We asked New York Times editor and author of the novel The Life and Death of Sophie Stark to show us a section of her bookshelf. Anna came to The Center on June 18 in discussion with Sarah Heyward and Carolita Johnson. Watch the video of the event here.



I’m not much of a romantic when it comes to books; I love the convenience (and, when I’m traveling, the light weight) of my iPad, and while I like reading in print I by no means insist on it. But I have realized that there’s something my iPad can’t do, which is serve as a physical record of the books I’ve loved and the time in my life when I’ve loved them. I certainly scroll through the library sometimes when I want to remember what I’ve been reading recently, but when I want to recall something about my life as a writer and a reader, I often go and stand in front of my shelves. This shelf is a particularly good cross-section of my reading and writing experiences over the past few years. You’ve got books by my contemporaries and classmates, whose writing and thinking have influenced me hugely (Eric Sasson’s Margins of Tolerance, Jenny Zhang’s Dear Jenny, We Are All Find, Belle Boggs’s Mattaponi Queen); Galatea 2.2, which I read when I was a teenager and is probably still my favorite depiction of artificial intelligence; My Name Is Red, which I’ve been talking about a lot recently because it’s a beautiful book about art and artists; Parable of the Sower, which I wouldn’t let myself read until after I finished my first novel America Pacifica, because I was trying to avoid anything set in the future; the beautifully eerie Eva Moves the Furniture, which I remember reading during a hot, bird-filled summer; and Salvation City, by Sigrid Nunez, one of my favorite writers ever since I read The Last of Her Kind in 2006. Looking back at all those books gives me a kind of tour of where my mind has been over the last fifteen years, and maybe a hint of where it’s going next.




 Anna North is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. Her first novel, America Pacifica, was published in 2011, and her second, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark was published by Blue Rider Press in May 2015. She has been a writer and editor at Jezebel, BuzzFeed, and Salon, and is now a staff editor at the New York Times.