Shelf Life


Shelf Life

by Laura Joh Rowland

We asked the bestselling author of the Sano Ichiro mystery series, Laura Joh Rowland, to share a snapshot of her bookshelf with us. Here, Rowland talks about a classic graphic novel, how she was inspired both in literature and in fashion by a nonfiction book, and what she's working on next. 

My husband and I have bookshelves in every room in our apartment except the bathrooms, where there’s no space. We’re both avid readers and book-buyers, and our shelves are completely maxed out. I keep my books separate from his, and I have one area for work-related books, another for pleasure-reads. That’s my only organizing system. Within each area, chaos reigns. I mined the chaos and curated a selection of books that are special to me.  


From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell

I’m branching out into graphic novels, so I’m reading and studying this classic of the genre. Eddie Campbell’s pen-and-ink illustrations are amazing, especially in view of the fact that he did them during the 1980s and 1990s, before computer technology was advanced enough for intricate, expressive drawing. The novel is about the Jack the Ripper murders, which is also the subject of my latest book, The Ripper’s Shadow. It’s amazing that the same story can be told in so many different ways.


How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman

This book came in handy while I was doing research for my new mystery series, which is set in Victorian England. There are many books about the history of the period, but this one describes what it was like to live the life. It’s full of helpful advice, such as how to keep yourself clean without ever taking a bath or shower or washing your hair. (Most Victorians, except for the rich, didn’t have running water in their homes. And nobody had running hot water.) It inspired me to buy a corset and wear it when I’m writing.


Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman

I love thrillers about art and artists, and I love stories set in schools. This is one of my favorites by one of my favorite authors. The heroine is a recently widowed mother who goes, with her troubled teenaged daughter, to teach at a remote, sinister boarding school in upstate New York. The school has a mysterious past that includes love triangles, secret babies, and murder. What more could I ask?


Mad Girl’s Love Song by Andrew Wilson

I also love biographies of artists and writers. They remind me that all artists and writers struggle, and the ones who became famous usually had it a lot tougher than I do. This book is about Sylvia Plath, the famous poet who committed suicide in 1963. It focuses on her relationships with men before she met and married Ted Hughes. (There were a lot of men, and while Hughes may have been her last great passion, he wasn’t her first or only.) Sylvia Plath is a longtime obsession of mine. I’m fascinated by her work and her life, and apparently I’m not the only one. New biographies keep coming out, even though she died at age thirty and there’s not that much material to work with. Someone always has something else to say about her. Me, too. In my spare time I’m writing and illustrating a graphic novel about Sylvia Plath.






Photo by Marty Rowland


Laura Joh Rowland is the bestselling author of the mystery series set in 17th c. Japan that features samurai detective Sano Ichiro. She also wrote a historical suspense series that stars Charlotte Bronte, the famous Victorian author. Her work has been published in 21 countries, been nominated for the Anthony Award, the Hammett Prize, and the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, won RT Magazine's Reader's Choice Award, and been included in The Wall Street Journal's list of the five best historical mystery novels. The eighteenth and final book in the series is The Iris Fan. Laura's new book, The Ripper's Shadow (Crooked Lane Books, January 10, 2017), is a thriller set in Victorian England. It stars Miss Sarah Bain, a photographer with inside information about the Jack the Ripper murders.


Laura holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Michigan. She is a former aerospace scientist, a painter, and a cartoonist. She lives in New York City with her husband Marty.





The Ripper's Shadow



From Hell



How to Be a Victorian 



Arcadia Falls



Mad Girl's Love Song