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The Curated Shelf by Alix E. Harrow

The Curated Shelf

Discover Alix E. Harrow’s perfect bookshelf.


A perfect bookshelf would have a book for every mood and occasion. Here are ten of my most-beloved books and the moments I find myself needing them:


  1. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel by Susanna Clarke:

    This is the book I choose when I don’t want to read a book so much as disappear into it. It’s an entire world, a fictional historiography, a fairy-haunted, foot-noted work of genius. See also: The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heap; Little, Big.

  2. Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold:

    I re-read the Vorkosigan Saga at least once a year, but I read Memory most often. I read it whenever I need to be reminded that people can come of age more than once, that we are constantly becoming ourselves, even at the ripe old age of, say, thirty. See also: The Curse of Chalion.

  3. Beloved by Toni Morrison:

    This one I read when I can stand to see the wicked world laid bare. When I’m brave enough to look directly at the scars we’ve left behind us, the poison in our past. I don’t read it often. See also: Kindred; A Handmaid’s Tale; Deerskin; The Fifth Season.

  4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon:

    When I want to see gentle humor standing beside heartbreak, history standing shoulder-to-shoulder with fantasy, costumed superheroes given love and gravity and meaning–I re-read this one. See also: The Brothers K; Little Fires Everywhere; We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

  5. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley:

    Robin McKinley’s books are grooved so deeply in my brain I sometimes use her turns of phrase without thinking and have to go back and invent my own. The Blue Sword–about a girl who crosses borders and has adventures and finds true love and also herself–is the one I read when I want to remember why I fell in love with books in the first place. See also: The Lioness Quartet, Harry Potter, The Night Circus.

  6. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor:

    This is the one I read when I want to fall in love with the strange and unexpected and unique. When I need to remember that there are still untold stories under the sun. It’s about blue-skinned gods and dreamy boys with witchlight in their eyes and the price of justice. See also: Abarat, City of Stairs.

  7. Uprooted by Naomi Novik:

    This is the one I read when I want a fairy tale I’ve never heard before, one that echoes against all my childhood stories about wicked woods and lost princesses and wizards in towers. See also: The Winternight trilogy; Spindle’s End.

  8. Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston:

    This book is a blanket fort for my soul. It is therapy. It is a romance shipped in from another, brighter timeline. See also: Sunshine, This Is How You Lose the Time War.

  9. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward:

    When I want to lie down and the floor at weep at the sheer genius of prose–when I want to feel a twisted mix of fury and love and tenderness and think about the ghosts we all carry in our family trees–I read this one. See also: Homegoing, The Underground Railroad, A Spool of Blue Thread.

  10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman:

    When I feel nostalgic and achy, like I have a hole in my heart that leads to other worlds–I read Gaiman. Especially this one, which is so much about the wonder and terror of childhood. See also: The Graveyard Book; Among Others.


How many have you read?


Alix’s debut novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January is out now – a glorious mix of escapism, friendship and magic.


Every Story Opens A Door