Writer Chats, Part XII: My Books Tell My Stories

Speaking of blogging, our friend Lindsey, formerly of the blog Pas de Deux, recently launched her site, The Next Course, all about the ways cooking affects our lives and food blogging affects our culture. She’s the kind of person who asks questions like, “Do you think food blogging is a form of activism?” and “What’s it like to cook together? Last week, she highlighted our braised Roma beans and featured an interview we did with her a few weeks back—so we’re honored to get to return the favor in a small way today, sharing her writing thoughts. Have you thought about how your home library tells your story? Books as biographies! I like this concept.


These days I find myself carrying two or three notebooks at a time, each with its own purpose – one for note-taking, another for list-making, another for journaling, etc. Despite my attempts to keep these functions separated, in moments of desperation when words start forming in my mind and the proper journal is out of reach, I write on whatever I can find – the wrong journal, the backs of receipts, and even in the margins of books.\

The books on our shelves say something about who we are. The neon sticky notes protruding from the tops of books I read in grad school; the worn covers of books I have read again and again; the books I have borrowed from friends and mentors, and forgotten to return (whoops!) —they each contain stories of my life, my personality, my journey. While I have passed some books along to friends or colleagues in the hope that they would love them, too, I have insisted on keeping others, even through multiple long-distance moves.

Looking at my bookshelf brings back a flood of memories. I see Lolita and recall the day I rode the bus, rather than the usual Subway, to get home to Manhattan after teaching in the Bronx. I see A Thousand Splendid Suns and remember reading it in my little room in the apartment I called home during the summer I studied abroad in Valencia. I see A Year in the World and remember the day I picked it up, only to promptly put it back down—reading about traveling across Europe while spending three months at an internship in rural Massachusetts felt like a cruel joke. I see Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and fondly recall the months, earlier this year, when my husband and I fell into an after-dinner ritual—him drawing, me reading.

My new years resolutions were to read more and to write more—and I have. On the reading front, I am trying to take time at lunch, before bed, or on weekends to get lost in a good book. On the writing front, I have made an effort to get my thoughts down onto paper.

Others have mentioned this connection between reading and writing here in these Writers Chats, and it truly amazes me how the two go hand-in-hand. The more I read, the more prepared I am to write; the more easily words form into sentences and begin to flow out of my head/hand and onto the page.

In the past few months, I have found myself jumping out of the shower to write things down; getting out of bed at night because the thoughts are keeping me awake; scribbling in the margin of a book as I read.

These books that I have scribbled in now tell my stories in a whole new way. They contain my words, as well as my memories. They will forever remind me of this time in my life – the time when I became a writer.


Editor’s Note: Thanks, Lindsey, for contributing the twelfth post in our Writer Chats series! 

About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

5 thoughts on “Writer Chats, Part XII: My Books Tell My Stories”

  1. I really like this idea of our books telling our story, as symbols of landmarks in our lives. It made me think it would be a lovely way to interview someone, to go through their library with them, ask them what certain books remind them of in their lives.
    I like the idea that reading makes you want to write. Sometimes, if I read something very good, it can block me from writing, thinking I will never be as good as that. Working on that 😉 Thank you for a great post, Lindsey!

  2. I love these thoughts! Books hold such important places in our lives, and now you have me thinking about what books bring back specific memories from times in my life.

  3. I’m always intrigued by the books that people have and the books that they like best – I love the idea of those books telling our stories.


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