The Shelf by Phyllis Rose

The Shelf

Phyllis Rose embarks on a grand literary experiment—to read her way through a random shelf of library books, LEQ–LESCan you have an Extreme Adventure in a library? Phyllis Rose casts herself into the wilds of an Upper East Side lending library in an effort to do just that. Hoping to explore the “real ground of literature,” she reads her way through a somewhat randomly chosen shelf of fiction, from LEQ to LES.The shelf has everything Rose...

Details The Shelf

TitleThe Shelf
Release DateMay 13th, 2014
PublisherFarrar, Straus and Giroux
GenreNonfiction, Writing, Books About Books, Autobiography, Memoir, Language, Essays

Reviews The Shelf

  • Paul Bryant
    "our young dzhigits are strapping, and their caftans are covered in silver"The subtitle “Adventures in Extreme Reading” is a leetle bit of an overstatement. Truly extreme reading would be completing all of Marcel Proust whilst in a bathysphere suspended in the Mariana Trench (north of Papua New Guinea) eight miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean and living entirely on a diet of raw cabbage and crème de menthe and the whole thing broad...
  • Diane S ☔
    I think picking and reading a whole shelf of library books, would make a wonderful challenge, one I may adopt somewhere down the line. Of course picking the shelf is not as easy as it appears, because many shelves are full of a popular authors book, so it does take a bit of work to find just the right shelf. Besides reading and evaluating, critiquing the book, she often looked up information on the author and in some cases actually contacted them...
  • Gwen
    I loved this book. It is perfect for a librarian who reads books the way many people watch TV. Rose goes through a shelf of the fiction section at a library, reading all the authors there. She shares her thoughts with us, as well as biographical and historical information, contemporary reviews, translators' comments, and much more. She contacts some of the authors, editors, and even cover designers to find out about their experiences. Of course n...
  • Holly
    I think the least interesting and silliest question authors are asked to consider during a certain sort of quick interview (e.g., for Powell's Books Q&A) has to do with what books are on the shelf next to theirs in a library or bookshop. It's meaningless. So I was pleased to discover that Phyllis Rose chose the LEQ-LES shelf for more-or-less arbitrary reasons. Her point was to choose a random shelf and read her way through it. She actually dislik...
  • Kerfe
    "The Shelf" is about the pleasures of reading.It is also an example of itself--I would never have known about it/read it if I hadn't seen it on a shelf in the library, pulled it out to see if I might want to read it, and then taken it out.Phyllis Rose picks a random shelf at the library (well not entirely--she has some rules) and reads all the books on it, books that mostly she would never have even considered reading otherwise.I thought I would ...
  • Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
    In The Shelf, literary critic Phyllis Rose is on a somewhat ridiculous enterprise -- she wants to read her way through a random shelf of her library's fiction section. She makes it slightly less outlandish by setting a few rules about the contents of the shelf she eventually settles on -- it has to include at least one classic that she wants to read and hasn't yet, there have to be several women authors, and if there is a run of works by the same...
  • Lesa
    Phyllis Rose's book, The Shelf, is the story of an unusual experiment. It's subtitled "From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading". The author picked one shelf of fiction at the New York Society Library at random, LEQ to LES, to read through while writing about the experience. Actually, it seemed a little odd to write about twenty-three books and eleven authors. But, Rose said, "Usually we choose our reading from a preselected list of books, ...
  • Robin
    Calling all book nerds! What a great read - Rose picks a shelf at the New York Society Library and works her way through it. Lovely essays about books, libraries,writers and fiction. My kind of read for sure.
  • Jane
    I loved this book. Not every moment, but there were entire chapters that I wanted to read aloud to my friends, my school colleagues, my students. I know that Phyllis Rose is an amazing writer. Parallel Lives is one of my favorite books ever. This book is I think what is meant by a "tour de force." Rose sets up these rules for herself: a library shelf, not more that five books by one author, no books I've already read (or is it authors?) I'll read...
  • Ashok Rao
    I loved this book. Phyllis Rose proves that reading is indeed an adventure. To begin with she asks the reader a simple question: What about all those books that are never read at all, never even considered? Who speaks for them? Will they sink back into the abyss of unread literature? And how certain works of fiction live forever without actually being read. She compares the 758-page bulk of Gil Bias to eating potato chips. Each little bit is so s...
  • Melinda
    No, I wouldn't call this a memoir in the strict sense of the word. It is about an intelligent, curious, and knowledgeable reader reading her way through a shelf of books, but the focus on is where those books lead her thinking. I really enjoyed this collection of essays and learned something from every one of them, from the treacheries of translation to the continuing life of The Phantom of the Opera to how libraries "weed" using CREW and MUSTIE....
  • RA
    Would recommend: YES Okay, that said, this book isn't for everyone, but it was definitely for me. There are some books that are for book lovers (like The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, The Thirteenth Tale, and Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore), but this one is for people who love talking and thinking about books, not just reading them. Unlike Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books, this book pulls quite the trick of being intellectual but not dry...
  • Damaskcat
    The shelf wasn't quite as randomly chosen as the blurb for this book implies. The author wanted to pick a shelf which contained one classic she wanted to read and no more than five books by any one author. The shelf which went from LEQ - LES fitted her criteria and she embarked on reading the books contained on that shelf. She decided that if there were five books by a particular author then she would only undertake to read three of them. As the ...
  • Celena
    "Exactly what kind of eternity does a library provide?"This was my favourite question formed from Phyllis Rose's reading adventure in The Shelf. It begins chapter eight on Libraries: Making Space. As a library assistant I enjoyed reading her explain of the need for weeding of library books as it is a much misunderstood necessity of our hallowed halls. Under a set of somewhat flexible criteria, Rose sets about reading the contents of a shelf from ...
  • Kazen
    Fear not, this is not a stunt memoir. Rose does read through a shelf at the library but it's not as extreme as the title suggests as there's no time limit, no angst when titles on the shelf change, and no diatribe about doing things right or wrong. The shelf is a device, a way to hang interesting conversations about reading and the literary world together.I like what she has to say. While choosing a shelf she talks about how most of us have our r...
  • Ally
    Don't read this book. I'm not entirely sure why I finished it. I'm the kind of person who actually does like reading about people reading (my spouse thought this was bonkers). Maybe I went in with the wrong expectations, which I realize now were for a quirky millennial to have written this about wacky books she read and maybe some personal growth she experienced or ways she could relate the literature to her life. Instead, it was an author who wa...
  • Jo Walton
    I have loved all of Rose's work and leapt on this as soon as I heard about it.As you'd expect, it's a thoughtful and thought provoking volume, exquisitely written, and I raced through it. Rose decides to read her way along a library shelf and think about canon, genre, gender, longevity of books and library systems. If you like my writing about books, and if you read in other genres, you will enjoy this. The only thing wrong with it is that it's t...
  • Delaney Peterson
    Love the premise of the author's experiment and expected it to be a sort of extended literary personal essay. it was actually more of a structured collection of literary criticism (while simultaneously sort of being a commentary about being wary of literary criticism) interspersed with personal anecdotes and observations from the author as she writes about her experience of the project The literary criticism is much stronger than the memoir-style...
  • Bobbi
    Phyllis Rose got tired of being told what to read by reviewers, academics, genre purists, and everyone else. She set out to explore unknown and forgotten books, picked a shelf from random in the New York Public Library, and dove right in. I love it. Often upon finishing a book, I get depressed. I can't decide what to read next. I know what I should be reading (and am currently stalled halfway through The Human Comedy), but I always want something...
  • Cassandra
    This book is fantastic -- so much so that it inspired me to start keeping a book blog of my own, something that I thought I would never do. Rose is a very warm, generous reader, and her decision to read through a shelf of almost entirely forgotten library books (and then write these lovely essays about them) is just the sort of thing I am always wanting to do without ever quite having the nerve to take it seriously. Often when I read books about ...
  • Laila (BigReadingLife)
    Ehrmagerd, I'm such a (book)nerd!I loved this book, plain and simple.Books about books are SO in my wheelhouse. In fact, my wheelhouse is partially *constructed* out of books about books.Phyllis Rose is a generous, enthusiastic, adventurous reader. She chose one shelf out of the New York Society Library (LEQ-LES) and read her way through the shelf. Her observations are warm, witty, and illuminating. A longer review to come on HTTP://bigreadlingli...
  • Becky
    I enjoyed reading my first reads copy of The Shelf. I had just finished reading a spin off of Phantom of the Opera so a literary look at the Phantom intrigued me. Honestly, I have not read any of the books on the authors shelf but I found her descriptions interesting and well written. Her commentary through out the book on topics such as whether you can tell gender of an author from a passage and regionality of an author are thought provoking.
  • Vicki
    Started off wonderfully with a lot of questions about what makes the canon and why but got bogged down when the author described the plots of each novel. Enjoyed her feminist ranting and intelligent commentary on literary criticism - just could have been a good essay rather than a whole book (the problem with many non-fiction books today).
  • Bill Fletcher
    So far, my favorite book that I've read this year. I love the idea (picking a shelf reasonably at random in a library and then reading the books on that shelf) and I really love the way she takes that idea and riffs on it in unexpected ways. The only down side to reading this is the number of books I bought after she talked about them!
  • Ally Martin
    I enjoyed this book. It felt like my favorite English professor was taking me on an adventure in reading. It was interesting and instructive, and I found myself writing down Rose's pearls of wisdom and turns of phrase. I would happily go on another adventure in reading with her.
  • Lauren Tomlinson
    an interesting idea for an experiment and a book, but a little too much information in some cases made the book seem boring and drawn out
  • Dlmrose
  • Debra
    Read more like a textbook than the novel I expected....
  • Julie Bestry
    I love reading books about people reading books, and Phyllis Rose's take on literature, while unexpected, was enjoyable. The conceit is simple -- she read the 23 books on a (semi-random) shelf in the New York Society Library, alphabetized (as one might expect) by authors' last names, LEQ to LES. And then she wrote about them, or at least some of them. And in writing about them -- not quiet reviews or literary critiques, but perhaps analyses -- Ro...