I came across a bookshelf at Rachel’s apartment and had to photograph it because it was too good to be true. It perfectly captured many aspects of her personality and passions in all the ways that they differ from mine. I also laughed out loud when I spotted the book, “Horse Heaven.” What kind of heaven is THAT? Is it a heaven for the horses, full of hay bales, carrots sticks, and fields to run through? Or is it a heaven for humans, composed entirely of horses and horse angels? Perhaps it is a memoir of a horse fantasizing about heaven. Guess I’ll never know because I did not ask to borrow it.
Here are the others, from left to right:
1. The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
I read this on a recommendation by Rachel. I loved the imagery, the strange world, everything — until the shock twist ending when I closed it quickly, disgusted. But it was a magical read, although not very kosher at the end. What does this say about Rachel?
[R’s response: It says I like modern-day, dark fairy tales set in London.]
2. Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne
Very Rachel because she loves Paris (Example A: letters she writes in Graduates in Wonderland about how she dreams of living in Paris — and then does everything she possibly can to move there. Example B: She sighs a lot in London, comparing it to Paris).
[R: It’s a history book about Paris, a snapshot of seven different time periods. That’s all I remember, because I haven’t read this book in six years.]
3. City Secrets: London edited by Robert Kahn
I have not read this one, but should as I do not know the secrets of London. I assume it’s about how to properly catch the bus (chasing it and waving down the driver), how to properly say Waitrose (waiTRose), and to always carry an umbrella in your purse?
[R: It’s more about hidden gardens and overlooked attractions – a great find for navigating this huge city.]
4. Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley
[R: This is the story of several horses, all born around the same time and who take very different paths in life. Like our book, but for horses.]
5. Debrett’s New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners by John Morgan
I’m just going to skip over this entirely. I’m going to assume the last tenant, who was a princess, left it here because I have no idea why anyone would buy this book, unless maybe they were trying to infiltrate the royal family.
[R: This book is very important! It taught me how to address a Major General in the British army AND how to address a female ambassador’s husband. And how to curtsy!]
In fact, let’s get even closer.
I love to imagine how the book cover meeting for this cover went. “I’m going to need a hot sexy woman in white riding pants. She needs to be swinging a polo mallet. The polo mallet is EXTREMELY important. She must be wearing a red shirt tucked into her super-white pants — this is symbolism. Her nails must also be long and red. There must be a flashy diamond ring on her wedding finger, implying that this is the affair of a married woman. Her posture must imply some sort of gastric pain. Polo heaven.”
[R: Did anybody else notice that this is actually a depiction of TWO people? A polo-playing man in white pants, who is aroused (NOT a woman with gastric pain), and a woman groping him from behind?]**
7. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
I’m 70% sure that this book was stuck here to offset the rest of the bookshelf. This book must get packed every time she moves countries. It probably gets bandied around at parties, but it never, ever gets read.
[R: What kind of parties do you think I have?]
8. Dreaming of Dior by Charlotte Smith and Grant Cowan
This seems to be about fashion. Has illustrated dresses. What Rachel wishes she wore, perhaps when meeting ambassadors and army men?
[R: That’s actually pretty accurate.]
9. The Pursuit of Love/Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
10 years ago, Rachel lent this book to me. I took it home with me to Texas over winter break and did not end up reading it. I also left it in Texas. For years, Rachel has never let me forget how I stole her book. So when I spotted it during a visit home for Thanksgiving this year, I read it, and packed it and presented it to her. Voila! Better late than never!
[R: Nancy Mitford writes hilarious stories of love, romance, and farcical aristocratic British families in inter-war period. Some of my favorite books ever.]
10. The Pursuit of Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford X 2
But…she had already purchased another copy of one of her favorite books. I always promised I would return it — it just took ten years.
[R: Anyone need a copy?]
11. Weightwatchers COOK SMART easy every day
Purely for coffee table perusals as I can say I have never seen Rachel cook anything ever, be it easy, smart nor every day.
[R: I read this for pleasure.]
12. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Required pretentious reading in Paris.
[R: Required pretentious reading for everywhere.]
Note: Rachel has about 300 books in her London bedroom and most are very literary and not embarrassing at all. Unfortunately, these shelves were not amusing. At all. What is this, poetry? Shakespeare? Nabokov? More Faulkner? Get away from me. I’m reading POLO.
Today, we can conclude that Rachel’s favorite literary escapes include horses, pretty clothes, royals and fairy tales. This definitely explains how we ended up at Royal Ascot, the fanciest horse race attended by the Queen, last year.
I like how bookshelf portraits give us glimpses into someone’s inner persona. Send us yours? graduatesinwonderland @ gmail . com
**I literally had no idea that was a photo of two people. Sorry, Rachel.