Southern Notables Share a Peek at Their Bookshelves

A new book documents the idea of living with (lots of) books beautifully

Photo: copyright © 2019 by Shade Degges

Larry McMurtry’s home library displays the discipline of a longtime bookseller.

A house can never have too many books—I have novels and nonfiction stacked perilously on my nightstand, towers of design books piled in every room, cabinets loaded with dog-eared cookbooks in the kitchen, and a library where my husband and I combined our collections when we were first married. In fact, before we did anything to our house (and we needed an additional bathroom badly), we saved up to build bookshelves. I would still like to build more, and now I have some inspiration: the new book Bibliostyle by Nina Freudenberger, which features room after room filled with volume after volume, and the stories of the people who own or curate those bookshelves around the world, be they in bookshops, private homes, or public libraries. Artists, architects, fashion designers, and literary luminaries share their stories, Southerners included. Below are three of my favorite glimpses into the written worlds of Gay Talese, Larry McMurtry, and Ann Patchett. Though I’ve read their work, since burying my nose in Bibliostyle, I feel like I now know them well—if only through the books they choose to live with. 

The Collection of: Gay and Nan Talese—he, a pioneer of New Journalism and a famous graduate of the University of Alabama, and she, a pioneer in publishing
Location: New York, New York
Between the Lines: “The problem is, we have books quite literally in every room of every floor,” Gay shares. “There’s a central organizing principle, Nan’s very good on that.” There are even bookshelves in Gay’s famously dapper closet.

Photo: copyright © 2019 by Shade Degges

The home of Gay and Nan Talese.

The Collection of: Larry McMurtry, the legendary writer of all things Western and owner of Booked Up bookshop
Location: Archer City, Texas
Between the Lines: “My library is a vibrant intellectual ecosystem,” McMurtry says—but he reveals he would never part with anything by Nathaniel West.

Photo: copyright © 2019 by Shade Degges

The home of Larry McMurtry.

The Collection of: Ann Patchett, most recently the author of The Dutch House, and co-owner/champion of Parnassus Books
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Between the Lines: “I’m not sure bookselling has informed my relationship with books as much as age has,” says Patchett in the book. “I have to keep them moving in and moving out.”

Photo: copyright © 2019 by Shade Degges

Parnassus Books.