I wrote my first book, The Devil’s Teeth, in New York, in a space no bigger than a closet (and not the walk-in type, either). After that, I dreamed of having more room to spread out my notes and research articles, index cards and binders and all the flotsam I trail around when writing, but especially I wanted this: more bookshelves.
Now that I have them (and have filled them), I still want more bookshelves. When thinking about the perfect place to read, I imagine a barn-like set-up, preferably in Hawaii, where I wrote my second book, The Wave. The layout of this barn-to-be is simple: a large, high-ceilinged box with bookshelves lining every wall. The only furniture will be an overstuffed sofa, my desk (an eight-foot-long oak table), my Aeron chair and a stepladder.
My work focuses on the ocean, so in my barn I will shelve the aquatic-themed books closest to my desk, as I do in my Manhattan apartment. Along with my dog-eared copy of Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us, and other beloved marine literature, I have rows of shark books (including a first edition of Jaws). My favourite among them is Shadows in the Sea, a volume from the mid-sixties that I found at a used bookstore in Monterey, Calif. Much of the shark information in it has since been proved wrong; it ends with a section titled Selachian Cookery, recipes for serving the study animal, including Shark Marseillaise and Shark à la Newburg. In the biology world, times have changed.
Many other sea creatures are represented in my library, including the wacky denizens of the deep sea, which not even Dr. Seuss could make up. I’ve begun a pretty solid whale book collection, also, and I’ve got Richard Ellis’s wonderful The Search for the Giant Squid. Somehow I’ve ended up with three books on eels. I haven’t read them yet, but I intend to.
Susan Casey’s most recent book is The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean. She is editor-in-chief of O magazine.