Shelf Reflection is a monthly series where we delve into the reading habits of interesting Australians. This month’s reflection comes from writer, speaker and founder of Extraordinary Routines, Madeleine Dore.


“The small collection of books I own are nicely colour coded on my desk… My borrowed books are often scattered around my room.”

What are you currently reading?

At the moment I’m attempting to get outside my non-fiction comfort zone and read more poetry and short fiction. I have a few books on rotation at the moment – I’m flipping through The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by poet Marie Howe, diving into various short stories in the anthology The Story: Love, Loss and the Lives of Women by Victoria Hislop, as well as Looking at Mindfulness, which is a beautiful book by Christopher André that pairs classic paintings with lessons in mindfulness. On my Kindle, I’m also reading short stories in A Man Made Entirely of Bats by local writer Patrick Lenton.

Borrowed or bought?

I own relatively few books and for the last few years have become a keen borrower. I’m often overly ambitious with my loans – my mantelpiece currently has almost a dozen books from the Melbourne City Library that are bound to go unread, but they are a strange source of comfort!

What kind of reader are you?

My reading complements the work I do with Extraordinary Routines, so I mostly read pop-psychology and pop-philosophy (or more plainly, self-help as evidenced in the amount of times words like “Help” and “Wisdom” and “Spinster” and “How to…” feature in the titles!).

daily-ritualsOften if it’s quite dense or a new subject I like to be able to give it my full attention – for example Being and Nothingness by Sarte, which has sat on my bookshelf unopened for a year for that very reason! On the other end of the scale I skim read to get the gist and move on. If I’m reading longform fiction – which is rare, unfortunately – I’ll have to focus on just that, but can flip between short stories or poetry.

I’ll often refer back to books – or my growing Google Drive of book notes. For most books, I keep a Google Doc with my favourite quotes, passages, advice, insights or tips. That can be a tedious task to maintain, but worth it as I’m mostly borrowing books.

I also tend to be quite all or nothing with my reading habits – I’ll go through periods where I read every night before bed and go through one or two books a week. Then there will be times when I scroll Instagram for three hours instead – which is probably indicative of why I require all the self-help books to begin with!

What does your book collection look like?

For the small collection of books I own, they are nicely colour coded on my desk. I also have an inspiring little collection that doubles as a computer stand, which is very ergonomic.

My borrowed books are often scattered around my room on my mantelpiece or beside my bed.

If you had to pick one book to live in for the rest of your life, which would it be?

Perhaps it’s a little predictable, but it would be fascinating to live in Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. It’s a vast collection of routines and rituals belonging to some of the great thinkers, writers, and artists throughout history and present day – if I lived in this book, I could live a day in the life of Pablo Picasso, Jane Austen, Andy Warhol, Benjamin Franklin, Marina Abramović and more. That would be extraordinary!

Stay tuned for an upcoming column in collaboration between Extraordinary Routines and Kill Your Darlings, where Madeleine will delve into the routines, writing habits, rituals, challenges and triumphs of a diversity of Australian writers.