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Shelf Reflection is a monthly series where we explore the bookshelves and reading habits of our featured First Book Club authors.

This month’s reflection is from Madeleine Ryan, whose debut novel A Room Called Earth (Scribe) explores a young woman’s magical, sensitive, and passionate inner world. Stay tuned for more on our website and podcast later in the month!

Madeleine Ryan's bookshelves - two timber waist-high bookshelves against a brick wall. The top shelf of the bookshelf on the right contains multiple copies of 'A Room Called Earth', and the bottom shelf contains several stacks of magazines.

Madeleine’s bookshelves. Image: Supplied

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Gabrielle Bernstein’s Super Attractor. It’s about focusing on joy and becoming magnetic, so that you can manifest magical and amazing things in your life, and in the lives of others. I have a cookbook open, Ella Mills aka Deliciously Ella’s Quick & Easy. I am plant-based and I adore her recipes. I have Marianna Mayer and K.Y. Craft’s picture book of Pegasus by the bed and when I’ve got space to sit in the sunshine for a few hours I’ll chip away at Dostoyevsky’s Demons, which I’m loving. So dense. And hilarious. And ugly. And fabulous. Then there’s Madame Pamita’s Magical Tarot, which I always have at the ready.

What kind of reader are you?

I usually have a buffet of books on the go. I dip in and out of different ones depending upon my mood and how much time and space I have. It’s rare for me to get devoured by one fiction book and one fiction book alone. I am loving Demons, but it doesn’t exist in isolation for me.

Throughout the day I’ll grab a novel at random, open to a page, and see what message it has for me.

My partner and I sometimes read aloud memoirs and biographies together. The last one we attempted was Woody Allen’s Apropos of Nothing, which we found at a market. As you can imagine, this ritual sparks some very engaging conversations! I often re-read self-help books and illustrated children’s books. Throughout the day I’ll grab a novel at random, open to a page, and see what message it has for me.

What does your book collection look like?

I seem to organise my books according to size. I say ‘seem’ because that wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision. My bookshelves appear to have made that choice. They have their own ideas about things. And, looking at the photo I just took of two of them (I have more shelves scattered around the house, but these two are closest to my desk), it appears that they’re also wonky?

I have new and secondhand books: classics, literature, fiction, philosophy, spirituality, self-help, health, biography, autobiography, children’s books, poetry. Some belong to my parents’. There are national geographic magazines and copies of A Room Called Earth. There are a few oracle card decks. And candles. My book collection is a mess. A magical, controversial, mess.

My book collection is a mess. A magical, controversial, mess.

What’s one book you found critical to the writing of your own book?

I wish I could say that there was just one! There are so many that influenced the writing of the book swirling around in my conscious and unconscious minds. Umm. I’m going to be naughty and list the first ones that I can think of: The Philosophy of Andy Warhol by Andy Warhol, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay, Aboriginal Country by Lisa Bellear, A Course in Miracles.

What book/s are you constantly recommending other people read?

Anything by Louise Hay. Spend a day with me (even an hour) and, no doubt, at least once, I’ll be like, ‘well, Louise would say that that’s about…’

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

A Room Called Earth.

I’m a control freak.

Any upcoming projects, causes or events you’d like to mention?

My partner and I are currently working on the screen adaptation of A Room Called Earth. I’ll be at different writers’ festivals this year and I don’t have social media. So if you’d like to keep in touch, visit my website, and sign up for my newsletter. Yay.

A Room Called Earth is available from your local independent bookseller.