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My Home Library, by Rachel Suntop

Programming Librarian Rachel Suntop shares her identity through her eclectic library. This post is part of 805's "My Home Library" blog that features essays by writers who are sheltering in place during the Covid-19 pandemic. 805 is proudly published by the Manatee County Public Library System. We hope this blog will help Manatee County residents show off their home libraries, find comfort in books, and feel a connection to the library during this difficult time.

Welcome to my library. As you can see, it is quite an eclectic collection including books (how shocking!), DVDs, CDs, magazines, and some self-published works. My library is distributed in several different places in my home. I have a wide variety of interests and have both fiction and non-fiction (although the majority of my books are actually non-fiction). My collection is constantly evolving as I love to acquire new stuff, but inevitably let go of other items because I don’t have a lot of storage room.

I have quite an extensive recipe book collection. Since a very young age, I have been passionate about baking, and to a lesser extent, cooking. Some of my cookbooks date back

to when I was a young girl, and some I keep more as sentimental reminders of my childhood years as a baker. Probably one of my favorite and most used books is the Betty Crocker Cookie Book. I remember one day in 3rd or 4th grade getting this book from school (each month, students would order from a printed catalog) and was so excited I couldn’t wait to go home and try a recipe. Cookies have been, and still are, my favorite treats to bake. Since getting diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2010, I have had to drastically alter my diet, but fortunately there are excellent gluten-free flour mixes that serve as great substitutes for regular flour so I can still make many of my old recipes. Additionally, I now have a great collection of gluten-free cookbooks. Other cookbooks are full of recipes from around the world, as I love global cuisine. Some of my “cookbooks” are actually collections of recipes that I’ve printed from the internet and put into 3 ring binders.

Also noteworthy are my collections of art and craft books. My art and craft books are a combination of how-tos, collections of inspiring artists and some very unique art books. For instance, I own a limited copy of the colorful prints and art of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a visionary Austrian artist known for his distinctive utopian architecture. When I was in Vienna last spring, I visited one of his dreamy rainbow apartment homes and a museum. This book came from my dad. Both of my parents are avid collectors of art books, particularly those that are rare and antique. My mother is a photographer who has published many books in her decades as an artist and I own copies of most of those, too. A couple of them are available in our Eaton room at the library including Bea Nettles: Harvest of Memory.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to travel. Of course, right now I’m not able to go very far but looking at these books puts me back in a virtual mindset. I have beautiful coffee table picture books of places that I’ve traveled to including Iceland, Finland and Lake Superior. I have the Rick Steves and Fodor’s travel guides to Europe, Chicago, Florida and other places, although some are several years of out-of-date (I have a soft spot for withdrawn library books, so I like to keep them for ideas and inspiration). I also have my own collection of books that I created using Snapfish, that document various trips I’ve taken to Europe and all around the state of Florida.

I love to read fiction and slip into alternate realities. Some of my favorite genres are historical fiction, fantasy, horror, mysteries, poetry and science fiction. The Scary Stories to tell in the Dark series has always been one of my favorites. It brings back memories of when we did sleepovers in the prairie with my summer camp (I grew up in Illinois). I especially like to read

these stories around Halloween time. Just recently, there has been a movie made that features some of these stories. Both the stories themselves and the movie are available at our library. Some more obscure but favorite fantasy books include Under Plum Lake by Lionel Davidson and some of the Patricia McKillip novels. They are colorful, creative and take me on distant journeys to visit fascinating lands.

I am also an avid film watcher and I enjoy both fiction and documentary films. One subject that I’m endlessly fascinated with is the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, held in the city of Chicago. I own a documentary about that fair that was narrated by Gene Wilder and it makes me wish I were alive back then to see it. Types of movies I like are drama, horror, fantasy, comedy, classics, foreign and independent. Another film I enjoy is Dreams (1990) by Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. In it are 8 different dreams, each with beautiful magical realism and stunning visual impact. Another three, which happen to be children’s films, are my favorite in the fantasy genre. These are the Dark Crystal (1982), the Neverending Story (1984), and Labyrinth (1986). Each is really artistic, imaginative and managed to do remarkable things with their visual effects and puppetry, back when technology was much more limited.

When speaking about my personal library, I can’t forget my large collection of music CDs. Although technology has been changing quickly and most of this music is available to download and listen to electronically, I still like to pop in a good album now and then in my car when I’m driving. Favorite artists include the Beatles, David Bowie, Bjork, Sigur Ros, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Massive Attack, Michael Jackson, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, U2, Tom Waits, Sufjan Stevens, Cocteau Twins, Elton John, Tori Amos and PJ Harvey to name a few. I also love to listen to classical music, especially Bach and Chopin, and to world music, ranging from Nordic to Javanese gamelan.

I see my home library as a reflection of my identity which represents my passions in life. It keeps me company, gives me inspiration, and helps me to get through these challenging times.


Rachel Suntop is Programming Librarian at the Manatee County Public Library System. A textile artist, she travels extensively and loves movies, music, and baking.


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