• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
    —ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

A Guided Tour of Diana’s Bookshelves…


I get a lot of questions about what I read, what resources I find "useful," how much research I do, etc., etc. And when interviewers come to talk to me at home, they always want to see my office, and frequently spend half an hour or more browsing my bookshelves in fascination. So I thought y’all might want to have a peek, too.

(One question I often get is about how I organize my material. It is to larf, as John Lennon so eloquently put it. I have two—no, three—ways of organizing research material. The books live in bookshelves. Loose papers, maps, reprinted emails, etc. go into one of three zippered… things. (I can’t really describe them; they’re about the size of small briefcases, but made of nylon fabric, mesh on one side, and they zip on three sides.) The red one holds all the printed miscellanea for the contemporary mystery that I’ll eventually get round to finishing, the black one has stuff about the Lord John stories’ background—maps of London, a guide to the geology of Jamaica, that sort of thing—and the blue one has Stuff that might at some point be useful to the Big Book— MOBY, at the moment— under construction. Interesting websites and material people email me ends up either as a site bookmark or in a catch-all folder/directory called "JRESRCH.") And, um… that’s about it, really.

I do group books among and within bookshelves, though. This is a small office, so there are only two sets of shelves up here: the huge, built-in set of four bays that my husband got me for an anniversary present in 1993 or so, and a much smaller one that got added during a renovation a couple of years ago. Downstairs, in the lower office, two walls are lined with built-in shelves, but a lot of those books are the family "core" library—classics and series that anybody might want to read anytime. (It has got my collection of ghost stories, the field guides, and the natural history references, too, though.)

Anyway, it’s the big bookshelf in my upper office that mostly fascinates people, so I thought I’d show you that, for starters. Above is the overview, guarded by Otis (my son’s pug, who visits often and likes that chair).

And here’s a closeup of the top shelf, upper left:

This is the larger part of my collection of herbals (which continues on to the next shelf). You’ll note that I plainly need a third (and possibly a fourth) shelf for these, but there’s no place to add more up here. I need to weed through these, and move the less-useful references out to one of the tertiary bookcases in one of the (adult, moved-out) kids’ bedrooms.

The books in this class that are/have been most useful are generally the field guides, which tell me where things grow, which plants are native and which are introduced species, which are edible, poisonous, or medicinal. THE PETERSON FIELD GUIDE TO MEDICINAL PLANTS, Eastern/Central region is the main guide to American herbs, while the Hamlyn GUIDE TO MEDICINAL PLANTS OF GREAT BRITAIN is… well, the British equivalent. Both of these books have indices that include diseases and symptoms, with listings for which herbs are or have been used for treatment of same.

Mrs. M. Grieves’ A MODERN HERBAL (published in 1931; the edition I have is an unabridged 1971 Dover reprint) is a much more detailed and more scholarly reference that includes the chemical analyses of many plants’ active principles, as well as historical and cultural notes on usage. The illustrations are not of the quality you’d find in a more modern production, being mostly line-drawings, but still helpful.

Nicholas Culpeper’s CULPEPER’S COMPLETE HERBAL (published in 1647) is the oldest one I have; less directly useful, but still interesting to see just how far back some of the common herbal medicines were known, as well as to see the theoretical/philosophical basis underlying some of the treatments.

And Paul Beyerl’s THE MASTER BOOK OF HERBALISM gives a thumbnail of each of many commonly useful herbs, with preparation and treatment details—but does so from a Magickal point of view, including information like the phases of the moon and how to use certain herbs in conjunction with various gem stones. (You’ll notice that the few gem magic books I have are also mostly in this section.)

As for the inspirational artifacts… <g>

Moving from left to right:

Basket full of letter-openers. In practice, I usually open letters with a steak-knife (or a pair of poultry shears, for particularly intransigent parcels), as I’m generally reading the mail at the kitchen table. Kindly intentioned people often give me letter-openers (and very beautiful hand-made bookmarks, which—alas—I don’t use, either. If reluctantly compelled to stop reading a book, I normally set it face-down, open to the page I abandoned), though, and I also inherited a couple of these from my father, who didn’t use letter-openers, either, preferring a thumbnail, but kept an ornamental one on his desk for show.

Ferocious dinosaur, made by my son, aged about six at the time. (He’s now 28 and a published novelist in his own right. Sam Sykes, esteemed author of THE TOME OF THE UNDERGATES, BLACK HALO, and— coming in September from Pyr Books (US) and Orion (UK)—THE SKYBOUND SEA.)

Sticks. Mind, these are not just any old sticks. They’re twigs from a silver birch tree, growing on the edge of Alamance Creek in North Carolina. I picked them up during a brief research trip, and used them to evoke the whole sense of vegetation, atmosphere, and weather in parts of THE FIERY CROSS.

Replica of an 18th-century ink-well and tray, given to me by a good friend, John L. Myers (also a writer—of gay crime fiction (the novel HOLY FAMILY), as well as daily prayers and contemplations (at www.sacredpauses.com)). The quill in the inkwell is a raven’s wing-feather (the original goose-quill that came with the inkwell is over in the basket with the letter-openers), and the very large feather is—I think; I lose track of which feathers came from where (this is another thing people give me fairly often, but I do actually use them)—from a golden eagle, given to me in 1974 by a friendly zoo-keeper (now deceased) at the San Diego Zoo (I was doing a small research project there); it came from one of the captive birds at the zoo. If that’s not what it is, it’s a turkey feather.

The tray is filled with dried roses. Each of my daughters, at some point in her adolescence, gave me roses. I kept them.

The small ceramics of the housefly, the panda and the chubby baby’s head were gifts made by my sister—the baby was done from a notorious photograph of my son; the one the family refers to as "you know, the one of Sam as Mr. Potato-head…."

The small basket is full of stamps, though I find that I seldom need one anymore, in these days of ubiquitous emails and the Invaluable Susan, the assistant my husband and I share, who hauls anything outgoing over to the mail-place.

The little statue of the young Virgin was given to me in 6th grade, as a classroom prize of some kind. I was a confirmed teacher’s pet through high-school. Not very popular, as one might expect.

The white unfired ceramic is a memorial paw-print, sent to me by the kindly people at the animal hospital after my first beloved dachshund, Gus, died. [Below are the present incumbents, Homer and JJ, who also like the office chair and ottoman. (Photo of my pups taken by Loretta, my Webmistress.)]

My husband gave me the Disney Cheshire Cat as a souvenir of a family trip to Disneyland.

And the things over to the right are the sort of little bags that people put small gifts of jewelry, scented oil, or knicks-knacks in. I keep thinking they’re bound to be useful one of these days.


Return/go to my Writer’s Corner (What I Do) webpage.


This page was last updated on Thursday, October 25, 2018 at 3:40 a.m. (Pacific Time) by Diana’s Webmistress.

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123 Responses »

  1. Lovely tour! More, more! :)

    Technically speaking, one needs a license to possess eagle feathers, and they’re not easy to get. This is not to say that some of us *cough* don’t have an illicit feather or two around somewhere. (Ours belonged to my grandmother, who *did* have a license.)

    I have some raven feathers, courtesy of our neighborhood flock, but boy, those birds don’t shed much.

    • Dear Marte–

      Well, as I say, it may well be a turkey feather. [g] The termites ate a number of my office-feathers during the renovation, when things were stored in boxes out in the garage.

      I don’t know if it’s that ravens don’t shed much, or that they’re too big for house-cats to be killing them (I can get any number of dove feathers, any day…those birds are incredibly dumb; even the dachshunds can catch them).

      –Diana

      • I absolutely love you book shelves! I have a medicine wheel garden and live a small town beside Niagara Falls Ontario, Canada. Have you read about the 1812 battle of Cooks Mills? That’s where I was born.
        Right now, I’m reading P&P; Fundaments of Nursing… who am I kidding, the Scottish Prisoner gets my attention and I’ve a test to write tomorrow!

        Innocently, I came home from clinical and found my family surprised me with a brand new padio set & placed it center of all my gardens, The Scottish Prisoner on top beside a home made bday card with a celtic knot on the front.

        Now I sip my homemade herbal tea and read in bliss. I best go study for that test while you get crack’in on our much awaited novel! Four years of nursing school is brutal! I’ll be done school right when your expecting the next book is expected to be released.

        Thank you so much Diana, for the escape

      • Doves and mourning doves are some of the most useless birds ever created. :)

        We have a small colony of feral cats (glad I’m not superstitious, because all but one of them are black) and either they don’t catch birds or they don’t leave any remains where I can find them. I must say, since the felines moved in, the roof rats have disappeared. I don’t see them running across the neighbors’ roofline every morning like I used to. This is not a complaint.

        My bookshelves look a lot like yours, including the gifties from all over. And like you, I know how to find what I want and see no need to impose some arbitrary system on the contents. DH prefers a far more orderly life and a more linear system, so it’s a good thing that after we remodeled the office, we each got our own bookshelves.

        I started cataloguing the books with ReaderWare and a bar code scanner a couple years ago, with the general idea that if I knew what was in the collection I wouldn’t go buy the same book twice, but I finally gave up. Even though I know that there is no such thing as too many books… there were too many books.

    • I really enjoyed touring your bookshelves. Thanks so much for sharing all the info about everything.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing part of the world of our favorite author!

  3. Oh my, your bookshelf looks like MY bookshelves, and we have almost identical books! I just don’t have the yoga books :)….but trail books to take their place. I even have them “stacked” the same, LOL. Thanks for sharing, Heike.

  4. Love seeing your bookshelves! One of my earliest memories of my Great-Grandma’s house is standing there, staring at her bookshelves which were and still are jam packed full of books and brick a brack. Consqeuently, thats where I found the rest of the Outlander series while i was still in highschool.

  5. Thanks for sharing. I feel much better about the state of my bookcases!
    P.S. I have the same statue of Mary. I got mine in 7th grade ( solemn communion).

  6. I love bookshelves. They’re like magic to me. Diaaana! I want to make art for your wonderful books!

  7. Dear Diana,
    Thank you for sharing ! I have 3 bookcases. 1 entire shelf full of yours ! All the rest are books except 3 shelves of photo albums. And I donated 4 huge boxes to a library in W VA that had been flooded out and over 200 to a local counselor. I keep trying to downsize as my children say I keep too much. But some books I just can’t let go of, they are too dear. Anxiously awaiting the next book. Know that you are very busy. Thank you again.

  8. Thanks for sharing! Especially the dear memorabilia. Precious souvenirs of life. I save all that stuff too.
    I’ve got plans for my daughter’s room when she is officially out of the house – my own library.
    My bookshelves are over-run, books piled 10 high on top of the others. Your books will get a special spot,
    front and center, within easy reach.

  9. I want to be like you when I grow up!

    Do you ever use the herbals for yourself or just for research? I am wondering how reliable they are!

    Thank you for sharing!

  10. Thank you so much for sharing! The baby is a little creepy, but it’s nice when you have those funny pieces that become a running joke in the family. You have kept so many things! Feathers from 1974!? Your friend must feel so special whenever she comes by and sees that you still have it! It’s so nice being able to see where some of your inspirations and research comes from, thank you again for sharing!

  11. Diana, that’s a great collection. It doesn’t *look* very organized, but I bet you can always find what you need, can’t you? If you ever need any help organizationally-speaking, do call on me. I’d travel… for you!

  12. I also thank you for sharing so much of your life and talent!

  13. Holy….wow! I’m no stalker or anything, but I started reading you *mumbles* years ago, and let’s just say your son was not sporting a beard at the time. How time flies. I will go and check out his books!
    I remember meeting your daughter when you were in San Diego for a Games. You’d co-authored a story in an antho and I gave it to my Mom. What a nice young lady she was.
    How funny is it that I (seriously) JUST had my hands on my signed copies of Cross Stitch and Outlander from 97 this morning as I moved things around on MY bookshelf!

    Thanks for the look-see, Diana. Hope your summer is beautiful so far.

    Heather Bennett

  14. Love it!

    I am so glad to see that my favorite author also has much more than books on her bookshelf. :-) My bookshelves are also “cluttered” with sentimental things, and other things I am not sure where to put and that may be useful so I hang onto them.

    Thank you so much for the tour! I am looking forward to more! :-)

  15. One of the most fascinating elements of your books is the medicinal plant knowledge you exhibit. It’s wonderful you have given me a glimpse of some of the books you used as references. As someone who is interested in this particular field, I look forward to looking for potential copies. Is there any one in particular you recommend? Thx for the glimpse into your world :)

    • Dear Hope–

      If you read the text of the blog-post [g], you’ll see that I did indeed mention a few specific herbals that I’ve found most helpful.

      –Diana

  16. Loved the tour! Thanks for sharing a part of your life.
    I bought my first Outlander book – “Crossstitch” at Culloden. I’ve been hooked ever since.
    I’m one of those people who reads every single word, never skips. I’m currently in “Voyager”, so you can take your time on future releases. I’ve purchased the others and they are lined up on my shelf – just waiting for me to get to them.

  17. I loved the tour. I look forward to seeing part two (and possibly three or more). Your bookshelves look a lot like mine. I have a fifteen foot long wall with floor to ceiling shelves that are positively overflowing. I just can’t bring myself to wittle any of it down. :)

  18. Dear Diana,

    Lovely to see that your bookcase actually bears a striking resemblance to mine, in that as well as books it contains all sorts of interesting articles, mementos, souvenirs and Important Things which my husband dismisses as Clutter, Rubbish and General Untidiness. He thinks a bookcase should contain nothing but tidy, serried ranks of books, sorted by size.

    Men- what do they know? A ‘tidy’ bookcase shows a person with

    a. no soul and
    b. too much time on their hands.

    Love all your books and waiting eagerly and impatiently for MOBY and whatever else comes dripping off your pen. I’m especially looking forward to learning more of Raymond.

    Yours in awe and admiration, from all the way over the pond,

    Faye

    • Faye:
      I agree with some of your thoughts. I have to say that my husband, who is a avid reader, has the following in our house –

      A library upstairs with a wall of books and CD’s all in orderly fashion
      A room in the basement with books that are also in orderly fashion
      And in the family room there is a bookshelf that contains only reference materials.

      In defense of my husband, he is really very creative and while amassing all of his books, he really didn’t have much time on his hand. Now he’s retired

      Over the last few years we have gone through many of the books and donated most to our local library.

      My own bookcase, very small, in our bedroom has no rhyme or reason to it. I just put the books there when done. I know where everything is, though.

      Have been reading DG’s excerpts on face book. At least it’s keeping me sated until the next book comes out. I can hardly wait.

    • Faye, is that along the same lines as ‘a clean desk is a sign of a sick mind’? Someone gave me a desk plaque with that on it (my desk was always notoriously cluttered).

  19. Loved the guided tour! It’s always a joy to peruse someone else’s bookshelf, let alone a favorite author’s! I noticed the asthma-related books and thought of Hal. It’s so sweet that you kept roses from your daughters. And, yes, I also always think little bags will be useful some day.

  20. Wow…thank you for this glimpse into your inner sanctum! That is the bookshelf of my dreams…

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