September 4, 2015

B is for Books

Welcome to the Write On, Mamas! We are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. We would love to hear your comments.


Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

In the middle of a conversation with a group of friends I was expounding on some topic I can no longer recall and one interrupted and said, “No, let me guess you’ve read a book about that.” We all laughed because yes, there is a book about that and that is me, the book reader, the book buyer and part-time book seller.

I think back to my motherhood journey. I read books about pregnancy, following along as the baby inside me grew from the size of a kidney bean to a wiggling mass that vaguely resembled a baby when the ultrasound technician pointed out parts. The birth of my first baby opened up an entire new postpartum section at the bookstore: making baby food, how to get your baby to sleep, a book to equally reassure and worry you about developmental milestones, and of course books to read to her. Board books, tub books, books for her growing library, books I hoped she would read herself one day.

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the books they keep. Look at yours and see what it reflects. A journey through my shelves mirrors my mothering life. I see the early lives of my children categorized by their ailments: the cancer shelf, the autism shelf now overtaken by the diabetes shelf and the growing how to parent a teen shelf. Intermingled among them are the mom shelves: the yoga book shelf, the creativity and writing books shelves which tend to spill over onto my night table and the floor by my bed, and oh look, there’s a pile, or maybe two, on the corner coffee table where my MacBook Air often sits to charge.

My books confirm that I’m a mom, a yoga teacher and a writer. I wonder where I will place my Write On Mamas anthology, the first book I will be in. It deserves a space of honor as it signifies that somehow amidst all the chaos of motherhood or maybe because of it, I have become a published writer.

Sue LeBreton’s essay Literary Love will appear in Mamas Write.



  1. My bookshelves (at least, my non-fiction ones) lean in a lot of directions. Some here are science: physics, psychology, biology and chemistry; some are artistic: watercolors and acrylics, crochet and crafts; many are history: Warfare in the Ottoman empire, Alexander the Great, and more Asian histories than I can name in a single comment; a good deal of them are reference: a jewel and precious metals handbook, the encyclopedia of world culture, the encyclopedia of world mythology and the like. My bookshelves reflect my love of learning in many different subjects, and my chaotic inability to stay grounded on one topic for very long.

    Congrats on being published!

    Nicky @

    • Sue Le Breton says:

      Nicky: Thanks for sharing the contents of your bookshelf. What a great way to introduce ourselves. You say it is a chaotic inability to stay on one topic for long, maybe it is simply an energetic mind that needs variety.

  2. Sue,
    Clearly you need a new shelf in a place of honor in for this new book—with room for others to come!

    My book pile right now (and for the last month or so) shows how ready I am for spring. There are all kinds of gardening books. It would also tell you that I’m looking to expand my food production (more fruits and berries and chickens) and have it all work together in my yard. My reading pile would tell you I’m a writer and I’m interested in memoir. Take a look at the bookcase in my old office and you’ll find a lot of reference books—dictionaries, a handful of style guides, vocabulary resources, history and literary guides. There’s a whole shelf of writing books and anthologies about writers. Down at the bottom of that bookcase in the room that’s now a playroom, I have the kids music books and activity books. Look in my kitchen and you’ll see that even though I’m done with winter I haven’t swapped out the soup and bread books for the fresh from the garden and canning cookbooks.

    I love this way of identifying yourself and using it a lens to see the different parts of you and different phases of life.

    • Sue Le Breton says:

      Of course Sara you would include the cooking and gardening books. I had not even thought of those although yes, they have their own space. I have no gardening books but yes, even the cookbooks are also a lens into who we are, or who we aspire to be. I do not swap out my cookbooks by season- you mentioning that shows how in tune you are with the seasons. Hope your day offers some reading time.

  3. Claire Hennessy says:

    The books on my bookshelf (or should I say, shelves) are overflowing and in piles on the floor, beside the bed, in the office, in the living room and in my ridiculous bag I carry around everywhere in case I get 5 mins of peace to actually read. My dream is a beautiful wall of shelves to place them so I can actually see them all, with a comfy armchair nearby so I can read them… and no-one around to interrupt! Thanks for your great post Sue.

    • Sue Le Breton says:

      Ah yes, Claire the piles of books, they trace over my house as well. Truly a sign of a rich life I believe. I have ditched the large bag and travel with my Kobo. It is so much easier but I find I read fiction electronically, the other books I want to keep and mark in I still buy in paper.

  4. Phoebe Bode says:

    I can see this thread unraveling with lots of fun: “Tell me about your books.” I look at the way my husband has sorted his books–not alphabetical (as I have in two different rooms) but in one room 400+ books, mostly fiction, are placed by subject, though some, like Steinbeck, are by author. Oh, there’s Molly Ivins (who was the first one to call G. W. B. ‘Shrub” and one on jazz, several by James Carlos Blake, and Larry McMurtry and THE AUDACITY OF HOPE. Hmm, there’s Barbara Jordan, Barbara Kingsolver, and Naomi’s book of poems. Do you know the poet, Naomi Nye? Ahh, one of Guy de Maupassant’s works, copyrighted 1905. Off to the side, a wooden ladder I couldn’t part with, has his collection of books on San Francisco. Someone gave us a globe that spins on a stand with a shelf. That’s where I have his own books–including probably his final book which came out in March: EL PASO DAYS. On that shelf is VIOLET and RUBY, by 6 yr.old granddaughter, Chiara Kovac. On that shelf I’ll add MAMAS WRITE.

    • Sue Le Breton says:

      Yours are alphabetical. That’s how my 14-year-old like to sort hers. My system, and I use the word loosely, is closer to your husband’s. I do not know the poet Naomi Nye, but I will look for her. I loved how you toured us through your books, I could almost see you reaching out to lovingly touch a spine here and there. What a writing family you have. I’ll be pleased to sit on the shelf among them.

  5. Sue – Love the Writing Mamas website! Never would have found it without the A-Z Challenge. BOOKS – that is a topic I can relate to, since I am a librarian, a writer, a researcher, and of course, a person whose house is overflowing with full shelves, and haphazard stacks of books! I love the way you have used the content of your bookshelves to tell a capsule story of your life. May have to steal that idea sometime!

    • Sue Le Breton says:

      Carolyn: Thanks for your comment. Librarian what a nobel profession. I was always a volunteer librarian at my children’s school. Any place that is filled with books is special.

  6. Terry Ross says:

    Sue, I love your writing. It is always so thought provoking. My book shelves are minimal. I love to pass books on so other people can enjoy them also. On my shelves I keep my favorites that I have read time and time again – fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks. Diana Gabaldon is a guilty pleasure. And then there is the pile beside my nightstand waiting to be read and then passed on or maybe even be the lucky book on my ‘keep’ shelf.

    • Sue Le Breton says:

      Terry, there is something so freeing about not holding onto books. I think many of us read to connect with others, so way to go. I like having a pile by the bed so I can change books with my mood.

  7. Mary Lynn says:


    Love how you equate your book collection to your life’s journey. Made me look at my books in a new light. Hate to admit it but of course the self help section was the largest part of my collection!! :)

    • Sue Le Breton says:

      I am a lover of self help as well, always looking for ways to live our best lives. Thanks for your support.

  8. Tanya Bonham says:

    I love that your friends know you so well, that they would assume “of course you have read a book on any given topic of interest to you”! Girlfriends and books; two of my favourite things! I too, have a small collection of books from different adventures in my life. One of my favorite memories was devouring my first pregnancy book in anticipation of my first baby. So many special memories to cherish. My 10 year old son just loves reading! He can easily devour a chapter book in one day. We are often searching for new books online from our local library; this is something we love to do together. Books can provide you and your loved ones with some many special memories. I am looking forward to reading your essay in your first book!! Such a huge accomplishment for you! Congratulations Sue!

    • Sue Le Breton says:

      Your boy is a young man after my own heart. I keep working to get my son hooked. Bonding through books is incredibly powerful and I am so happy that at least with one of my children I can share that.

  9. Great B post! My books are everywhere, neatly shelved, spilling over in piles, tucked in behind the front seat of the car. I’ve been through every parenting book phase and now have (gasp!) fiction, sci-fi, historical fiction: books I read for pleasure, not to solve or come to terms with a kid related phase or issue. Now I deal with the time to read them.

    • Sue Le Breton says:

      Mary Allison, how great to read simply for pleasure. I’ve always tried to balance the two because reading soothes me no matter what else is happening. Ah yes, the time to read is a challenge- you said you have books in the car so guess you are maximizing opportunities.

  10. Hi Sue,
    What an inspiration! I wish I were a better reader (this from an English major, no less!). Oh, well, perhaps in my retirement . . .

    • Sue LeBreton says:

      I am curious about what you mean a better reader. Do you mean more? I think as long as you enjoy what you read then you are doing it well :-)

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