It must have been during my second year of teaching that I found the Tumblr, Writing Prompts. It used to be updated all of the time, and I used these prompts from there daily during my time teaching in Oklahoma City. Over the years, the frequency of new prompts added has certainly declined, but what do really expect after posting over eight hundred different writing prompts?

I would scroll through prompt after prompt to save for my classroom’s eventual use. And, although I cannot find the specific Ideal Bookshelf prompt, I am fairly certain it is from the one of the writing prompts on the Tumblr page, and it is one of the writing prompts that stuck with me. From prompts ranging from having to imagine a world without cars and “only horses” to beginning a prompt with the sentence frame, “I wish I could be six again so I could . . .”, it is the Ideal Bookshelf prompt that I routinely think back to, maintain my “shelf”, and update it as needed.  

The Ideal Bookshelf is this. It is a list of the books that have mattered to you. The books that have shaped you as a reader and thinker. They may not be the greatest books ever, but they are the books that have made a difference to you in some way. There’s an amazing website, where artist Jane Mount will paint a picture of the spines of your ideal bookshelf, which is where the Tumblr “borrowed” the idea for its prompt.  

To borrow the beginning of another prompt from the Tumblr, “David Dark says, ‘what we’re reading or listening to, or rather, what we are getting into lately is in some sense the most profound question we can ask each other.’” And, I, to some extent agree, because our interests tell stories.

High School drives with Green Day’s American Idiot used to project my brother from my car so he could free himself from the demonic music.

Childhood hours of playing the PC game, Pharaoh, and coming to terms with the human impact on the planet as the Egyptian city I planned took over the ostrich grazing grounds.

Refusing to yield my Easter gift, The Death of Superman comic book collection, to my older cousin who was horribly displeased with his Tiny Toons book.


Each book on my Ideal Bookshelf tells a story.


Ideal Bookshelf

Writing Prompts


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