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A Peek Behind Julianna’s Shelf

We are passionate readers who love nothing more than discovering fantastic books and sharing them with friends. We recommend books that move us to laughter and tears—and everything in between. Trust us when we say, "You've got to read this!"

Meet Julianna! She’s is an associate editor, and happily lives her life according to the three B’s: Books, Baking, and Bravo. A lifelong reader, Julianna is a compulsive borrower, buyer, and collector of literary and historical fiction, biographies, and cultural history. She’s also behind your favorite bookstagrams @offtheshelfofficial.

What are some of your favorite books/authors?

You would think that being asked this question on a near-daily basis would mean that I have a set list, but I don’t! It’s always changing, and the pressure is too real to name them all. But, I think the books I’ll always think of as changing my life as a reader are EMPIRE FALLS by Richard Russo, THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH by Ken Follett, NEW YORK by Edward Rutherfurd, THE RUN OF HIS LIFE by Jeffrey Toobin, TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS by Cheryl Strayed, and THE MISTS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I’m also a big journalism nerd, so those big anthologies of long-form profiles and pieces from New York Magazine, The New Yorker, and authors like Truman Capote, Martha Gellhorn, Susan Orlean, and the New Journalism folks are must-haves.

Tell us about your job. What’s it like working in editorial? What’s your craziest work story?

I’m an associate editor at Simon & Schuster, working on both fiction and non-fiction (though it skews a bit more toward the latter). There’s a lot that goes into being an editor, but I think that one thing people may not realize is that, contrary to popular depictions, we don’t spend all day reading. A lot of our day is made up of writing copy, tracking production schedules, checking copyedits, talking with authors, and juggling a bunch of different projects—all made worth it when you open a box and a bunch of finished books are looking back up at you. As for craziest work story, I once had to literally drop everything I was doing and hop on an international flight to deliver pages to an author who was off the grid, so it’s never dull!

If you couldn’t work in publishing, what would you do?

My three dream jobs as a kid were Egyptologist, head of the National Archives, and network news producer (thanks to awesome female characters in The Mummy, National Treasure, and Broadcast News, respectively). But I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t have the Nora Ephron dream of owning and running a bookstore and small café. It’s weird—I can easily picture myself being in a super corporate setting and enjoying that kind of work, but whenever I think of something that would make me happy every day, books always come to mind. Which, I think, is how I know I’ve made the right choices so far!

What is your favorite place to read?

On the back porch of my parents’ house in Vermont. In the summer and fall, we hang lantern lights and put out two couches with big pillows and side tables-perfect for a stack of books, a plate of snacks, and a cold beer or glass of wine. It’s surrounded by leaves and branches and since we’re far from the road, you barely hear any noise, so it’s basically the adult treehouse I always wanted. Even in the winter, I’ll sometimes wrap myself up in a big horse blanket and sit out there.

Outside of books, do you have any fun hobbies?

I really love to bake and to travel, and I also really—as weird as it might sound—like to just walk. When it’s nice outside, I avoid public transit as much as I can and just walk everywhere. Living in New York, you’re often trapped in the endless loop of routine and moving from place to place to place without really looking at where you are. So even though I grew up here and know the city well, I try to get out as much as I can and explore things I might normally miss.

What’s one thing Off the Shelf readers don’t know about you?

You can tell a lot about me by the types of lists and reviews I write for OTS, but here are three more fun facts. One: I have near-perfect recall for book covers and song lyrics. No idea why. Two: I grew up in a family that loved to ski. My brother was a competitive freestyle skier, while I was the captain of my school’s racing team and was also a certified instructor until college, and we spent literally every winter weekend for almost a decade driving around the East Coast for competitions. And three: I can’t see 3-D.


Empire Falls
by Richard Russo
I will never not recommend this book! The winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize, Richard Russo’s novel EMPIRE FALLS follows Miles Roby (the owner of the Empire Grill), his family, and his friends in the small, blue-collar, and slowly bankrupting titular Maine town.

Read the full review of EMPIRE FALLS.
Empire Falls
Richard Russo

I will never not recommend this book, and what a perfect excuse again! The winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize, Richard Russo’s novel EMPIRE FALLS follows Miles Roby (the owner of the Empire Grill), his family, and his friends in the small, blue-collar, and slowly bankrupting titular Maine town. —Julianna (Maine)

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The Pillars of the Earth
by Ken Follett
This epic novel set in medieval England centers around a Gothic cathedral and the pride, love, and greed it inspires in the townspeople affected by its creation. Political, social, and religious upheaval make for a storyline that’s fast paced and action packed without sacrificing historical detail.
The Pillars of the Earth
Ken Follett

This two-novel epic set in medieval England centers around a Gothic cathedral and the pride, love, and greed it inspires in the townspeople affected by its creation. Political, social, and religious upheaval make for a storyline that’s fast paced and action packed without sacrificing historical detail.

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New York
by Edward Rutherfurd
At 880 pages, this novel can be a bit intimidating, but, in all fairness, so is the city that serves as its main character. The aptly titled NEW YORK provides a sweeping history of the Big Apple through the eyes of various often-related characters, from the city’s beginnings as a Native American village up to September 11, 2001.
New York
Edward Rutherfurd

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The Run of His Life
by Jeffrey Toobin
This book has been mentioned on lists before, but that’s simply because it’s one of the best examples of nonfiction that reads like a novel. Jeffrey Toobin’s page-turning, addictive account of the O. J. Simpson trial—for which he was present as a legal reporter for The New Yorker—is shocking and stirring, just like any great courtroom thriller.
The Run of His Life
Jeffrey Toobin

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Tiny Beautiful Things
by Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed, author of WILD, is as candid and compassionate as ever as “Sugar,” the formerly anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus. TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS is a striking collection of “Dear Sugar” columns, the gentlest tough-love advice you’ll ever need to hear.

Tiny Beautiful Things
Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed, author of WILD, is as candid and compassionate as ever as “Sugar,” the formerly anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus. TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS is a striking collection of “Dear Sugar” columns, the gentlest tough-love advice you’ll ever need to hear.

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The Mists of Avalon
by Marion Zimmer Bradley
This beloved series explores the magic and mythology of King Arthur’s Britain. Told from the perspective of the female characters who are usually marginalized in Arthurian legend, it is sure to appeal to readers who love OUTLANDER’s feminist contribution to the fantasy genre.
The Mists of Avalon
Marion Zimmer Bradley

This beloved series explores the magic and mythology of King Arthur’s Britain. Told from the perspective of the female characters who are usually marginalized in Arthurian legend, it is sure to appeal to readers who love Outlander’s feminist contribution to the fantasy genre.

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