Shelf-Love: Claire Cameron


Claire Cameron has spent time in many places: She’s led canoe trips in Algonquin Park, taught climbing and white-water rafting in Oregon, and lived in San Francisco and London, UK. Most recently, she’s put down roots in Toronto, where she currently lives with her husband and two sons.

Claire’s home is one of those places that you won’t want to leave. It’s simultaneously comfortable and covetable, bright and open, yet carefully tucked away. From the second she swung the door open and warmly invited us in we knew this would be a Shelf-Love to remember. And, we were right.

Both modern and incredibly charming, Claire’s home reflects her unique sense of style to a tee. In one corner, you’ll find a graphic black and white rug, in another a vintage record player and stand for sheet music. The same goes for her collection of books. Claire is quick to gush about the new books she’s reading and loving (I Am. I Am. I Am by Maggie O’Farrell being one), but also affectionately points out her well-worn editions of some of Farley Mowat’s greatest works.

We sat down with Claire to chat about her truly unique collection, her writing process, and where she loves to read. 

How do you organize your books?

I have non-fiction and fiction in separate shelves. And then I go by feeling. No sane person could ever hope to follow my shelving system and that’s okay. I get nervous when they try.

Have you ever done a book overhaul?

I did one recently. As I spend all day on a computer, print books are the ultimately luxury. I buy tons and I’m sent even more. I had to build new bookshelves recently, but that’s a habit I can’t afford to repeat, so there are great culls every few years. It takes forever as I can’t stop myself reading as I sort.

Which books in your collection would you read over and over again?

It’s a moving target, but I’m really into Iris Murdoch at the moment.

Where do you keep the books you’ve written?

On a shelf in my office. When I am feeling washed up, which is more often than I’d like, I can look at them and think—well, that was fun while it lasted!

Claire has had these Beatles posters for years. As you can see the photo of John Lennon is missing–
she loved that one the most.

What are you reading right now?

Any and every Maggie O’Farrell book that I haven’t managed to already gobble up. I’m interviewing her in February and really looking forward to it. She is a long time favourite.

Do you like to read at home or on the go?

I have a terrible habit of buying an ebook for convenience. Then, I fall in love with the book, want to bond by highlighting and dog-earring, so buy a print copy. I end up reading both anywhere and everywhere.

Where do you typically write?

I always write in the same place in my office. I need my books around and notebooks within reach. I also like to lock the door, because I go into a deep state of concentration. When I’m writing well, I forget where I am. Having someone walk in unexpectedly feels like they have burst through from reality—it’s terrifying.

Claire creates intricate notebooks before setting out to write a book. The above is just one from her collection.

Do you write in the morning, afternoon, or night?

Morning. I wake up early and write first thing. I need coffee in hand, but otherwise I prefer not to talk to other humans if I can help it.

What is your writing process like?

Messy. Before I die, my wish is to think of an idea book, mentally organize it, perfect and polish, and then write one draft clean. At the moment, my process is almost exactly the opposite.

Is there anything you need to have around you while you write?

My books because I’m always jumping up to reference something, or remind myself of an idea. I also need my noise cancelling headphones. Like the kind the people who direct airplanes on the tarmac wear? I started with them when my kids were small and I wanted to block out the wailing in the background. At some point, they started to signal that I was diving in. Now I wear them even when the house is empty.

Quick fire round:

Pen or pencil?

Can I say keyboard?

Notebook or laptop?

Desktop. It’s all about the posture.

Tea or coffee?

Coffee. I am straightforward on this issue alone.

Book or e-reader?

I’m slowly moving back to print.

Stacks or shelves?

Both and all.

photography and interview by Laura Chapnick

The Bear
Written by Claire Cameron;
The Last Neanderthal
Written by Claire Cameron;