Tired of scouring the internet for thoughtful essays on bibliophile culture without the clickbait and annoying ads?
You've come to the right place.
Off the Beaten Shelf is a pan-textual book blog for the reader who likes a literary sampler plate.
This blog is for the reader who knows that when you read more, you live more.
Hello there. I'm Mandy Shunnarah, a writer based in Columbus, OH.
I'm the human behind the blog.
My goal is to inspire people to read more books so reading can better enrich their lives, just as they've enriched mine. I've loved books as long as I can remember and I enjoy writing about books almost as much as I enjoy reading them.
If you enjoy discussions of book nerd culture, book reviews, musings on writing, and commentary on the book world, welcome! I chronicle my adventures in reading and the multitude of ways reading has enlightened my life. I don't shy away from the tough subjects and I tell it like it is.
I'm basically your favorite f-bomb-dropping high school English teacher you always wanted to have a beer with.
An Off the Beaten Shelf Book Nerd is someone who loves to read and sees reading as an integral part of his or her identity. A reader who will try a little bit of everything and isn't afraid to read the unknown. A reader who's unabashedly intelligent, but isn't a snob about it---someone who doesn't judge others' reading tastes, but is just happy they're reading.
A reader who's socially conscious and understands that great stories don't just come from dead white dudes. A reader who knows that great stories are found in every genre. A reader who believes all forms of reading are valid, whether paper or digital or, what the hell, even scrolls. A reader who knows that reading is simultaneously a source of entertainment and an inherently political act.
If you're this kind of reader, you're home here.
You'll notice that this book blog is a little different.
In the navigation you'll find a tab called Politically Literate. It's a political blog.
This was added on November 9th, 2016. The day after Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election to Donald Trump.
We cannot afford to be silent in the face of injustice.
We cannot be silent and hope that whatever privileges we have will save us.
Desmond Tutu said that to choose silence is to choose the side of the oppressor. Our desire to be apolitical cannot outweigh the need to speak out. Our comfort is nothing compared to the pain people of marginalized identities face.
Politically Literate is not hard news and will never be. I post thoughtful pieces written by myself and others that encourage people to open their minds to the reality of injustice and use their voices for good.
I'll be straight with you.
If you don't like the posts you see on Politically Literate, you're not going to like my book blog either. There are places for you online, but this isn't it. No hard feelings.
- Do you do book reviews?
Yes! Check out my review policy. That's a super transparent list of what I'm looking for to help you determine if we're a good fit. Be sure to read that review policy in full before reaching out. I also review books at PANK Magazine.
- Why should we care what you think anyway? What credentials do you have?
I'm an English major who plans to never graduate from the humanities classroom of the world. I read 60+ books a year, along with keeping abreast of book news. I've had 175+ journalism articles published (not including this blog) and I practice my creative writing on a regular basis. I know a good story when I see one and I'd love to share them with you.
- Where can I meet more Off the Beaten Shelf Book Nerds?
I've got a Facebook group full of them! 140+ book lovers who totally understand when you cry over fictional characters and don't want to leave the house because you just got to the really good part. Join us!
- Do you take guest posts?
Yes! Please read through my past posts to make sure my blog is an appropriate outlet for your work before submitting. Feel free to contact me with my pitches via my Contact form.
- Will you write a guest post for my blog?
Perhaps! Contact me with info on what kind of post you're looking for and more info about your blog. From there I'll determine if we're a good fit and get in touch.
- Why do you read so much?
I have a natural propensity toward being a royal asshat and books keep me in check. No, really. Reading has been scientifically shown to foster empathy. Also, I love learning, so by reading I can learn to be a decent human being AND get smarter. BOOM.
- What do you do when you're not reading and writing?
I can usually be found enjoying a museum, riding my bike, hiking, walking my long-suffering cat on her leash, indulging in tasty non-Western food, scouting vintage clothes at the local thrift store, hanging out with friends, extolling the virtues of feminism, attending random festivals, enjoying the company of my beloved partner, and probably thinking about the next things I'm going to read and write. And dropping lots of f-bombs, because that's just how I roll.
- What's your favorite book?
If I had to pick JUST one, I'd say A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer duBois. It didn't get 1/16th of the hype it deserved.
- Do you do freelance writing?
Yes! I'm happy to submit articles about books, printing, publishing, libraries, authors, book reviews, museums, and storytelling in general. I also write moving personal essays that have been published in some lit mags (this one and this one are my current favorites). I'm also happy to consider interesting feature pieces on topics not mentioned here. To get an idea of my book-related posts, take a scroll through this blog. To see my published pieces of journalism, check out my Clips tab.
- Why do you love books so much anyway?
I'm an only child and I grew up with a single mother who worked a lot. Unless I wanted to suffer perpetual boredom, I had to come up with ways to entertain myself. Books quickly became my favorite method of keeping myself out of trouble. If you've ever been whipped with a switch by a feisty Southern woman, you know why I was keen to stay out of trouble.
- Do you do public speaking?
Yes! I'm happy to consider speaking engagements such as book clubs, book/reading conferences, storytelling events, blogging events, and the like. I spoke to a crowd of 250+ at an Arc Light Stories event in Birmingham, AL. Send me the details of your event via my Contact form.
- Do you really have a cat named after an author?
It's true! We've even been in the newspaper. Her name is J.K. Meowling. I've got a whole list of literary cat names for when there are even more cats in my future. Gabriel Garcia Marcatz, Margaret Catwood, and Jack Keroucat are up next!
- Who's your favorite author that you've met?
It's a toss up between Sherman Alexie and Anthony Doerr. Both are pretty remarkable fellas, but Sherman curses more so I felt more of a kinship with him.
- I don't get it. Why'd you add a political blog to your book blog?
Because I am first and foremost a writer and, while writing is no substitute for action, I believe the role of the artist is more important than ever. We're living in scary times and real people's lives and well-beings are threatened. The least I can do is shed light on the injustices people face and encourage my readers to use their voices for good. I have no desire to remain apolitical, so if you do this probably isn't the place for you.
If you like what you see, connect with me on Twitter and Instagram by following @fixedbaroque and sign up for my email list (see boxes at the top and bottom of this page).