Do you ever look at your bookshelf and feel behind? Or like a lot of readers are in some exclusive club and you got left out? Or that everyone is reading all the same things?
If you're looking for a book nerdy balance between the books everyone has heard of and no one has heard of, you've come to the right place.
Off the Beaten Shelf is a book blog for the reader who likes a 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.
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 their 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.
Do you have a book club I can join?
Sure do! But only if you're in Columbus, OH, since we meet in person. I have two: Bad Girls Book Club and Silent Book Club Columbus.
Bad Girls Book Club is for female, female-identifying, trans, non-binary, and/or gender non-comforming people only. We have an assigned book and meet at the same location every month.
Silent Book Club Columbus is open to anyone and everyone and there's no assigned book. Just bring whatever you're currently reading and come hang out with us wherever we are that month (the location changes each meeting).
(This is the Columbus chapter of Silent Book Club, which is international. So if you're not in Columbus, see if there's one in your city! If there's not one, start one––it's super easy. And I can say from experience it's a lot of fun.)
Both book clubs are on Meetup and you can get all the info in the links above. I'd love to meet you!
Do you do book reviews?
Yes! Well, sometimes if I’m not swamped with other things. 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 and Deep South Magazine. And I'm a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
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 100+ 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. My creative nonfiction has been published in several literary magazines, including The Rumpus, Deep South Magazine, Barely South Review, Entropy Magazine, The Citron Review, Heavy Feather Review, The Missing Slate, and New Southerner Magazine. 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! 190+ 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 do creative writing outside this blog?
I sure do! I write mostly creative nonfiction, though I occasionally write poetry and short stories. You can check it out on this page. I’m also working on an essay collection and a novel and you can learn more about them here.
Are you looking for a literary agent for your essay collection and novel?
Indeed I am! Reach out to me at email@example.com if you’re an agent or know an agent you’d like to send my way.
Do you take guest posts?
Yes! If the post is a good fit for my site. 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.
What do you do when you're not reading and writing?
I can usually be found roller skating, 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 intersectional 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 To Kill a Mockingbird. But also, 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 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 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, and have done other storytelling events in Louisville, KY and Columbus, OH. I'm hilarious (see for yourself). 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?
Anthony Doerr all the way. I was so moved I even wrote a blog post about it.
Why do you talk about politics in a 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.
last updated 10 April 2019
Mandy Shunnarah is an Alabama-born writer who now calls Columbus, Ohio home. Her essays, poetry, short stories, and book reviews have been published in or are forthcoming from Electric Literature, The Rumpus, Entropy Magazine, The Normal School, Mizna, The Citron Review, Barely South Review, Heavy Feather Review, The Missing Slate, PANK Magazine, New Southerner Magazine, Deep South Magazine, Southern Women’s Review, The Dandelion Review, the Columbus Anthology from Belt Publishing and more. She is currently at work on an essay collection about her half Southern, half Palestinian family. Read more on her website offthebeatenshelf.com.
I LOVE fan art. If you make me fan art, I'll showcase it on this page and on my blog.
And lastly, the (unfortunately necessary) legalese disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog and on my social media sites are mine alone and do not reflect those of my employer. (However, should someone try to get me fired for cursing or expressing liberal views, I imagine my boss would laugh at them.)