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Writer and O Magazine editor Susan Casey reads with her cat, Mouse, in her living room in New York City.

Michael Falco

I wrote my first book, The Devil's Teeth, in New York, in a space no bigger than a closet (and not the walk-in type, either). After that, I dreamed of having more room to spread out my notes and research articles, index cards and binders and all the flotsam I trail around when writing, but especially I wanted this: more bookshelves.

Now that I have them (and have filled them), I still want more bookshelves. When thinking about the perfect place to read, I imagine a barn-like set-up, preferably in Hawaii, where I wrote my second book, The Wave. The layout of this barn-to-be is simple: a large, high-ceilinged box with bookshelves lining every wall. The only furniture will be an overstuffed sofa, my desk (an eight-foot-long oak table), my Aeron chair and a stepladder.

My work focuses on the ocean, so in my barn I will shelve the aquatic-themed books closest to my desk, as I do in my Manhattan apartment. Along with my dog-eared copy of Rachel Carson's The Sea Around Us, and other beloved marine literature, I have rows of shark books (including a first edition of Jaws). My favourite among them is Shadows in the Sea, a volume from the mid-sixties that I found at a used bookstore in Monterey, Calif. Much of the shark information in it has since been proved wrong; it ends with a section titled Selachian Cookery, recipes for serving the study animal, including Shark Marseillaise and Shark à la Newburg. In the biology world, times have changed.

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Many other sea creatures are represented in my library, including the wacky denizens of the deep sea, which not even Dr. Seuss could make up. I've begun a pretty solid whale book collection, also, and I've got Richard Ellis's wonderful The Search for the Giant Squid. Somehow I've ended up with three books on eels. I haven't read them yet, but I intend to.

Susan Casey's most recent book is The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean. She is editor-in-chief of O magazine.

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