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People: What’s on your shelf?

Pilot by trade, collector of books by passion

Genevieve West pilots an American Airlines Boeing 737 throughout the United States. Based in Los Angeles, West flies domestically for the airline and, like most career airline pilots, finds herself on layovers in many interesting parts of the country. And while she loves to read, sometimes you just have to get out of the hotel room and explore.
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“Overnighting in New Orleans there are three bookstores within walking distance from the crew hotel near Bourbon Street. I found a cute little novel about Amelia Earhart that I hadn’t read,” West said. “In Charlotte, North Carolina, at a thrift store I found a beautiful historical book of the town. In Chicago I rode the subway to the suburbs just for going to the local bookstores. There are numerous independent bookstores in New York to visit. One of my favorites is Housing Works Bookstore; its profits go to charity for the homeless and AIDS research. Other quaint bookstores I have visited are in Washington, D.C.; Salt Lake City; Toronto; and Philadelphia. The book hunt is very exciting!”

That joy in discovering unexpected books has led her to begin creating custom library collections for others. “Collections can start with a few books on a shelf, to a bookcase, to a whole wall, into a complete room. They grow and evolve as the person assembling them evolves,” she said. “There numerous genres to choose from—what are your areas of interest?”

For example, a pilot friend moved to a new house with a small area perfect for a reading nook. He loved historic military airplanes. “So we filled a small bookshelf with military books, aviation histories, and biographies,” West said. “For a lady who was transitioning careers to aviation, I created a collection of biographies on female pilots, books on WASPs [Women Airforce Service Pilots], and for fun the Vicki Barr flight stewardess series. Another gentleman was interested in building model airplanes so I scouted books with aircraft descriptions that made his models more accurate.”

West herself has a collection of more than 20,000 titles in her Las Vegas home, 1,500 of which are aviation-related. “Collecting a personal library has always been a traditional pastime,” she said. “Book collecting is making a comeback; it’s becoming chic for a new generation. I can help you acquire an individual collection that suits your taste.”

West charges $999.99 for compiling an individualized curated collection of 100 hardcover volumes and up to $3,000 for 100 volumes of first editions, signed (if possible), but admits it’s truly a labor of love: “Books are beautiful works of art,” she said.

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Julie Walker
Julie Summers Walker
AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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