Ireen Chau’s Bookshelf of Whimsy and Romance

Indie author-illustrator Ireen Chau walks us through her curated collection of second-hand art books and fantasy-romance.

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Titled image that reads "Author's Bookshelf" "@herbwitchsapprentice," featuring three pictures of stacks of books, on a beige background with graphics of leaf vines, a cartoon potion and a ginger cat.

In her own words, author-illustrator Ireen Chau is a lover of “early 2000s Barbie movies and general tomfoolery.” Barbie movies are, in fact, one of the main references for her illustrated book series, Witches of Olderea, a delightful fantasy-romance set in the Regency era. Through her charming sense of humor, Ireen keeps readers updated on the ongoing project via her very witty newsletter. That is, when she’s not treating her 19.6K IG followers to quirky WIPs and tricks of the trade. Now, the indie author’s peeling back the curtain further by letting us into her personal library! As part of Bookstr’s Author’s Bookshelf series, we’re unraveling the book lover side of the storytellers we admire. So, without further ado, we give you Ms. Ireen Chau.

What is your favorite genre of books to read in your spare time?

I enjoy middle-grade fantasy and Regency romance! I love that middle-grade books explore deeper subjects while also maintaining whimsy and lightheartedness. And Regency romance, because who doesn’t love Jane Austen?

Picture of a stack of books on a beige background, with orange regency motifs, a green arrow at the bottom, and text that reads "Bookstr."

Do you have a favorite author(s)?

I always have a hard time choosing favorites! But here’s a non-comprehensive list off the top of my head.

– Middle-grade fantasy: Gail Carson Levine, Jessica Day George, Shannon Hale, Megan Morrison
– Children’s: Roald Dahl, Raina Telgemeir
– Regency romance: Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Sofi Laporte
– YA/NA: Heather Fawcett, Rebecca Ross, Leigh Bardugo, Axie Oh

Black and white sketch of author Jane Austen staring off to side.

How long have you been collecting your books?

I just got back into collecting fiction books about three years ago. I have very limited shelf space, so my collection is somewhat minimal compared to what you see on social media. (Also, I currently live with my hoarder parents, so I don’t think there’s room for a third in the house, lol.) The last time I had a huge collection was in middle school, when I was collecting for the sake of collecting. Hindsight, not the vibe.

Picture of a stack of books on a beige background, with orange regency motifs, a green arrow at the bottom, and text that reads "Bookstr."

These days, I follow this rule: if I buy a new book, I have to let go of another. I usually read books first on Kindle or borrow them from the library, and only if I really, really love a title [do] I purchase a physical copy. Some recent books I’ve bought are Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett and Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross. The next book trophy I’m looking at is The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh.

Is there a special set of books on your bookshelf that you want to share?

The Twelve Dancing Princesses (Little Golden Book) illustrated by Sheila Beckett! She’s one of my favorite artists; her work is so simple but elegant. I adore all types of illustrated books. I get most of them second-hand, so they’re not super shiny and new, but the content is what makes them special to me.

Photo of an illustration from "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," Little Golden Book edition, on a beige background featuring graphics that include a green and orange cartoon potion, a green arrow, and text that reads "Bookstr."

What is your bookshelf aesthetic? How do you like to organize your books?

Photo of a bookshelf, on a beige background with orange leaf vines, a green text box, and an orange logo at the bottom that reads "Bookstr."

I don’t have a bookshelf aesthetic! My current bookshelf is a 10+ year-old particle board shelf that is falling apart, so that already isn’t pretty, haha. I also feel that sticking with an aesthetic might make me feel obligated to buy and keep books I don’t love just because they look nice. My space is limited, so I only let stories I absolutely adore share it.

Currently, my top shelf contains art books, picture books, and art instruction books. The second shelf is where most of my fiction books are!

The whimsy of Ireen the reader reflects beautifully in her work as a creator. We couldn’t be more thrilled to bear witness to her blossoming career. Her upcoming releases include the third installment in Witches of Olderea and her first NA novel! Both are set to release in 2025.

In the meantime, you can read books one and two of her series, starting with The Herbwitch’s Apprentice and followed by The Herbwitch Princess, respectively. A sequel novella titled Bennett Turns Into a Cat is also available now! If that wasn’t enough, you can find gorgeous prints and other bookish items inspired by the franchise on Ireen’s own Etsy store.

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