“A bookshelf is as particular to its owner as are his or her clothes; a personality is stamped on a library just as a shoe is shaped by the foot.”
Confession time: the first thing I do when I enter anyone’s home is check out their bookshelves, fixing my head at a slightly unnatural angle so I can scope the shelves while I pretend to be listening to whatever they’re saying to me. Many of my favourite friendships and relationships began as a tingle on the back of my neck while I looked through their book collection.
As well as being intrigued by the books people go for, I’m also fascinated by the way they arrange and stack their shelves.
I might be slightly obsessed. I’m not a great sleeper and I have been known to get up in the middle of the night to rearrange my shelves because they didn’t look right when I went to bed. I’ll wake up at 3am and remember spotting a Jasper Fforde book perched alone on the bottom shelf, while the rest of his books are in the top right hand corner. Or I’ll suddenly recall seeing a hardback mixed up with the paperbacks. This is the kind of thing that wakes me up at night.
Fortunately I can try out loads of different book arranging techniques because my home is stuffed full of bookshelves. My husband made me count our books recently, as part of his protest that the house was being taken over by books and cushions. I gave up and stopped counting when I reached three thousand.
Obviously, the logical approach is to store books according to their contents – linking them by author or genre to make it easier to locate the one you’re looking for. I store my collection of kids’ books this way because they get taken off the shelves a lot and it helps my children and their friends find what they want to read. It also helps me see which books are missing so I can growl at whoever I saw reading them last.
Ordering according to functionality is definitely the sensible approach. But I have to confess there’s a part of me that thinks of books as ornaments because they look so lovely sitting there on the shelves, so from time to time I try colour-coding them.
This still works for me, because I know which books I own and have a picture of them in my head, so it’s easy enough for me to find them in a colour-coordinated world. Admittedly, It’s tricky for everyone else – but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a world full of book ‘borrowers’.
Occasionally I do something really stupid. For example, recently, I decided to group one set of shelves according to book size because I thought it would look nice. As a result, I now can’t find anything. Another unforeseen down-side is that the level surfaces make the perfect stage for my son’s Nintendo Amiibos which are slowly taking over my beloved bookshelf.
I see another 2am wake up on the horizon, to restore order and to defeat the Amiibo Army.
The Nintendo Amiibo Takeover
How about you? How do you order your bookshelf? Are you guided by functionality? Aesthetics? Or do you just shove books onto the nearest shelf and hope for the best?