creativity / GHB / life stuff / random / reading

Bookshelves: How Do You Like Yours?

“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.”
Alan Bennett.

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.

My shelves of MG books, ably guarded by R2D2

My shelves of MG books, ably guarded by R2D2

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.

Blue books and red books

Blue books and red books

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

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?

Blogpost by Rachel Hamilton, author of The Case of the Exploding Loo and The Case of the Exploding Brains

6 thoughts on “Bookshelves: How Do You Like Yours?

  1. I’m SO glad I’m not alone. I do the sneaky checking out thing too and I order my bookshelves. I spotted your Harry Potters in the photo. Whenever I go on school visits the kids always spot mine 😉

  2. Worryingly, I have my books ordered by literary period and then by author…I tell myself that’s because of the whistle stop tour through Engish lit I did in my degree, but really it’s probably because I’m maybe, possibly, a bit too obsessive! My children’s books are reassuringly haphazard though so perhaps there’s hope! I also check out other people’s book shelves on a regular basis!

  3. I LOVE my books, I put the ones by the same Author in 1 line, and so on. My signed books are in a new row, and my older books in another row, and so one. 🙂

    My top rows in my glass cabinet are books by Linda Chapman and Julie Sykes. I admire them greatly. 😀

  4. I sort of do a mix of all. I start of with one book on a shelf and then I either pick a book with a similar cover, the same author, similar genre, similar time wrriten or similar age at which I read. Then for the book I just put in, I do the same until all of my selves are full. Sometimes it takes a little bit of jiggling around to get it all looking nice, but I always know where everything is and I love looking at these little interlinked rows 🙂

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