Let’s Talk About Your Bookshelves!

messy bookshelfI’ve done a lot of writing about what’s on my bookshelf. Now, I want to talk about what is on yours. 🙂

I’m very curious about what other people are reading. So much so that when it comes to other people’s bookshelves, I am not shy about walking over and taking a look as if I were in a bookstore or a library. I don’t give a second thought to selecting a book and reading the back cover. I may even sit down on the sofa and read a few lines of the first chapter to see if it interests me. If it does, I may ask to borrow it, and if not, I throw it on the nearest table and walk away. (Just kidding, I put it back where I found it. I’m not an animal!).

I think you can tell a lot about a person by what is on their bookshelf. For instance, what kind of stories do they like? Are they a history buff or a fan of graphic novels? Do they have the entire Harry Potter collection, or are they working their way through a lot of romance novels? If you are looking for a conversation starter, ask someone if they liked a book you saw on their shelf.

In my defense, no one has yelled at me (yet) for looking at their books. So I assume this is a perfectly acceptable practice. During the pandemic, there were photos in the New York Times of celebrity bookshelves. The most interesting reads were identified in the captions. FYI, Tom Hanks had several presidential biographies, while Gwyneth Paltrow owns a ton of art books. I took this entire series of photos as justification for my spying – I mean – browsing people’s bookshelves.

Another thing I notice is how people organize their books. Alphabetically by the title or by the author? Are they color-coded like a rainbow or grouped by genre? Do they separate the hardcovers from the paperbacks? Are they stacked like a high tower or lined up neatly? The possibilities are endless!

And in case you are wondering, my bookshelves are real, and they’re spectacular!

Now that I have totally blown your mind let me say that I would never judge anyone based on what they are reading. However, I might be a little put off by one thing – empty bookshelves. I would likely question if the shelves were there for decoration. Or did that person just move in and hadn’t had the chance to unpack their books yet? There could be a lot of reasons for empty shelves, but often not good ones.

But, I digress. As long as they don’t waste perfectly good shelf space and do something crazy like adorning them with trinkets and chachkis. And if that’s the case, let’s hang out at my house instead.

High on Reading

bookshelf

When I was a teenager and the latest CD from my favorite band was released, I couldn’t get to Sam Goody fast enough. I had to have it. Nothing was more important than driving to the mall, buying it, and then listening to it on the way home.

Yes, I realize I am dating myself with talk of CD and Sam Goody, but I’m not ashamed of my age. And as I get older, I no longer feel the same rush of adrenaline for music. Sure, I love to attend concerts, and my love of great songs has not dimmed in the least. But I have now replaced CDs with books. I must have them, and when I have the urge, I make a plan to visit one of my favorite independent bookstores. This is probably why I have so many books on my TBR list and own so many of them.

I have yet to conquer this passion for the written word. And quite frankly, I don’t want to.

But I do need to curb my spending habits and enjoy the books on my shelf. I must remember the reasons for wanting those titles so desperately in the first place.

Did Oprah recommend it? Probably not, but Reese Witherspoon might have.

Did someone else read it and tell me I’d love it? Yeah, I can easily be convinced to look up suggestions from friends and see if they can earn a spot on my bookshelf.

Did I see the title on bookstagram or the Facebook pages of some of my local businesses? I cannot tell a lie – those pretty photos of book covers placed on a pretty table or a blanket with a cup of coffee next to it are hard to resist.

Because of my Google history and those damn Facebook algorithms, I am bombarded with new releases that everyone is reading, loving, and recommending. But I am happy to report that I haven’t bought a book in May, and I don’t plan on it anytime soon.

Rediscovering the books I own is slowly replacing the adrenaline rush I experience in bookstores. This is a new kind of high for me. Since I finished a novel late last night, it is time for me to take another hit from my shelves.

Self Help Books for a Bad Day

Over the past year, I have found myself buying and reading more self-help books. This may have been because of my anxiety about the pandemic, but I also wanted to handle things better and forget new paths for myself.

I like these books because they make me feel normal in my time of need. This is important because, during moments of frustration, I think this feeling only happens to me and no one else. Right? It must be true because many self-help books are bestsellers.

Yesterday, I needed to be reminded of some of the lessons I’ve gleaned from reading these books.

My day started bad and got worse. At 6:30 am, I chased my dog down the street when she took off after another dog. It doesn’t sound so bad except that I had literally just rolled out of bed to let her out, hadn’t bothered to put on a bra or pour myself a cup of coffee, and had zero patience (or time) for this act of disobedience. So, I gave my neighbors a little show of me running down the street still in my pajamas, no bra, and no shoes yelling after the dog. (She is so lucky that she is cute).

Determined not to let this be the way I start my day, I self-administered my first dose of caffeine and decided to run a load of laundry. That was when the lid came crashing down on my ring and pinky fingers. As a result, I spent an incredibly unproductive 30 minutes with an ice pack on top of my hand.

To make matters worse, when I finally sat down to start my workday, I felt completely paralyzed by my to-do lists for both my job and my life. I didn’t know where to turn first. I managed to snap out of it enough to get more than a few things accomplished. But, it helped to remember some lessons I have learned from the following self-help books:

I’m a big fan of self-help books. How about you? Which ones do you recommend, and what advice have you learned recently from a book that may help you deal with a bad day?

A Bookish Top 10

The New York Times did a wonderful interview with a British author I’ve never heard of, but I loved her answers to the questions. I thought I’d take some of the same questions and answer them for this post. I hope you read this to the end because there is a bonus question I’d love you to answer.

What is your ideal reading experience?

I love to read on my living room couch with a pillow to prop my head up, so I don’t fall asleep. There is no tv in my living room, which means there are no distractions. I also like to enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of white wine with my book (depending on the time of day). And typically, my dog, Chloe, is curled up next to me on top of my fleece blanket. She likes it when I read aloud to her.

What’s your favorite book that no one has ever heard of?

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. Actually, people may have heard of it because it was made into a movie a few years ago starring Jason Bateman and Jane Fonda. It was well cast – but as always – the book was so much better.

Which writers do you admire most?

I love authors who have done their research and come up with stories that I learn from – like
Jodi Piccoult, Lisa Scottoline, Kristin Hannah, Chris Bohjalian, and many others.

How do you organize your books?

I have to tell you about this new app I found for my iPhone called Book Buddy. Remember when you registered for your wedding, and you were allowed to use the barcode scanner to make a list of what you wanted. Wasn’t that fun and so addicting?! After I downloaded this app, I ran around the house and scanned all of my books. I can also mark which books I’ve lent out to other people and which ones I want to buy next. Everything is neatly organized and categorized on my phone, and I love it!

As for my actual books, I keep them on a few shelves in no particular order and off the floor.

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?

Speaking of registering for things, I wish I could register for books. It would make it so much easier for people who want to buy me a gift. Since I’m sure that kind of registry doesn’t exist, I prefer a gift card to an independent bookstore. If someone really wants to get me a book, I show them my Amazon wishlist or Goodreads account. The best books I receive as gifts are the ones I already picked out for myself but haven’t purchased yet.

What kind of reader were you as a child?

I always asked my parents to read to me when I was little. I learned to read before most kids, and once I did, I was never without a book in my hands. I remember when my mom went shopping for clothes, dad took us to the bookstore. And when I went to yard sales or the local flea market with my dad, he looked for records, and I dug through boxes of books. We both left feeling pretty happy with our purchases. At bedtime, I was the kid who hid a book and a flashlight under my pillow. They never punished me for staying up late to read, so really, my book-buying habit is all my parents’ fault. They unknowingly created a monster.

But, I digress…

How has your reading life changed as you got older?

When I was a kid, I re-read books because I enjoyed them and wanted to read them again. But a lot of those books were easy to read and around 100 pages. I rarely do that now because I don’t have the time, and there are too many new books I want to read. I have a few books that I will never part with and want to read again someday.

What book(s) are you embarrassed to say you haven’t read yet?

To Kill a Mockingbird and anything by Jane Austen. Terrible, right? Please don’t tell anyone.

What is on your nightstand right now?

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
The Writer’s Guide to Persistence

What book do you plan to buy next?

This one and this one. Oh, and probably, this one. But none of them until June 1st, when my month-long book buying fast is over.

One final question for you – What do you want to ask me about reading? If you ask. I’ll probably write about it in a future blog post!

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