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. πŸ™‚

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.

15 comments on Let’s Talk About Your Bookshelves!

  1. Melissa
    May 26, 2021 at 11:31 am (4 months ago)

    My modest collection (shhh don’t judge 😬) is arranged by height and includes cookbooks, reference books (mainly astronomy and Titanic themed), self-help, poetry, and a book about Tim McGraw. ☺️
    By the way, is that your bookshelf pictured?

  2. Dr Renee Cohn Jones
    May 17, 2021 at 12:47 am (4 months ago)

    PS I love that your dad commented – my mom does the same πŸ’

  3. Dr Renee Cohn Jones
    May 17, 2021 at 12:46 am (4 months ago)

    I giggled when I read this! I, too, check out everyone else’s bookshelves. I have many bookshelves, and will need to give them away some day. For now, they are comforting memories and experiences that I enjoy having around. Most are arranged by subject, although one in my daughter’s room is arranged by color and the one in my other daughter’s room is arranged by height. πŸ™‚

  4. Robert Krantweiss
    May 16, 2021 at 8:46 am (4 months ago)

    I love the design of the masthead of your writings. I always thought that “Life Without a Manual” was a very clever, all-encompassing, original title that not only allowed you an expansive range of topics on which to comment, but invited, seduced, and induced all kinds of people that have the need. Ashamedly, I just noticed the background of jigsaw puzzle pieces which encourages a prospective reader to indulge himself/herself in reading the article hoping to solve a problem that is bothering them. or, in the least, comforting them with the knowledge that they are not alone. By the way, I just noticed the border piece of the jigsaw puzzle which ,of course, is always a good place from which to proceed! BTR

    • Elisa
      May 16, 2021 at 10:34 am (4 months ago)

      Thank you, Dad! And the masthead is brand-new. You are the first to notice it.

  5. Alice Gerard
    May 15, 2021 at 12:54 am (4 months ago)

    A house that’s full of books does feel very homey. In my book shelves, I have cook books, novels, field guides, art books, and my journals and sketch books!

    • Elisa
      May 16, 2021 at 10:36 am (4 months ago)

      I love that you include cookbooks on your bookshelves. Some people don’t see them as books to read, but there are frequently great stories behind each recipe.

  6. Kebba Buckley Button
    May 14, 2021 at 11:56 pm (4 months ago)

    Elisa, great and interesting piece! My books are organized by general topic areas, i.e., spiritual, Chinese medicine, Feng Shui. And I’m fascinated by the celebrity bookshelves also!

    • Elisa
      May 16, 2021 at 10:37 am (4 months ago)

      Thanks, Kebba. I don’t have any books from your genre on my bookshelf, but you are inspiring me to look into it.

  7. Doug
    May 14, 2021 at 9:47 pm (4 months ago)

    Just asking, my wife used to read Harlequin Romance novels; now, she reads murder mysteries, should I be worried? πŸ˜‰

    • Alice Gerard
      May 15, 2021 at 12:49 am (4 months ago)

      You only need to worry about books featuring wives killing their husbands by bopping them over the head with a frozen leg of lamb and then serving the murder weapon to the detectives!

    • Elisa
      May 16, 2021 at 10:37 am (4 months ago)

      LOL – Unless they are “how-to” books, I think you are good.

  8. Doug
    May 14, 2021 at 9:43 pm (4 months ago)

    After 60 years of collecting stuff, it is time to start de-collecting stuff. (decluttering).
    I have already given away several hundred pounds of books, and new books are living in the cloud. Some of those, I own, others, the library takes back automagically.
    I have discovered that a shelf never stays empty for long. Now it is time to start evicting the shelves.

  9. debra
    May 14, 2021 at 9:18 pm (4 months ago)

    Love this! I look at others’ bookshelves also.

    • Elisa
      May 16, 2021 at 10:38 am (4 months ago)

      I’m glad I’m not alone. Nice to be in good company.


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