30 January 2011

Personal Libraries: what do your bookshelves say about you?

One of my personal goals over the next few months is to get more organized, particularly in my home office area. We have a baby coming this spring, and I want to get as much done before she arrives as I can.

Image: Paul / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As part of my office re-organization, I'm taking a critical look at the books I have, and deciding what I can donate or pass on to someone else. ::coughcough::RogerHall::coughcough:: I have lots of books I love and refer back to often, but do I really need to keep that book that I hated so much I could barely finish? Probably not.

So as I was looking at the titles lined up behind my desk (alphabetically by author's last name, of course), I realized that what I have tells you something about me: my reading tastes. (All the more reason to get rid of books I don't like, I suppose.)

As the book world moves more into the digital age and libraries are concealed on screens, I think it's even more important to be aware of the physical books you have. After all, people may or may not make judgments about you based on what they see on your shelves. Think about it a moment. If you look at a bookshelf lined with Norton Anthologies and texts on literary theory, your thoughts of that person will likely be different from someone who has every title by James Patterson and Janet Evanovich.*

Like it or not, people have opinions about books, and when they see you with a particular book, they're likely to attach that opinion to you, as well. If you see someone with a book by an author you admire, how would you interact with that person? Especially in comparison to seeing a book by an author you consider a hack?

Now, as I say this, I know there are people in this world who have books simply because they want to create a particular image of themselves. (Yes, I'm talking to someone who has a copy of Anna Karenina and Moby Dick but hasn't read them and never plans to. You know who you are and what I think of you.) I'm not of the mind that you should only own books you've read (what would be the point?), but I also think you should be honest in your purchasing.

Writers are artists, and by buying their books, you're telling people you support their work. Whose work do you want to support? Whose art do you want displayed in your home?

Since Hubby and I are still getting our new apartment sorted and arranged (and lots of my books are still at my mother's house), most of my titles are about writing (freelancing, creative writing, AP stylebook, etc.), as well as A. S. Byatt and Jasper Fforde. I don't know what, exactly, that says about me.

What are your prominent titles? What books will you never part with? What books would you be glad to be rid of? What do your bookshelves say about you?

*no judgment here


  1. An eye-opener, truly!
    Hi meet me, I am Vyoma, a writer by profession and so much a twin to your thoughts. :)
    Thanks for sharing this! By the way, Congratulations!

  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog! Happy scribbling!

  3. So true! One time we had new friends over and - as I was talking to his wife - I noticed, in agony, the guy picking up and looking through a book I have from a class I took five years ago, which I'm sorely embarrassed to own now. I had to wonder what he thought of me... BUT, I like to hold on to non-fiction books I don't care for in case I need to reference them if I should write about them or their ideologies in the future. Bad fiction, I agree, should find a new shelf (i.e.: not mine!) on which to waste space!

  4. When I'm going through my things to make space (books, clothes, etc.) I ask myself if I need it, use it (currently), or love it. If I can't answer yes to at least one of those questions, it goes in the give-away or throw-away pile.

    It does wonders for clearing space!

  5. I have classics that I haven't read but hope to read. I don't have them to impress anyone. If someone judges me by the wide variety of books on my shelf, that's THEIR problem! I keep a lot of books for reference - particularly on religion. So, if you stop by and see the Book of Mormon on my shelf and think I'm converting... you obviously don't know me very well!

  6. Diversity is good on bookshelves!


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