The five things I’m looking for on your bookshelf

book shops, Book Thoughts, children's books, picture books, Uncategorized


If I go to someone else’s house the thing I’m going to be most interested in is the bookshelf. It was always a disappointment to me when the bookshelves in stately homes were furnished with fakes – or multiple encyclopaedia volumes. Books say so much about a person, and I’m super nosy.

So, this is what I’m looking for:

1. Which books do you own?

Obviously, this is a big one! Biographies and factual books say something. Atlases say something else. A large Famous Five collection speaks volumes. I’m looking for something I’ve read, something to give me a new insight into who you are, something I might like to borrow..

2. How have you organised your books?

Controversially, my books were initially arranged in colour when I moved to this apartment. But I couldn’t bear the series being apart for too long so most of those have come back together. I’m looking to see whether you’ve alphabetised, whether it’s by size, theme, topic. Or just a big old pile!

3. How worn are your books?

An impressive collection is nothing unless you’ve read them. Sure, some people are super careful with their books, but you can always tell if they’ve read. Which books have been read over and over? Which haven’t been touched? Have you folded the pages?

4. How many books do you own?

It’s not all a numbers game. I’ve made a concerted decision that my life and house aren’t going to be overwhelmed by books and have a strict keep or give away policy – but still. Ten books on an ornaments shelf isn’t going to impress me.

5. What connections can I make?

Ultimately, I want to get to know you better, to connect with you in some way. What did you think of this book? Have you read…?! I stayed at an AirBnb place recently, and got convinced from their bookshelves that we would be best friends – but sadly they were away so I never got to test that theory.

What do you look for in a bookshelf?

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4 thoughts on “The five things I’m looking for on your bookshelf

  1. When I look at someone’s bookshelves, I check if they hold a variety of genres, and the less known books (not rare per say, but books that the general population isn’t constantly raving about) there are on their shelves, the better – because I tend to borrow books like that if it sparks my interests.

  2. I have to agree with your aim to get rid of books that don’t fundamentally deserve to remain. I read an interesting piece that talked about the role of ebooks on our bookshelves. It concluded that books will always be important, but a person’s Bookcase will become that distilled set of quality books that define them. Amen to that :)

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