A bookshelves meme!

Box of Books has a great meme I can’t resist: what do your bookscases say about you?

  • “I think I read much faster than I really do!” I have been collecting books at a fast and frantic pace lately, and somehow I still think that each one I buy, borrow, or mooch I will get to before very long.
  • “I went to graduate school!” I have my share of literary theory and criticism — Foucault, Derrida, Irigaray, Freud, etc., etc. Some of these books have even been marked up and written in.
  • “My husband went to graduate school too!” Although some of our books are on separate shelves, we combine much of our fiction and some poetry, which we keep in our living room. Here you will find not just one, but multiple copies of books like Ulysses and William Wordsworth’s The Prelude, in the big Norton Critical Edition. You will also find multiple copies of obscure eighteenth-century novels that almost no one reads unless they went to grad school.
  • “I studied eighteenth-century British literature!” I have books like Augustan Critical Writing, Critical Essays on Laurence Sterne, Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry, Women in the Eighteenth-Century, and a copy of Richardson’s Clarissa with lots of cracks in the binding.
  • “I’m mildly obsessive!” But only mildly. I keep our fiction downstairs alphabetized, and the books in my study are arranged by subject. But these books arranged by subject aren’t alphabetized. I only go so far.
  • “I love long novels!” I have lots of long Victorian novels, including tons of Dickens, Eliot, and Austen, as well as some Trollope. And I also have long, long books by Richardson, Burney, Dostoevsky, Thackery, Tolstoy, Lady Murasaki, and Cervantes.
  • “I have traditional tastes!” I’d like to read more widely than I do — from more cultures and from lesser-known authors — but the truth is I spent many years being trained in the canon, and although I do read outside of it, the results of that training are still there.
  • “I can’t get enough of essays!” I have a couple shelves devoted to essays, although I’d have more if I added all my unread collections, which I currently keep separately. I have a row of large collections lined up in a row, and the site is a beautiful one.

Anybody else want to say what your shelves say about you?

18 Comments

Filed under Books, Memes

18 responses to “A bookshelves meme!

  1. Great meme! I really enjoyed reading your responses – I’ve seen a few people doing the meme where they pick 10 books from their shelves and talk about how these reflect them as readers, but I really liked the way you approached this one by focusing on the shelves themselves.

    One thing I’d certainly have to agree with is your first point – if the teetering stacks of books sprouting from the floor are any indication, I need to spend more time reading the books I have rather than acquiring new ones!

  2. The most important thing my bookshelves say about me is that I read. I’m always amazed when I go into people’s houses and there are no bookshelves in the living room. We have two in the living room, one in each kids’ room, and two in our bedroom, and I’m campaigning hard for a third.

    I think we can all resonate with your first point! Eyes bigger than belly, that’s for sure. Can one be a glutton for books?

    My shelves also say that I’m a rather informal person–we in the West don’t stand on ceremony, and I integrate my $29.95 brand-spanking new hardbacks in with my $1.25 bargains from the used bookstore. It’s more important to me that the books are shelved in the right place regardless of pedigree (i.e., the bios and lit crits of the author next to his/her works), and Austen has her own two shelves, and Shakespeare his own, and the Civil War its own, etc.

    My shelves do say that I do care about what people think about me though. My Austen, Shakespeare, and Civil War books are in the living room along with the Dickens, Twain and Eliot books, while my Gabaldons, Heyers, and Mary Stewarts are in the bedroom, away from casual eyes.

    Interesting meme.

  3. What a fantastic meme and I loved your answers. I’d like to do this, but somehow, I’m not sure I have the self-awareness. And when I start to look at my shelves I very quickly forget my purpose and start picking books off and reading them and starting new ones and… well, you see how it goes. But I’ll think about it and see whether something worthwhile comes to mind.

  4. I shouldn’t accumulate books as fast as I do, but somewhere in the back of my mind I must also feel like I am really going to read them all. I wish I did read faster, but I tend to get wrapped up in stories and really lose myself. It’s cool that the Hobgoblin and you have interspersed your books. Are some distinctly one person or the other? And if I had more shelves and could put all my books on them I am sure I would be very obsessive about their organization!

  5. Loved reading your responses, Dorothy.

    I guess my bookshelves reveal that I’m eclectic–essays, poetry, garden, yoga, sociology, literary criticism, mysteries, fantasy, quilting, embroidery, old favorites, etc.

  6. I’m with Jane — nervous when I visit someone and they have no bookcases in their home! That tells me a lot about them, as well as friends who do have lots of books and bookcases. Then I try not to be rude, because I’m dying to see all the titles on their shelves, and what I may have missed…your bookcases still have me mesmerized!

  7. What fun. I think my shelves would also say that I think I read faster than I actually do. At the rate I keep accumulating books I’m never going to read them all!

  8. I suspect my mum would say they tell you ‘I do not see myself as 25!’ as there are quite a few young adult books and childrens classics that I’ve held on to :) Not so true (although sometimes I ahve those odd moments where I suddenly realise I really am wokring a full time job) but what I’d really like people to take from them is ‘Women are kickass!’ as the top shelf is stuffed with modern womens fiction, but they’re more likely to think ‘I believe the world is mounted on elephants!’ as one shelf is entirely dedicated to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.

  9. Oh how fun! I loved that everything was followed by exclamation points :) And I laughed at “I went to graduate school!” My shelves have that going for them too though it has been diluted over the years. I’ll have to think about this one and see if I can come up with enough to make it worthwhile.

  10. verbivore

    What fun! I like the idea of our bookshelves shouting out our personalities. I’ll have to think what mine might say about me.

  11. You’re a great-meme-finding machine! I love this one too, predictably. Mine say “You might think I went to grad school, but as a matter of fact I’m just a dork.”

  12. Steph — I did that 10 books meme too :) I love a good book meme! I’m so glad I’m not alone with the book buying — that makes me feel so much better.

    JaneGS — good point. That the main message the shelves send, right? And yes, a house without books is a disturbing thing. I can understand that not everyone has a huge collection, but I want to see some evidence of reading! I like to mix my books up as well, so I have mass markets next to hardcovers sometimes. Yes, it’s definitely true that organization matters more than separating out different types of books.

    Litlove — I’ll bet your shelves have all kinds of interesting things to say! :) I’d love to read your version of this meme.

    Danielle — the really distinctive books Hobgoblin and I have, we keep separate. He has his 19C American books in his study, and I have my 18C British ones in mine. He has his Stephen King collection in his study, and I have my essay shelves in mine. But the general fiction is all together. I would love to read faster as well, but — what can we do??

    Jenclair — eclecticism is a great thing. I’d love to take a look through your shelves, particularly the yoga books. I’m slowly creating my own yoga shelves, which is fun.

    Debby — you are welcome to look through my shelves as much as you like, the ones upstairs as well as down! My eyes were wandering over to your shelves when I was there the other night :)

    Iliana — me either! I’ll keep collecting and reading, but the collecting will outpace the reading, and I’m not sure where it will stop! Oh, well :)

    Jodie — oh, you should do this meme! Your answers would be so amusing. I love the “women are kick-ass” shelves as well as the “the world is mounted on elephants” one!

    Stefanie — grad school really does affect your book collection, doesn’t it? My shelves will never be the same again :) I’d love to see your answers to this meme — I want to know what your shelves say about you!

    Verbivore — they are very eloquent, I think :) I’d love to know what yours say about you.

    Emily — I can’t ignore a meme I really like! And yay for dorks! :)

  13. What a fun meme. My bookshelves had a gag order filed against them. Actually, my house had built-in bookshelves, when I moved to Ise to be near my sweetie, I calculated which bookshelves to buy… then I discovered three more boxes of books, so things are a bit out of sorts now.

    I either need to purge or buy another set of shelves.

  14. Very much enjoyed reading your answers – your bookshelves do seem to say a lot about you!

    Mine unfortunately are missing all the great books I left behind when I moved to the UK, as well as all my grad school stuff. So they don’t present a very comprehensive picture.

  15. Pingback: What Do Your Bookshelves Say About You Meme « So Many Books

  16. Bikkuri — oh, no — those three boxes really messed things up! I think the best solution is to get new shelves — and then your bookshelves will be able to talk again :)

    Marieke — it must have been hard to leave those books behind. I’ve gotten rid of some of my childhood books, but otherwise, I’ve been lucky and haven’t had to get rid of much.

  17. Your library sounds like a lovely place to be…I especially like the essay fetish :).

  18. Lovely meme. Reminds me I want to read more essays and I think you reviewed Virginia Woolf’s essays a while back. Not sure what my bookshelves will say about me but will have a look when I get back home.

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