Question of the Month: Bookshelf

by Susan Henderson on October 6, 2008

Tell me something about your bookshelf. (Those are my books on the left, by the way. Mr. H’s are on the right.)

litpark bookshelf

Are the books alphabetized, borrowed, stolen, sitting sideways? Is your bookshelf stocked with literary fiction, thrillers, memoirs? And how is it different from your lover’s bookshelf?


Wednesday, you’ll meet an absolutely fabulous group of bestselling thriller writers – David Morrell, Barry Eisler, Gayle Lynds, and Karen Dionne – and we’re going to talk about the divide between thriller writers and literary fiction writers. You know what I’m talking about – how one side accuses the other of only caring about plot, and the other accuses the one of being too interested in his own belly button. All right then, come back in two days and join this very lively conversation.


Just for fun, I’m including a video of my son practicing piano. I love to watch him play before he’s worked the kinks out of a song – that’s when he’s got me completely captivated.

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

djtuffpuppy October 6, 2008 at 12:52 am

On my bookshelf, which is nearly full, I have my books divided into the following categories: Signed Books, Kids Books (Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, etc), Graphic Novels, and Everything Else. Everything Else are the books that wont fit in to the other categories, so really these are just my normal books. I tend to keep authors grouped together but there is no logic to how it is organized.


BradleyParker October 6, 2008 at 2:37 am

In my house there are three major collections of books.

Mine: Totally obsessive from four years at a military school, my books are arranged from left to right – tallest to shortest. Paperbacks are interspersed amongst hard covers. Occasionally, my friends are stacked on their sides, tallest at the bottom, left justified. The purpose of the stacking is to take the place of a bookend – at least until I have bought enough books to flip them right-side-up. Entire shelves are typically devoted to subject matter: the law, politics, non-fiction, fiction, tantric sex, references (other than tantric sex). These general categories are often divided into subcategories. Actually only one subcategory: Have I read this? Since, I rarely discard a book I’ve read they must all have a cozy home. You know, in case my 4-year-old son wants a chapter out of Catch-22 before bed. Often, I’m embarrassed to say, I start a book (usually one that I bought on a whim) and I never finish it. I can’t abide wasting my precious time on a book I don’t enjoy – still, the piles of unfinished books lead me to believe I also have trouble parting with these acquaintances. (A shrink might say I’ve shown the same character flaw with past girlfriends.) Finally, I have a small selection of books on the nightstand next to my bed: anthologies, poetry books, or short stories.

My wife doesn’t have a system – or lacks one that I can discern. Her books are stacked, piled, or crammed into book shelves. Often her books and mine share the same shelf – mine the back and hers piled in front. (We need more book shelves.) Stacking issues aside for the moment, my wife also has a habit that I’m sure is the bane of any librarian’s existence. She is an artist. Doesn’t sound that bad? Well, try finding space for “Art Books.” You know the kind: Those books of irregular sizes; the ones that average about 23,467 pages in length. They’re all printed on 110# glossy paper. And they can break your bookshelf like the particle-board-dorm-room-reject-dumpster-diving-freebie that it is. These books cost more than my first car and require more care than my third child. These books cannot be piled. They must be stacked, which means the bottom two shelves of any bookshelf must be removed to accommodate their monstrosity.

The last collection of books is the children’s books. Upside down, sideways, backwards, stacked, piled, crammed, and smashed into their IKEA cubby-holes – I don’t really care. I’m just glad they’re finally off the damn floor. These books also tend to hide under the bed, between cushions, in the car, outside on the deck, in luggage, and in boxes of holiday decorations. Too often they have die-cut-popup pictures. Too often these pictures rip. Fortunately, my kids don’t seem to care that Ollie the Octopus is now Ollie the Septempus.

Though not to the point that my children are at risk of smothering under a collapsed pile of Catcher in the Rye, I am a book spendthrift. It is truly impossible for me to walk into a book store and leave empty handed. I am the person Mr. Barnes and Ms. Noble had in mind. This is not a good thing to be when your job requires international moves every 2 to 3 years. My wife will attest that it’s even a worse thing to be married to.


Nathalie October 6, 2008 at 2:58 am

Bookshelves! That ever evasive commodity.
They seem to grow out of space quicker than I can breathe and they are usually packed over two to three rows deep. Maybe it’s my books doing acrobatics in the night and reproducing like rabbits?

The only real order one might observe in these is linguistic: The French on one side, the Italians at the other end and the English sprawled in the middle (other languages struggle in vain: They really do not have a voice in there).
The comic books stay together in their own multilingual special-size-shelves kingdom (they are mostly French so they KNOW they are art and not some second choice consumer sheets for kids – in fact very few of them would really be suitable for kids – without even bothering to travesty their name as “graphic novels” or “sequential art”).
The other art books are trying to find a space for themselves (at the bottom for weight reason), a little apologetic about their awkward sizes and formats…

After that initial sorting, things get complicated. Authors tend to clump their books around them, but some annoying creatures – hemNeilGaimanhem – have bits in the comic book AND in the non graphic books sections (and that goes for you too, Jodorowski! Don’t think I have not seen you there!) defeating the effort. There would be some half assed attempts at keeping genres separate but I tend to object to such snobbery so end up telling them to mingle and multiply instead. Which they do with gusto.
And of course they are other books crawling all over the house:
The Still-To-Read ever bulging shelves.
The Being-Read volumes getting in people’s way on sofas or tea tables (no more room for tea!).
The plants lore and aromatherapy volumes in the bathroom.
The costumes and sewing ones in the hobby room.
Cesare’s technical nightmares (all you wanted to know about Pearl, Python, etc.) in HIS room.
The cook books are in the kitchen/dining room area (of course).
And the bed time stories – or what passes for that in my home – near the bed.
Good thing I don’t buy magazines, there is enough paper in this house to feel guilty about major deforestation already.

And the bookshelves do not only contain the obvious but also a few treasures, knickknacks, pictures, sculptures, toys and cats. Hang on: These tend to add themselves, going up the ladder to get away from the maddening crowd, breaking trinkets sometimes, keeping the shelves mice free.

I need more book shelves.


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 6:36 am

Ooh, very interesting categories. I also have shelves dedicated to signed books, or books where I’m in the acknowledgements. What’s your favorite graphic novel?


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 6:38 am

Ha! Maybe your wife and I are related! Hey, if anyone here wants to post a photo of your bookshelf either on flicker or on your on blog, just post a link here so we can all come look.


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 6:42 am

Neil Gaiman’s one of the only authors that appears on both my bookshelf and Mr. H’s. Love your description here, especially the books crawling around the house. Tell me more about Cesare’s technical nightmares!


Nathalie October 6, 2008 at 6:57 am

He’s an Ubuntu developer. What can I say? Those books look like they belong to some other dimension (and they probably do). He also has chess books plotting to take over the world in 3 moves – or less – somewhere at the bottom of the bookshelf. We have to put (model) satellites on them to keep them under control…


kategray October 6, 2008 at 9:21 am

I’m notorious for taking any flat surface and turning it into a bookshelf. Being married to a clutter-naysayer has reined my habit in somewhat, so that my more favorite books are tucked away in storage, until we have a house with a room that will have its own library. I eye every free wall with plans of what kind of shelf would fit into its dimensions. For me, there is nothing better than the thrill of digging into a bookshelf, with untold mysteries awaiting. It was particularly true when I was a child, and I want my kids to experience the same excitement.
I probably have eight shelves going right now. One has my antique volumes (and the signed Madeleine L’Engle 1st ed. that I found at a used book sale). My kids each have their own, crammed tight with all of the used books I seem to have follow me home. My older son has autism, and he prefers photo-reality books, as opposed to drawings. My younger son likes his myriad of look ‘n’ find, and Thomas the Tank Engine. Upstairs, in the realm of the not-quite-grown-ups, my husband has only one bookshelf to house his Dragonlance Chronicles, home repair guides, and military manuals (which are mostly in storage as well – they would need their own residence if they were all out). I have the shelving with my reference books, as well as my bed reading. Then there’s the shelving that keeps all the kidlit my kids are not ready for, or that I would like to see survive intact. And then I have another one for every other piece of fiction that I adore. My cookbooks take up a lot of space in the kitchen, and all my archaeology books are downstairs in our lower level (we have a 2 family that we’ve decided not to rent out anymore).
My shelves are all crowded, but organized by topic, though often several layers deep. My husband’s is just neat, tidy, and he doesn’t hang onto anything that he doesn’t need or have any attachment to – our kids’ shelves are often emptied out onto the floor, where Walter Wick mingles with pillows and drawing pads.
My favorite addition of late, however, was the copy of a book I loved as a child; my mother located a used copy for my birthday: We Were Tired of Living in a House (Liesel Moak Skorpen – original 1969 art by Doris Burns).


Ric October 6, 2008 at 9:33 am

Bookshelfs. Our main one is seven foot long and goes from floor to ceiling – created from an old waterbed frame (remember those?) – heavy duty boards that won’t sag. The bookends are books I picked up at flea markets and can’t remove without bringing down the whole thing. Big books on the bottom – outsized Stephen King and Pynchon, art books from college, then hardcovers – King again, Rowling, Uris, Tolkein, blogging friends – Patry, Cohen, Pat Wood, above them, the paperbacks, again mostly King, Koontz, Lovecraft, Upton Sinclair, & hundreds of others.

Shared books are the Agatha Christie – hard to keep duplicates from turning up – my wife and I share these.

Her bookshelf – which consists mostly of Kroger bags full of romances stuffed beneath the bed, though I know she has her favorites, Fern Michaels is a current one. I will occasionally gather these up and take them to the used bookstore in town where we have like a zillion credits.

The kid’s bookshelf – sitting lonely since the kids are gone – is four foot lengths of 3/4 inch plywood with cut up 2/4’s used as bricks between shelves. Here are found Berenstein Bears, Seuss, my old All About … books, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and many others.

My kid’s friends would usually stop at the big bookshelf on their way to the bedrooms and ask, “Has your Dad really read all those books?”

Makes one wonder what gets read in other people’s homes.


Kimberly October 6, 2008 at 10:02 am

New apartment + new philosophy on “stuff” = new bookshelf!

In short – I’m DONE with unnecessary clutter in my life. From the people who weigh me down emotionally and spiritually, to the years and years of crap I have collected over the years. I’m embracing Thoreau’s mantra to “Simplify. Simplify.” and finally purging the possessions that have been possessing me for all these years.

It’s actually something I’ve been writing about for a while now (see below). Kind of overwhelming and yet also very exciting.

How does this pertain to my bookshelves? Well. I used to have wall-to-wall bookshelves (12′ wide by 12′ tall – I know, sick, isn’t it?) and they were CRAMMED full of books, PLUS the bookshelf in my bedroom AND the volumes shoved onto the “book lover’s” night stands aside my bed.

This may make everyone cringe, but I have recently truncated my collection from 35 boxes to what will now fit on a single 4’x6′ bookshelf. The only books I kept were absolutely necessary-can’t-live-without-’em books (eight small boxes.) For example – Harry Potter? Donated. My Chronicles of Narnia from elementary school? Kept ’em. Master Shakespeare doth not leave this humble abode, but eight different theatre history books were downsized to the very best, single volume..

I have also vowed to stop buying new books entirely. If I can’t find it at the library, then I’ll hit the Strand, but ONLY if I can’t find it at the library. (We’ll see how this goes. I’m only a mere mortal, after all…)

You can read all about the reasons why here and to see the new bookshelf (sans books) click here.


EkEkEkEk07 October 6, 2008 at 10:34 am

i am not very good at constructing bookshelves. once i stood a bookshelf up before nailing the back to the frame and it crumbled and broke. i recently found a 7′ bookshelf in the dumpster. no assembly required!!! it just needed to be sanitized. my harry potter collection is on the top shelf. stephen king. salinger. play scripts. i’m not very organized! i put a treat on the lower shelf and showed it to my cat. he stood up and ate the treat. i snapped a photo and it looked like he was browsing for a good book. it’s cute.


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 11:20 am

Sounds brilliant!


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 11:24 am

I do that, too! Any surface can be a makeshift bookshelf. In our dining room, there are books right alongside cereal boxes. Kate, have you ever thought of starting a blog for parents of autistic kids who love books? Or even carving out a little space over at Good Reads for that kind of thing? I think it would be invaluable.

Got curious about the book you mentioned, so here’s a link:


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 11:26 am

Ooh, I love seeing your collection compared to your wife’s! Your kids’ shelf choked me up.


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 11:30 am

I LOVE the red behind the books! You know, you could probably make a great side business out of helping people know what to throw away. On of my favorite houses to visit is our friend Ben (you know him, right?) and there is beautiful, antique furniture, but only what’s necessary, and then there is really NOTHING ELSE. It’s like visiting a monestary. It’s just you and who you’re with. I couldn’t live like that, but I love to step into a clean and pared-down world every now and then.


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 11:31 am

If you link the photo, we can come see!


kategray October 6, 2008 at 11:46 am

The copy I have is here:
A quote from it (such lyrical things for children!):
“We liked our cave, until we met the bears. So we packed our bag with sweaters and socks and scarlet leaves and gold and a frog who was a particular friend and precious stones that caught and held the sun.”

I have thought about blogging about our experience with autism in general – but it’s true that finding things he likes is a matter of first locating the haystack, within which his likes will be hidden. The only moment of real grief I had with the diagnosis was to think of all the books I have loved that he would find illogical and confusing. But then, I realized that I’m his translator (and can help him learn what he needs to learn), and have put books like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs on his wishlist.


Aurelio October 6, 2008 at 11:48 am

Our two bookshelves were mixed years ago, and are now loosely organized by type. I contributed most of the art and photo reference books (from the pre-Google Image Search era), some fiction, and biblical references left over from my Christian days (although I dumped most of the non-reference Christian books years ago, but kept several different translations of The Bible, and my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance) We both had tons of film histories and film maker bios. Chuck had philosophies, histories, and we both had science books.

Chuck has a vast assortment of antique auto books.

I have a large collection of pop-up books and illustrated children’s books.

As I look at these shelves now, the strangest section is our collection of biographies: Stalin, Teddy Roosevelt, L.B.Meyer, Doris Day, U.S. Grant, Helen Keller, Graham Chapman, Karl Marx, A. Lincoln, Walt Disney, Jules Verne, Busby Berkeley, John D. Rockefeller, etc.


EkEkEkEk07 October 6, 2008 at 12:08 pm

i can’t figure out how link a photo, but the picture is now on my myspace profile.


aimeepalooza October 6, 2008 at 1:00 pm

My bookshelf is jam packed with books stacked and otherwise. It is also missing a bunch of books because my Brother and one of my friends keep using it as a personal library. My SO does not have a bookshelf of his own but the books he owns are semi-autobiographical fiction and biographies. My books tend to be whatever strikes my fancy at the moment.


kaytie October 6, 2008 at 1:06 pm

I have seven white Ikea bookshelves. At least two of them have survived 8 moves. The shelves second from the top do not hold books, they hold photographs and other items of gewgaw value. All the other shelves hold books. They are the first thing you see when you come into our loft as they line the hallway on either side of the door. The books on the right are all fiction of the literary and commercial variety. The books on the left include non-fiction, literary magazines, fantasy and sci-fi (separated so my husband can find them easier), textbooks, travel books, dog books and my research materials for novels A and B.

The books on the left are behind glass doors. I’ve spray-painted stencils on each door. Four different book designs, my dearly departed dog and my cat. The books on the right remain exposed, partly because they look nice and partly because we ran out of money before buying all the glass doors.

Books are arranged alphabetically.

Side note: because it became clear I have a high percentage of unread books (not for lack of trying!) I started reading my library alphabetically three years ago. I went A-K before jumping to Z-L. Backwards alphabetical is still alphabetical, right?

I’m just finishing up Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.


kaytie October 6, 2008 at 1:09 pm

One of my neighbors helps people simplify their life as one of her professions, and bookshelves are one of her prime targets.

Our life is already pretty simple but I’m sure she cringes when she sees my bookshelves, even though they are straight clean with only a few horizontal books where I haven’t yet shifted the masses to accommodate them. 🙂


bklnpoet October 6, 2008 at 1:09 pm

We’ve been married 26 years and our collections have been merged from the start. We have four floor to ceiling bookcases in the guest bedroom and a fifth one in the office area. They are organized by subject matter: The first is all poetry–American poetry (alphabetized), British and commonwealth poetry (chronological order), foreign language poetry, and poetry anthologies; the second is divided between literary criticism and writer biographies and fiction; the third continues fiction, drama, psychology, social sciences, visual art, and religions other than Judaism; the fourth is divided between history and Jewish studies. The fifth has literary magazines in which my poems have appeared, publishing directories, prayer books and the Hebrew Bible.

We puchased the cases and shelves unfinished and stained and assembled them ourselves.


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 1:29 pm

What a fascinated collection (and, oh, to be so organized)! Here, let me link you here so folks can check out your website:


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 1:32 pm

Yay, someone who’s honest enough to admit the ratio of unread books! I’d love to see the stencils if you can link a photo. I’m thinking of getting rid of my shelves and shelves full of literary magazines, but I’ll keep my Ivanhoe even though I don’t think I’ll read it.


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 1:33 pm

Well, if it helps even out the blame, I have a bunch of my brother’s books on my shelf.


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 1:36 pm

Does this mean you guys are back from your trip already? I’ve always been so curious about who reads biographies. Now I know! And speaking of curious, I just had to see what the Exhaustive Concordance was all about.


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 1:36 pm

It looks a little bit like your cat is spraying the room.


kaytie October 6, 2008 at 1:40 pm

I’d make more progress on that percentage if I didn’t keep buying more books. 🙂 But I can’t stop buying them. I do make this effort though: I buy the books of living authors new so that living authors can actually live. Once that author dies, though, it’s off to the used bookstore I go so that used book booksellers can, you know, live, too.

Here’s a link to the Nervous Breakdown article I did of my stenciling:

The finished product can be seen at the bottom.

And re: Ivanhoe. Yeah, it doesn’t exactly stand the test of time. :/


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 1:40 pm

Your edition of the book is way cooler.

I’m still loving the idea of you starting a book related blog about autistic kids. If you do, definitely link it here!


bklnpoet October 6, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Thanks, Susan. By keeping the bookcases in the guest bedroom we have wall space free in the living room, kitchen, and master bedroom to exhibit my wife’s paintings:


EkEkEkEk07 October 6, 2008 at 2:31 pm

huh…it sorta does. blush. i assure you, he’s trying to decide between the catcher in the rye and the shining. he’s a very well read feline!


Betsy October 6, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Alphabetical here, although, I have so many books that they’re alphabetical within each bookshelf. I also have a size thing going on, hardcovers in one place, soft in another. I like to put books on top of the vertical ones sometimes, and if they’re all different heights they won’t lie flat. Sounds much tidier than it is. And my ratio of books bought to read is probably 4:1, I’d estimate.

Okay, the piano-playing kid? Pretty amazing.


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Freud would have a field-day with your bookshelf. I’ve missed you, Betsy. And thanks for watching the YouTube. He’s a fun little guy, and I like him.


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 4:42 pm

Well, you’ll have to cyber-meet my friend, Bruce, who wrote an amazing novel about a man’s struggle with his Jewish Faith (I reviewed the book here: ), and he just so happens to be married to an abstract painter (who is right here: )


SusanHenderson October 6, 2008 at 4:45 pm

Kaytie, wow!


Kimberly October 6, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Kaytie: Your. Bookshelves. Are. Amazing!

Those are the coolest stencils I’ve ever seen! Normally, I hate stencils. They make me think of my mother’s design sense and and that makes me start to go into artistic convulsions (she has a thing for cute-sy) but yours are simply gorgeous.

Someone told me this past weekend I should be a “purging consultant” given my new-found merciless nature. Although I bet if I advertised that on Craigslist, I would get some STRANGE replies.


Kimberly October 6, 2008 at 5:30 pm

Yeah – I do miss those shelves. I adore books as Art.

But I have so many artist friends, I’ve decided to try Art as Art this time ’round! 🙂


kaytie October 6, 2008 at 5:33 pm

Hey, thanks!

I was going for a street look. I know what you mean about cute-sy–before I’d seen the graffiti stencils around town all I knew about were the duck silhouettes with blue ribbons on kitchen walls! 😛

Yeah, purging consultant. That could go in a really gross direction.


Laura_Benedict October 6, 2008 at 6:36 pm

Bookshelves can be so complicated! When we moved to the Midwest, we gave away scads and scads of books–but we still have many. Let’s see–Three shelves of first editions signed, mostly literary, one shelf for poetry, three shelves for mysteries, thrillers, horror–a lot of those are friends’ books. One general fiction, one and a half of Joyce Carol Oates signed, two reference, one paperback classics, one of books from my childhood–The Little Princess, Debbie Does Broadway (she was an actress!), etc. One criticism and art. One of Biblical reference, one magazines, four of antique books–mostly from P’s grandfather–sets of Twain, Dickens, Irving and what to do with a complete set of Eugene Field?!

I keep cookbooks close to the kitchen, except the stack of Southern Living 1992-2002, which I keep on my personal shelves in my office. That’s where my favorites–Atwood, Highsmith, Cormac McCarthy, Peyton Place (!) all live.

And that doesn’t even count the giant stacks of shelves in Pomegranate’s and Bengal’s rooms! We’re definitely a by-subject family. How weird that all those books would probably fit on two Kindles!

Can’t wait until Wednesday! (Can I mention that the fabulous Karen Dionne will be at my Notes From the Handbasket blog tomorrow!?) xo


Kimberly October 6, 2008 at 7:51 pm

duck silhouettes with blue ribbons

So you’ve been to my mother’s house, then? 🙂


Aurelio October 6, 2008 at 7:59 pm

It was just a day trip, which I’ll have to tell you about in more detail when you’re not so busy, but there were 6 of us stuffed in a 2-seater jeep driven by a guy who took alternate hits of rum and pot as he tooled us around the back roads of Catalina Island. The driver and his wife were a 21st century Ma & Pa Kettle – definitely larger than life. It was a hoot.

And, the exhaustive part of the concordance is the part where you have to lift it – it’s huge! It came in handy when I taught Bible studies, as I could locate topical texts and verses with relative ease. I think there are concordance search engine programs now – much simpler than this tome.


djtuffpuppy October 6, 2008 at 8:38 pm

Sam & Max Surfin’ The Highway by Steve Purcell


Heather_Fowler October 6, 2008 at 11:53 pm

I have three, two-door (with glass to avoid dust) bookshelves and two sets of bookends. My husband’s books have largely been moved to the garage or the patio… This was a slow migration… Infer what you will–though he does have some books, mostly scientific or physics related on the main shelves, but my books fill the majority of the cases–literature, yes, plus teaching materials, plus umpteen “novel structuring” or “plot guidelines” books that would serve better as paperweights since they more resemble the exercise fad purchase that looks great as you watch the ad but arrives and then is abandoned– than anything I’ve ever seriously consulted. They are about to be down-sized, only I can’t make myself give them away because I can’t say anything good about them except, “They’re new! Look, you can even write in the workbook parts of them,” and would feel inauthentic as anything other than an un-shopper to say something more than that, so they aren’t worth the pimp-off. They may end up at the library. Because I have filled these shelves completely, one set of book ends is used atop two of them, side by side, approx 6 1/2 feet shoved together, to hold the books I want to get to that I bought in a frenzy of American capitalism and name recognition at one store or another, but haven’t yet read. I thought if I put them on top of the bookshelf instead of inside of it, they might be more tempting. Hey, there’s a book! I could just grab it! Alas, I cannot even inventory the names of those, nor are they alphebetized. I hardly go and check them at all. And then, once space ran out there, I cleared the top of my oak rolltop desk of orchids and pretty objects and now use the other set of book-ends there for another four feet or so of books. These books are the ones I either really want to read, I just read so am still contemplating, or I LOVE and must have near me. All are novels, short stories, philosophy, and poetry. A sampling of them would be Best of American Short Fiction 2005, Dear Everybody by Michael Kimball (just read, it was great!), a few Rick Moody books I’ve read recently (Wow! He’s the bomb!), Alan Ginsberg, Collected Poems, The Viking Portable Library Nietzsche, Temporary People by Steven Gillis, Without Wax by William Walsh, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Willa Cather’s Lost Lady, The Best American Non-Required Reading 2007, Erotic Love Poems from India; The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender, Ficciones by Borghes, and The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov—plus many more.

Then there are unshelved books that seem to be multiplying all over the house. Those in the kid’s bathroom, those forgotten on nightstands, those in the living room shelves that are blended with kids books and cookbooks, etc. Additionally, in their bedrooms, each child has his or her own bookcase, filled with children’s literature.

There is no real organization. 😉 This would be what I will do when I have more time and can organize them. Now, it’s kind of like: If I want to read the book, I need to put it where I’m going to trip over it as I’m walking around. That helps. The tripping. I almost fall, and then I’m like, “Oh! Oh here it is! I’ve been wanting to read this!”

A post-it on the forehead works, too. *grins*



eileen_rita October 7, 2008 at 12:03 am

I made my book shelf out of bricks that my father used to have in his shed. I think It gives my annoyingly bland bedroom a rustic feel. I have all my large non fiction, hard covers and University books stacked on the top and the rest is divided by up by author. My most prized posession sits on the table by my bed though – my Lord of the Rings trilogy that I got signed by Ian McKellan – makes me smile just to see it sitting there.
I read mostly crime stories and thrillers. My biggest shelves are John Grisham, Johnathan Kellerman and Michael Reilly.
I also collect a lot of movie scripts and production books which I keep in the lounge by my DVD’s. They’re kept in a simple IKEA type black shelf. I like to refer to them while I write which I usually do on the couch.
My ex-boyfriend didn’t have a shelf – he had piles. He was more a magazine reader….sigh…


SusanHenderson October 7, 2008 at 6:27 am

I gotta hear this one. Drop me a note.


SusanHenderson October 7, 2008 at 6:30 am

Interesting how both you and Kimberly talk about the connection between moving and how it impacts your books. I do what you do, and I have a shelf for favorites, which is the shelf I took the picture of. (Okay, Mr. H took the picture, because if I did, it would be blurry.) I’ve got Cormac and Margaret on my favorite shelf, too!

Here’s the link to your great interview with Karen:


SusanHenderson October 7, 2008 at 6:33 am

Love getting a peek at your shelf! We have really similar taste in books! xo


SusanHenderson October 7, 2008 at 6:35 am

Love the picture I have in my head of the rustic, handmade shelf. And how you scootch all your favorites close to your bed!


kategray October 7, 2008 at 9:24 am

Well, ok, so I opened it up and gave it an intro:
-the title is just in reference to some obscure Roman sub-gods, who governed day and night-

I’m going to have to make a collage of all our bookcases – but in reference to siblings poaching/bewstowing books – my sister and I trade, since we have common tastes, but I’m still trying to rid myself of my younger brother’s Nostradamus/auto repair books (while wishing I’d snatched his copy of The Electric Acid Kool-Aid Test), and my older brother’s sci-fi stuff that he tried to get me to read.


SusanHenderson October 7, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Kate, Just incredible what you’ve started there.


TishCohen October 8, 2008 at 11:17 am

What a juicy topic. Book shelves are very important in my life. From the moment my husband and I first moved in together, our big house-related goal was to have a room with a wall of built-in bookshelves. We rented and had very little cash, so we made due with slippery black Ikea shelves that bent under the weight of our growing collection. Those shelves, as well as tons of cardboard boxes our German shepherd used to pee on, held our books through five moves. While some of those moves were into houses we owned, we never had the extra cash we needed for our shelves. Sadly, we lost quite a few books to moldy basements and urine. Six years ago we bought our current house. It needed all sorts of work done–the floor grout was crumbling and the (hideous 80s) floor tiles lifted up in spots. We had leaks from an upstairs bathroom into the laundry room, from the kitchen into the basement. But we fixed none of it. We’d waited over fifteen years for our shelves and we were going to have them. We called a carpenter in to install floor-to-ceiling shelves and thick crown molding in the living room, painted them with zero VOC paint and loaded our books before the paint cured. We’d waited so long – what did we care if a few books stuck to the paint? We needed to sit on the floor and stare up at our achievement. Anyway, now these shelves are full (my husband tries to line them all up like a library, but puts up with me setting books sideways and backward and stacked in weird ways so they never actually look library-ish) and the books have spilled out onto other surfaces in other rooms. I guess we need more shelves. We also still need those floors…


SusanHenderson October 8, 2008 at 2:16 pm

I love that story, Tish! Can you get the books off the shelf or are they all stuck to the paint?


TishCohen October 8, 2008 at 2:27 pm

They come off with a scary little tearing sound. But fear not, it’s the paint that lifts and tears, not the covers. Makes choosing a book all the more exciting.


Carolyn_Burns_Bass October 9, 2008 at 10:27 pm

I’m with Tish. I’ve always wanted a room with wall-to ceiling bookshelves and one of those cool ladders that slides around so I could reach the top ones. A sliding wall of shelves and maybe a hidden room would be cool, too.

Back to reality. When BassMan and I got married, I merged my books into his similar to a real library. Fiction by author, non-fiction by subject. Our first move took us to Japan, where he unpacked our household goods while I lay in a Japanese hospital recovering from a C-section. He shelved all of the books by color, height, and how they looked on the shelf.

I was appalled at his lack of library science, but amused at him for thinking it would make me happy to see them look pretty on the shelf. I left the books on the shelf until we moved again and I took over the bookshelving responsibilities.

We currently have books all over the house. Our guest room has several large bookshelves that are drooping with fiction on the left side and non-fiction on the right. The family room has a shelf of children’s books (although our kids are no longer “children,” I’ve yet to remove them because these books are like dear playmates) and cookbooks and travel. Each of my kids have bookshelves in their rooms for their personal favorites. There are books on the display shelf in my dining room. My nightstand always has a couple of stacks of books in various stages of reading. Some not yet started, some stalled, some waiting for bedtime.

Bookmarked at the top of my nightstand is THE WAR OF ART by Steven Pressfield. I *heart* this book. Anytime I read a bit of it before going to sleep, I get up the next morning and slay resistance.


SusanHenderson October 10, 2008 at 8:18 pm

I’m for the hidden room!

I would love to see a photo of your very organized bookshelf if you want to post a link to it here.

The War of Art book got me curious, so here’s the link:

(Hey, Kimberly, why do I think that might be a book for you?!)


mlakers October 16, 2008 at 11:23 am

Where do I put books? Where DON’T I put books?? My poor, poor family. They are stashed and piled everywhere, with the biggest, most towering pile right beside my bed. And don’t even ask me about my desk. But I only wish I could play the piano like that!


SusanHenderson October 17, 2008 at 12:49 am

Yeah, my piano skills are kind of maxed out with Humpty Dumpty, so I’m amazed when I see him working out a new song. Great to see you here, Mary, and I’m glad you have piles of books all over your house.


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