What’s on your bookshelf?

“The contents of someone’s bookcase are part of his history, like an ancestral portrait”- Anatole Broyard

Fellow blogger, Jilanne Hoffman, threw down an interesting challenge a few weeks ago: “Show us your shelves”!

 I want to see the books on your shelves. We want to take a dip into your psyche and expose your literary soul to the world. Call it a “Reader’s Rorschach,” she proposed.

Like many of you, there are bookshelves in nearly every room of the house, so I’ll just show you a few.  Plus, I’m a bit shy, so I wouldn’t want to expose my literary soul too much!  I hope you get some ideas, and feel free to suggest some good books based on mine (sorry the images aren’t clearer).

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Check out Jilanne’s wonderful blog here: http://jilannehoffmann.com/

106 thoughts on “What’s on your bookshelf?

    • Isn’t it funny how private our bookshelves feel? That’s why I only showed a small part of my collection. A bit silly when you think about it but I guess it’s just human (at least to us book lovers!)

      I think everyone has a method to their madness so I’m sure your “messy” bookshelves have a system all to themselves!

    • I didn’t realize I had photographed that- oops! The second “The Interpreter of Maladies” was a gift.

      The multiple copies of “Night” are a result of various reasons: bought one, was offered one, was given one to teach from, and who knows why I have the 4th copy (not sure if you can see the 4th in the photo). Once I realized I had so many copies of it, I was fascinated by that fact and just decided to keep them all.

    • Well, thank you! The biggest shelving unit takes up the main wall of the dining room so I like to keep that looking neat (it helps that books in French tend to be white so I find that they always look nice). I have a series of Freud’s writings which are a ghastly orange!

          • 🙂 Ah, at last, my endless boring trips to the supermarket have been put to good use! Sadly, I live in a silly modern house which has no place for bookshelves. So I put covered bookshelves in my garage (one entire wall) and only bring a few books in to the house at a time. It’s weird but it works.

  1. Pingback: Shelf life | Drinking Tips for Teens

  2. What a wonderful collection! You asked for recommendations – what about Les Belles Images by Simone de Beauvoir, Les Fleurs bleues by Raymond Queneau and Indiana by George Sand?

  3. I want to steal some of your books, I have all my books in two closets and have a little shelf in my office mostly art books, I do not think I can take pictures of my books it says way to much about me ;), thank you for showing us a piece of your soul.

      • I have a thing for art books how did you know ;). The best art books are the ones that are used, I usually find them in library stores or used book stores, my first art book was Frida Kahlo my brother gave it to me back in the 90’s when we were visiting the museum in Mexico City it is small still have it and is in my little shelve where I collect art books and some poetry books too. The last book I bought was Gustav klimt and it is big and beautiful I got it for 5 dls at the library. I display them as art you can see the front instead of spine. I will take a picture see if I can do it too, but books say to much about us ;).

        • What a good idea to display them by the cover instead of the spine. I put some books on my table so that I can see their cover. I love the different stories of your first art book – on Kahlo- and on your latest – Klimt: both artists I admire!

  4. What a fascinating blog, and all the comments. My first thought was how tidy they all are, and the books so new looking – mine are so often read and used and now, old, that they don’t have that pristine look that yours have. My second thought was , gosh how erudite you are… I haven’t read the half of those you showed us, and my third, yes, I simply Love other people’s book shelves, and what they tell us…

    • I know, our books become so tattered so quickly, don’t they, Valerie? That’s why I pack them in so tightly- it helps regain their form a bit (the Orhan Pamuk book I dropped in the tub which doubled in volume and became all wavy is in one of the photos and looks almost normal from the spine!….. Taking it off the shelf, however, requires great delicacy…..).

  5. Ah Letizia you really value and treasure books don’t you? Even the very best ones I read get left in corners and end up with charity shops or charity book sales. As a writer (of sorts) it gives me a little glow to think that at least one of mine is kept neatly on a shelf somewhere. Lovely post, thank you.

    • How wonderful that you bring them to charity shops. When I run out of shelving space, I go through my books and decide which ones I should give away. I love the recycling that occurs in the book world.

      … a writer (of sorts)?? You’re a wonderful writer, Roy!

  6. Kundera, Proust, Barthes and Xingjian… yep! We share common authors in our book shelf. Great post ”d say because there’s nothing greater than oggling at someone else’s library! 😀

  7. What a collection you have, Letizia. Since I’m in the States for a while my collection awaits my return, but for now many of my new books are in preparation for some long distant sailing and weather. Of course my kindle is always close.

    You selection put me in mind to expand my mind.

    • Ah, the anxiety of knowing one’s books are traversing the ocean! But then there’s the wonderful pleasure of unpacking them when they arrive and rediscovering them all over again….

  8. Your bookshelves are much tidier and much more varied than mine. Part of the reason for that is that when I retired I had to get rid of many of the books that had inhabited the shelves in my rather large office simply because there was no room for them at home. I still mourn their loss.

    • That must have been difficult! Not only deciding which ones to part with, but, I imagine, you must sometimes think you still own them and go searching for a specific book only to remember, alas, that it has since moved on to another owner.

  9. Oh! Oh! Oh! I’m coming over to your place. This is a marvelous post – a celebration of books and of sharing ideas, throughout time and space.

    “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
    ― Marcus Tullius Cicero

    My dear friend, your rooms have big souls!

  10. Montaigne! Of course! And I just saw Parallels and Paradoxes by Barenboim. Interesting book, isn’t it? It’s been awhile since I opened it. I have to run now. Karen Joy Fowler is reading now, and I want to listen to her excerpt from her new novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Looking forward to taking a closer look!

    • You are so right, Shakti, the physical presence of books is so comforting. And I find them so beautiful as well!

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

  11. Wow,letizia. Your bookshelves are much more organized than mine. I keep them purposely eclectic so that it’s always a surprise when I look at my shelves. I have them in every room, including the bathroom. Plus there are stacks of books everywhere. I can’t help it; books make me happy.

    • It’s wonderful to have books all around the house! I try to keep my books organized by author but, alas, they always end up scattered on different shelves through use. Oh well!

  12. With two readers in the house and lots of book shelves in every room, we have decided to seriously cull some. I honestly don’t know where to begin. I believe when I put my hand on the book and it evokes a strong emotion, we’ll end up with all of them. You have some great titles.

  13. Fantastic collection, not that i would expect anything less of course! Your copy of Jane Eyre looks good enough to read…which I have never even wanted to before but I fell in love with your book. So many great writers and the books in such good condition, this pleases me, I could never knowingly even break the spine of a book, it’s all a bit OCD around here. It does make me wonder what other treasures you have hidden away though…..

    • Oh dear, should I admit that the first thing I do when I get a new book is crack the spine? No, I won’t tell you that. Nor will I tell you that I love when a book gets worn and dog-eared. No, I’ll keep that a secret.

      I bought the Jane Eyre book in a little used book store years ago. It has a wonderful feel and smell to it!

      • I shall remain oblivious to your blasphemous ways then my friend. If I knew that I would have to re-evaluate everything I knew. Best off keeping me in the dark.

        I am even more jealous over that book now, I love just picking up and smelling my acquisitions, sometimes it beats actually reading them…just.

    • I have a few different Indian authors (I like Indian literature) but haven’t read anything by Amitav Ghosh yet, thanks for the recommendation! (and the kind comments!).

    • I’m learning from all these comments that there seem to be two groups in relation to books on shelves: the very tidy or the very messy, with almost no one in between 🙂 It’s quite fun to learn this about everyone!

  14. You must have been a librarian at some point in your life. The neat and tidy gives you away, my dear. It’s funny how people swarm to posts about bookshelves. Remember this one: http://cricketmuse.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/books-nooks-and-looks-unpacking-your-library/
    It was one of my early posts and it still rates as one of my best all time view stats. I guess looking at people’s bookshelves is a better and more politely acceptable way of looking at someone’s lifestyle.
    Would we be as interested if we ran a “Take a look at my garage” post? Then again, I bet one is out there!

    • I always dreamed of being a librarian (or a bookstore owner). Perhaps in a future life! “Take a look at my garage” – that’s funny 🙂 Did you see that one of my followers keeps her books in her garage as she doesn’t have room in her house? Now that’s one garage I’d want to see!

  15. I feel kind of OCD because my books are all arranged tallest to shortest.

    I thought of you today. someone at work has a sticker on her car, like those curvy, leggy silhouettes, but she was wearing a below-the-knee skirt and ponytail – and reading a book!

    • What a fun sticker! Imagine seeing that on a trucker flap 🙂

      Tallest to shortest – that’s an interesting sorting arrangement. I try to keep similar heights together but mainly group by subject, but not really either as they get rearranged with use. Very short books always pose a problem visually, I find (and tend to fall behind by other books, ugh). I love hearing about other people’s methods.

  16. a bookshelf tells some important piece of one’s history. I noticed it watching my books…some at bookshelf…the most at hills of books along the house. I notice books that I’ve read fourty years later. Some books remind me where I was at some travelings when I purchased them. And I noticed my own first written book upon the book that my mother’s grandfather wrote in 1935, entitled ‘Noite de Reis’. Noite de reis é uma festa de tradição lusitana que ocorre em 6 de janeiro. The peoples walk through the night singing and playing music. The tradition is receive them for some cup of coffee and a cake. Thanks for share. I appreciate very much your work and art.

    • We celebrate the Noite de Reis in my family too but I didn’t know how they celebrated it in Brazil – I love that it is celebrated through music and singing, that is beautiful. In France, we have cake too and whoever finds the little king statue in the cake becomes the king (or queen) for the day!

      You are so right, when we look at our books, we are reminded of all the journeys we have taken…

  17. Pingback: Challenge Accepted: Show us your shelves | a physical perspective

    • Don’t feel underread! That’s the best part of reading, there are always more great books to be read, right? 🙂 That’s why I love reading all of your blogs and looking at people’s bookshelves, I discover more wonderful books to read!

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  20. I see you have a few Jhumpa Lahiri. I love her writing. I’d friends lining up for me to get an autographed copy of Unaccustomed Earth when she was in Cleveland and mailed to me in Alberta, Canada. It has been a while since her last publication now. Also, I’ve appreciated what you mean by not baring all. Books that we own are portals to our inner life. I’d guard my privacy too. Thanks for allowing us a tiny glimpse into yours.

    • You’re most welcome – it did feel a bit odd at first, showing off some of my books!

      How fun to have your friends send you a signed copy of her book – you’ll have to do that with each book now to make it a tradition.

  21. Just learned that Lahiri has a new book The Lowland, and it has been longlisted for the Booker this year. Guess you’ll soon have one more on your shelf. 🙂

    • I know, I’m so excited! It comes out here in the U.S. in September and I’m tempted to get it in hardback as I’m so eager to read it…. You’ll have to let me know what you think of it when you read it!

    • How fascinating! I imagined your home to be full of bookshelves! You must have many piles everywhere then as you are always reading such great books. When I used to live in flats, before having enough space, I used to create a lot of piles of books and use them as ‘tables’. A bit inconvenient when I needed to get a specific book as I would have to take everything off the top book but, hey, you do what you can! I love learning this about you, hahaha!

    • I agree, Abby, it’s fun to see what books you’ve both read and get ideas of what to read next. I always check out people’s bookshelves when I go to their homes.

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    • I like those Penguin editions, don’t you? An unusual color when you think about it but they look good as a collection. I first read The Trial for a course and had to write a paper on it. I was going away on holiday just before the paper was due so ended up writing the paper on Kafka’s The Trial while in Jamaica. The beach, the cocktails and Kafka were an unusual mix!

      • Yeah, those Penguin editions are great! A pity I don’t have too many of them.

        The beach, the cocktails and Kafka sound like an atypical but perfect combination. My experience with Kafka is mostly limited to libraries 😦

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