Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Joy of Bookshelving

I have stated in my recent blog posts that I have moved. Oh the joy of moving boxes around Massachusetts. You really ought to try it. Well, when you have lots of books like I do you have to move said books. That in itself is a chore worthy of anyone preparing for Olympic competition. And no, I will not hear such heathen suggestions as getting rid of my books. They are a burden of love.

To me, part of the joy of owning books is displaying them. Now I do not do that in a sense of intellectual snobbery or moral arrogance. I do it because they are beautiful creations and display a nobler side of human progress. They are meant to be displayed and put on bookshelves for friends to see.

Setting up a bookshelf is not just grabbing the books out of a box putting them up so that you can move to the next task of unpacking. No, it is an endeavor that should be savored. The first and foremost of the steps involved is the handling of the books. Many of those books I may not have opened in a long time. They are an invitation to diversion that takes a great deal of time in itself, but I do love those trips down memory lane.

I've performed this task several times in my life and each time the process has been more refined. There are several questions I am asking myself as I am taking the books out of their temporary homes. How do I want to group these? What general location on the shelf are they going to be placed? What books are going to be eye-level as people walk past? What do I want my bookshelf to show? What is the life story I want to tell? The bookshelf is a comment on me as I am creating it. I have acquired these books over years of living. I have books from high school and college. Books that I bought over the years and others that were gifts from loved ones. As I create my personal library I am weaving all those stories into a tapestry. 

I want others to see the relationships between the various groupings of books that I put together. When they look at the bookshelf they are seeing a reflection of myself. Choosing those books is not an easy process. This time around I was dealt with a space constraint. I have two main bookshelves and one overflow. It was a hard decision deciding which books got top billing. In some cases I felt that I was betraying a trust that I had established.

One of the hardest tasks is addressing the cacophony of various book sizes. My large hardcovers are on the very top and those are the easiest. Magazine collections go down on the bottom. The intermediate shelves are a tougher task. Our modern age of variety has books of every shape and size. Shaping those is like herding cats. So not only does one have the intended sections but also the wildly fluctuating sizes. Its a balance of logical organization and aesthetic pleasure.

This time around the process took me about a week. I am not quite done with it, but I am generally satisfied with it at present. I will perform a little refining as time passes on and inspiration hits. Now I don't mean this endeavor to be seen as an endeavor. What I am saying is to have some fun with the process. Arrange the books, add a little extra non-book flair. Tell the story of yourself through your bookshelf. 

(I tried to take a photo of mine but the lighting is absolutely horrible. Perhaps at a later time I'll post an image.)


  1. We moved to our current home about 9 1/2 years ago. We didn't have many book shelves, just some built-ins. We quickly filled those, and boxed the remainder. Those boxes have been in the garage all this time.

    We got shelves (finally!) about 2 months ago. The boxes are still in the garage. We'll get to it.

    1. When you walk through the garage you know that the books are watching... waiting... hoping...

      Have fun when you get a chance to set up your shelves!