Shelf Esteem No. 4


Cozy Factor: Very High. Like Def Con 5 cozy. Comfy furniture, warm wood shelves, nice warm light, a ladder(!), and a mishmash of books that enourage browsing.

The Books: At least three books by Bill Cosby, at least three about gambling, at least three Atwoods (Robber Bride, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Alias Grace), Roth, McMurtry, Grisham, Tolkein, Le Carre, Doctrow, Tolstoy, Poe, Byatt, McEwan,  two editions of Bastard Out of Carolina on different shelves, White Noise, Snow Falling on Cedars, Gail Sheehy, Alice Adams, Frank McCourt

Also seems to have a few books on books (e.g., Bookmen’s Bedlam), a couple of bios (Genet and Michael Caine), Folio Society editions, about 9 Granta issues…

The Shelves: I like the look of them and the quanity of them. They appear to be adjustable, and the ladder is every book junkie’s dream.

Is this person a reader? Probably, but a few things make me think maybe not as big a reader as one would think at first glance. First, these are definitely catch-all shelves. Old French grammar books, guide book to colleges, Folio Society editions and some pretty sets that seem like they may have been purchased to fill some space. Plus a smattering of anthologies and other books that one typically gets in college days. On the other hand the general disorganization suggests that the books are being read rather than arranged for effect. I think this person does read, but doesn’t necessarily have very defined tastes. Do we think the guy on the ladder is the guy who does the reading in the house?

I would say he is a Bookstore Reader. Someone who goes to a bookstore without something specific in mind and comes away with something off of one of the tables, generally some bit of popular fiction.

The book I would read if I had to pick one: Victorian Illustrated Books by Percy Muir.

7 thoughts on “Shelf Esteem No. 4

  1. C.B. James November 20, 2011 / 1:30 pm

    I love this feature. I hope you'll keep doing it. I'm not convinced this guy is a read, though I do like his bookshelves. There are a few sets towards the bottom shelf that I tend to see at library book sales over and over again. And I notice a paucity of paperback titles. I think readers always have lots of paperback titles around. Reader buy to read not to display. This looks like a display collection to me.

    I also want to put in a word for non-adjustable bookshelves. C.J. and I just had a bookshelf custom built for the bedroom we're turning into a library. I'll post pics when it's all done. The shelves are not adjustable. While this means that we won't be able to have a special section for very large coffee table books, non-adjustable shelves are much longer lasting than adjustable one, which so often have those little pins in the holding up the shelves for a few years only to eventually give way. Non-adjustable shelves also have much less bowing over time than adjustable ones do. End of sermon.


  2. betsy November 20, 2011 / 4:03 pm

    Don't knock those old college anthologies. My father kept one of his from his days at Long Island University. It was big and blue and one of the most important books in my life. It went to live on my bookshelf when I was 10. There I first read, then memorized, “Dover Beach”. And the first lines of James Thomson's “Winter” from his “The Seasons”:

    “See, Winter comes to rule the varied year

    Sullen ans sad- with all his rising train-“

    Leave those anthologies on the shelf. A child might want to read them.


  3. Susan in TX November 20, 2011 / 7:53 pm

    Hmmmm…is he a reader? I don't know. A few of those shelves look like what you would get at Half-Price books buying “by the yard.” I do love the shelves, though, and completely agree about the ladder.
    This is a great feature!


  4. Kathleen November 20, 2011 / 9:18 pm

    I would love to have book shelves that required a ladder!


  5. Thomas at My Porch November 21, 2011 / 9:30 am

    CB: You make good points about fixed shelves, but I think I still may need the flexibility.

    Betsy: I'm not knocking the old anthologies, I would definitely keep them on the shelf.

    Susan: I'm convinced that those “by the yard” services have books that I would want. I would love to have the job of combing through them. I know there are some old Whipples in there being sold as decor.

    Kathleen: Me too!


  6. Nan November 30, 2011 / 1:23 pm

    I 'should' like these shelves, but I don't. The feel of the room is off somehow. I don't like the few non-book things. And that guy. What goes? He really ruins it, don't you think. It should be a fellow sitting in the chair, wearing a wool cardigan sweater and a half-full whisky glass beside him. :<) And those authors - not my types at all. Well, I did read one McEwan. Oh, I think I also don't like chairs with the books behind them. I'd want to face the shelves as I sat. Oh, I do take this whole shelf esteem thing too seriously, don't I.


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