Shelf Esteem No. 9

Cozy Factor: The warm wood and the well-worn look of the books certainly give it some cozy, but it is hard to tell without seeing the rest of the room. I have hunch it may be a loft space so it may not have the coziness of a library but I bet the shelves add to the overall cozy of the room. I think the wood floors could use a rug.

The Shelves: I think they are beautifully made and are a nice warm color. They look like they adjustable which is kind attractive to me. Stacking books horizontally (as I do in some cases) might be difficult given the fact that the vertical members only up half way.

The Books: Lots of philosophy, lit crit, and poetry on the shelves. Very few discernible novels. The books stacked on the floor look like stuff that she picked up while aimlessly browsing the tables at her local Barnes and Noble. Three by Anthony Bourdain, an picture book of ironically bad hair cuts, the book Rats which I have read and has some fascinating information among the filler.

Is this person a reader? Well she appears to be reading right now…assuming this is her library, I would say that she is a reader, but her reading has changed. My guess is she was philosophy major and perhaps even got a Master’s degree before going to law school. Now that she is safely on the partner tract at work she is only now starting to read again after a decade’s hiatus. All the new books arranged in the foreground suggest that her current reading tastes are not as lofty as they once were.

The book I would read if I had to pick one: Mongo: Adventures in Trash in which author Ted Botha explores the world of trash in NYC and those who collect and reuse objects discarded by others.


Shelf Esteem No. 8

Don’t worry, I haven’t run out of fabulous images of overstuffed bookshelves and cozy home libraries. I realize that posting such an anemic “library” might make some of you think that I am scraping the bottom of the barrel for Shelf Esteem content. Not so.   

Cozy factor: Despite having many of the trappings of cozy, the overall effect is not very cozy.

The Shelves: They are quite odd. They don’t seem to be one thing or the other. The unit looks built-in, yet it is of a size that makes one wonder why they bothered. It seems like a lot of effort, money, and thought went into making this, but the overall effect is rather cheap looking and not very pleasantly scaled. Plus it seems like overkill for the small amount of storage it provides.

The Books: I will let you decide. Three picture books on golf. Michener, Le Carre, McMurtry, Iriving, Crichton, Grisham, Dan Brown

Is this person a reader? Yes, but really…in this case who cares?

The book I would read if I had to pick one: I think I would try one of the Le Carre. I think I would enjoy these despite having some problems getting into one of his books in the past.

What gives Thomas? Why are you wasting our time with this one? Simple, the John Currin painting above the shelves. I love the surreal (or perhaps it is super- or hyper-real) quality of his work. I mentioned it once before when I commented on the Persephone cover of Mariana by Monica Dickens. His works sell in the $500,000 range. Can you imagine having an art budget that big? We saw a major exhibit of his work a few years ago, but I forget where. His work is fascinating. And it has been so long since I did a Sunday Painting. So here are few more for your perusal.

Shelf Esteem No. 7


Cozy Factor: Zero.

The Books: Lots and lots to choose from here. Wide range of bios from painters (NC Wyeth), writers (Waugh, Wilde, Fitgerald, Sackville-West), composers (Ned Rorem), actors (Gielgud and Olivier) and political types (JFK).   And plenty of fiction too: Amis (pere et fils), Brookner (x 2!) Byatt, Cheever, Le Carre, McMurtry, Mitford, Trollope, Updike, Vidal Edmund White, Anne Tyler…

Plenty of art books, and as I look closer more biography than I initially thought.

And two Persephones. Can you spot them?*

The Shelves: If you live in DC and know anything about local architecture you know that these shelves were designed by Hugh Newell Jacobson. I kind of like them, but I am not sure how I would feel about trying to arrange books in them. The relatively short span of the each shelve allows for the use of thin pieces of wood which I think frames the books nicely. And there is something pleasing to me about how the uniformity and steady rhythm of the shelves bring order to the chaos of the size and color of the books.

I actually have two versions of this very same picture.  The one you see above was culled from a magazine at some point. The other is in the book Books Do Furnish a Room by Leslie Geddes-Brown. It was kind of fun to look for the changes in the placement of the books between the two pictures. There were some additions and some rearranging, it was like going on a treasure hunt. A picture of this library/dining room taken from another angle is also the cover image of the Geddes-Brown book.

Is this person a reader? Most defnitely. The variety of book type and author is in perfect balance with clear areas of the library owner’s interests.

The book I would read if I had to pick one: It was hard to choose this time because there were many that looked good to me, but I would go with The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh.

*(Top row, right side, second section from the left)

Shelf Esteem No. 6


Cozy Factor: With the warm colors and soft light, I would say pretty darn cozy, although the dining chairs might need a cushion.

The Books: In addition to a shelf of auction catalogs and a shelf of cookbooks and food writing, this person has quite a few book of the month type books and with an emphasis on best selling non-fiction.

  • The Chief (bio of Randolph Hearst)
  • Titan (bio of Rockefeller)
  • Churchill bio
  • Thatcher bio
  • Driven Patriot (bio of James Forrestal – Truman’s Secretary of Defense)
  • The Bell Curve (the controversial book that suggested that there is a correlation between genes and intelligence–with racial overtones)
  • Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken (does this balance out all the conservative stuff or was it a gift from a lefty friend?)
  • George Stephanopolous’ memoir
  • Two books on American financier Bernard Baruch
  • The Triumph of Politics by David Stockman – Stockman was Reagan’s budget guy and progenitor of supply-side economics. Interestingly, Stockman was just quoted in Rolling Stone in November saying: “The Republican Party has totally abdicated its job in our democracy, which is to act as the guardian of fiscal discipline and responsibility. They’re on an anti-tax jihad — one that benefits the prosperous classes.”
  • Undaunted Courage
  • Guns, Germs and Steel

Man, these titles are so typical of the non-creative books that line shelves in DC. Woodward, Iacocca, Trump, Adam Smith… The only fiction I can make out is Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full (also seen in SE#5) The Firm, and The Da Vinci Code.

The Shelves: I like the way the backs are painted in a darker color but I am not sure I like the proportions and profile of the mill work. I particularly don’t like how the TV is built in. Not because it is a TV in a library but because I think building in any appliance is foolish and the proportions of the trip work look terrible.

Is this person a reader? Pretty sure it is a married couple…Yes they are readers, but I don’t think I would find them very interesting.

The book I would read if I had to choose one: Probably the Thatcher bio. It would get me ready for the Meryl Streep portrayal out next year. Plus I wouldn’t mind reading more about that period of British history.

Shelf Esteem No. 5


Cozy Factor: The cool, bright white makes it hard to call this one cozy. But I can imagine being very happy here.
The Books: Mainly fiction from what I can see. Paul Auster Mr. Vertigo, Tom Wolfe A Man in Full, James Joyce Ulysses, Don Delillo Libra, Paul Bowles The Sheltering Sky, Paradise Lost, Tropic of Cancer, a lot of men on these shelves…he has the same exact old paperback of Death in Venice that I have…Leaves of Grass (a favorite of mine), Sister Carrie (a great old American classic) and then finally we get to the obligatory The Bell Jar. But then I spy a little Carol Shields, Iris Murdoch, and even Anita Brookner.
The Shelves: I would be plenty happy with these. I like the way they go over the door and that there is plenty of capacity.
Is this person a reader? Yes. I don’t think he reads as much as he would like to, but he honors books enough that not one of them here looks decoratrive.
The book would I read if I had to choose one: I think I spy a copy of Villette which I own but haven’t read yet.

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.

Shelf Esteem No. 3

With this, my third installment of Shelf Esteem, I continue my voyeuristic, bibliophonic, mania.

I had a little incident this week where I beat the crap out of my malfunctioning scanner/printer. It is a pity that electronics’ manufacturers (and consumers) think that one needs to have extra features to justify higher prices. I would be happier paying more money for fewer features if it meant higher quality and reliability. But those aren’t really words that fit into the disposable, just try and get it fixed, world of consumer electronics. Thankfully, I scanned all of my Shelf Esteem images a few weeks ago so I have plenty of images to share until I find a scanner/printer that won’t cause me to go nutso.

Cozy Factor: High. I don’t necessarily think that clutter equals cozy, but in this case it does. And even without a place to sit, I still find this one very inviting. I can imagine myself sitting on the rug combing the shelves.
The Books: Lots of art books, and midway down on the bottom shelf, those look like they might be auction catalogs. I love how the one book in the second bay is on display by sitting on top another book shoved in below. I am curious about the giant, red Graphic Dictionary of Mexico City sitting on the floor in its own handled carrying case. The stack at the very left in the photo has the autobiographies of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. Among the non-fiction on the shelves I spy Martha, Inc (a tell all about Martha Stewart) and The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer. The fiction I can see includes Ragtime, White Noise, Queenie, and The Witches of Eastwick. And one called The White Hotel by DM Thomas. Wikipedia says this about it:
The book’s first three movements consist of the erotic fantasies and case-history of one of the novelist’s conception of Sigmund Freud’s female patients, overlapping, expanding, and gradually turning into almost normal narrative. But then the story takes a different course with the convulsions of the century, and becomes a testament of the Holocaust, harrowing and chillingly authentic. Only at the end does the fantasy element return, pulling together the earlier themes into a kind of benediction.
The Shelves: Good, basic, white painted wood. They look sturdy and allow for different size books. I would probably want them up to the ceiling, but then that  wouldn’t allow for all the junque on top. (I would also choose different junque and framed pieces, but the overall feel is right.)

Is this person a reader? I think so, but when it comes to fiction s/he seems to have stopped buying hardcovers in the 1980s.

The book I would read if I had to pick one: I think I would choose The White Hotel. I am not interested in women’s erotic tales, but it sounds kind of fascinating. Parts of it are also epistolary, which you know I like.

Shelf Esteem No. 2


In this my second installment of Shelf Esteem, I’m giving you two shelves to look at. One doesn’t show many books–but it shows them up close, and the other has lots of books in it, but none of the titles are discernible.

I failed to mention in my first installment of Shelf Esteem that John came up with the name. We batted around many bad ideas, and just when I was about to throw in the towel and do something really boring John called out “Shelf Esteem” from the other room. I think it works.

Shelf One

Cozy Factor: I don’t like TVs in libraries, but the existence of this one suggests that there is a comfy couch on the opposite wall. The sunlight streaming in (and the snoozing dog) also suggest that this indeed might be a cozy place to read.

The Books: I feel like I know this person based on the contents of his shelves (yes I think it a he, and probably a gay he as well).

First off there are a few books relevant to my professional milieu of architects, planners, and historic preservationists. Most notably for me are two books that I also have on my shelves: The Urban Wilderness, a seminal planning book by Sam Bass Warner Jr, and Edge City by Joel Garreau a journalistic look at those suburban no-places like Tysons Corner, Virginia.  He also has a book that every architect and wannabee seems to own S,M,L,XL by the annoying Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas–or rather produced by his studio. I have never understood the appeal of this book and feel that its ubiquity can only be put down to me-tooism.

So why do I think he is gay? Well if the DVD of Moulin Rouge doesn’t make you think so, he also has The Swimming Pool Library (gay), The World of Normal Boys (really gay–and really good), and a Cunningham on one spine makes me think it must be Michael Cunningham. He also has a book by Paul Monette a gay author who wrote novels that dealt with the early, deadly days of AIDS. I remember liking Monette’s books when I read them in high school and college. But think of that, my young gay self was steeped in the literature of AIDS–how depressing.

The Shelves: I am kind of ambivalent about open ended shelves like these for both functional and aesthetic reasons.

Is this person a reader? Kind of. I think when he does read he either reads stuff for work or he reads non-fiction that he feels he should read. I also think there are some volumes from his grad school days. Strikes me as the kind of person who reads fiction on vacation, would prefer to read Le Carre (he has at least two) but augments that with (again) stuff he thinks he should read like Roth, Irving, and Oates, the gay novels, or things like The Slaves of New York (the gayest of all?). This is a guy I would have wanted to date–being blinded by a few interesting things on his shelves–but  ultimately he would have been too conventional for me, and I would have been too irreverent for him. I mean the man owns a book by Bill Gates and one called Winning with Integrity.

The book I would read if I had to pick one: I would probably re-read The World of Normal Boys.

Shelf Two

Cozy Factor: The shelves themselves are cozy, but the room is not. I think it could be fairly easily, the comfy blanket helps, but overall too many crisp edges.

The Books: I can’t see any of the titles, which is a crying shame because there are a lot of them.

The Shelves: Again I am ambivalent about the open ended shelves, but I really like the look of these. The uninterrupted horizontal lines really puts the focus on the books.

Is this person a reader? Yes, and yes. Not only because of the volume of volumes and the lack of any other filler, but there doesn’t seem to be any art books or coffee table picture books (not even on the coffee table). Also, none of the spines look like blockbuster spines and the sheer variety suggest they aren’t being purchased to look good–although they look good to me.

The book I would read if I had to pick one: Sadly, I can’t tell.

Shelf Esteem No. 1


For years John and I have been tearing images we like out of interior design magazines. The idea was that one day the pile of images would serve as both a source of inspiration and a tool for narrowing down what we like for our own home. Recently we were culling the enormous stack of images so that we could put together a portfolio for an eventual meeting with an architect. As we went through them John kept stopping to study the ones that had garden pictures and I kept stopping to gaze at the ones of libraries. Soon I had a pretty fun stack of home library images of all sorts. It occurred to me that this kind of bibliobvoyeurism would find a receptive audience on Hogglestock.

So, today I bring you the first installment of what I hope will be a regular feature: Shelf Esteem. Not every home library I show will be one I particularly like. Some I may not like at all, but it will be fun looking anyway.

And you may remember a previous post I did on some (what I thought were) really lame books on a shelf. (Might I add that in five years of blogging, that was the first post that offended my mother.) It’s going to be kind of like that…but hopefully nothing that will anger the mater.

Here is the first subject of Shelf Esteem:


Cozy Factor: Pretty High. Overall I find this space pretty darn pleasing. The shelves might be a little cold but the floor, ceiling, couch, and desk all warm the place up. I like the bits and bobs littered here and there on the shelves, and I imagine myself taking a minute to write a note with a fountain pen on some Smythson stationary before decamping to the couch with a good book.

The Books: Like many of the library photos in interior design magazines, this one has lots of art books. But in this case they seem to evince an intellectual interest in art rather than just a decorative one. But speaking of intellectual, the fiction that I have been able to recognize with the help of my magnifying glass suggests that the owner of this library sticks to literature with a capital L. A couple DH Lawrence, Primo Levi, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, James Joyce, Vaclav Havel, TS Eliot, Milan Kundera, etc.

The Shelves: Not bad. Clean and simple, they look adjustable, not sure I like the irregular spacing of the vertical members–especially the length of the long ones.

Is this person a reader? I think so, but probably used to read more than they do now. Either that or they don’t like keeping their popular reads amongst the august tomes on these shelves.

The book I would read if I had to pick one: Probably the Lawrence because one of them is one I mean to read anyway.