Your books and what they may say about you

Borrowing a page from Dorothy W., I read this article debating the etiquette of having unread books on your shelves.

The author cites Ezra Klein from the American Prospect as saying:

“Bookshelves are not for displaying books you’ve read. Those books go in your office, or near your bed, or on your Facebook profile. Rather, the books on your shelves are there to convey the type of person you would like to be.”

Now, I think it’s a bit pompous to purposely dislay books you’ve read in your office (uh, don’t have much room in a cubicle for THAT) or bedstand (isn’t that where you keep books you are reading?) — and I don’t much care for boasting via Facebook or on a blog as much as I do recording it for yourself and for the possible reading pleasure of other bookworms.

But I do like the idea that books on your shelves convey the type of person you would like to be. Take a look at your own stacks tonight — what kind of person do you want to be? I will do the same and report tomorrow.

Oh, and here’s a takeaway from that article for you, a quote from Francis Bacon, which beautifully encapsulates my feelings about owning and hording hundreds of books:

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

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8 Responses to Your books and what they may say about you

  1. Tara says:

    Interesting thought. My shelves are a combination of read and unread books. However, if I read a book from ‘the shelves’ and it turns out to be just ok, it goes to the stack of books in the bedroom and leaves a spot open for something else. A book has to earn it’s spot on ‘the shelves’. I think my displayed books reflect my reading interests pretty well, read or not.


  2. litlove says:

    That last quote sounds like it’s dying to be turned into a meme. And all my shelves say is: this woman is a dangerous book obsessive.


  3. Courtney says:

    Um, between S. and me we have so many books we must appear absolutely schizophrenic in terms of who we hope to be – well-read is really the only conclusion one could draw, I think!


  4. bookfraud says:

    the books on my bookshelves — read and unread — are there because i’ve got nowhere else to put them. if someone wants to infer my personality from my reads, fine, but i would rather have a discussion over dinner to ascertain that…that said, given the unread volumes on my bookshelf, the type of person i would like to be is better-read, more intellectually and spiritually engaged with the world, and open to things other than fiction.


  5. LK says:

    Tara, I have that combo of read and unread, too. I like your idea of leaving a spot open for something else — it’s the book equivalent to being open to opportunities…!Litlove, oh, I like your meme idea. Tag me if you start it! I think my bookshelves would be very intimidated by your bookshelves…Courtney, maybe it just shows how you share and share alike… 🙂Bookfraud, I like your take! I am with you in spirit on the part about being open and spiritually engaged with the world. I could stand a little more of that. Good thoughts.


  6. verbivore says:

    I quite like the quote you posted and found myself nodding my head. Yes, books are meant to be taken differently. I can’t devour everything I read.


  7. I am so obsessed with the war in Iraq that I am immersing myself in war literature, most recently The Things They Carried by Time Obrien Reading: Tim O’Brien’s Post-Traumatic War MemoriesREcommendations welcome.


  8. jlshall says:

    Really interesting. Since I have books piled up literally everywhere – shelves, tables, closets, floor, both read and unread – I’m not sure what that says about the kind of person I’m trying to be. Maybe I should just try to be a better housekeeper. And I loved the Bacon quote – always been one of my favorites. Of course, some books are meant to be spat right out again when you discover you don’t like the flavor. I’ve got those on my shelves, too.


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