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What Do The Books on Your Shelf Say About You?

What Do The Books on Your Shelf Say About You?

I, like many of you I’m sure ;), love looking at others people’s bookshelves when I visit them. I also might be a bit obsessed with what the books on my front room bookshelf say about me, haha. There is this loverly Share Your Shelf Tumblr to share pictures of your bookshelf with others, but what do the books actually say about their owners?? More importantly, what do the books on your shelf say about you? ;-) Here are some of my thoughts about my obsessive bookshelf crafting, what do you think about others’ bookshelves??

  1. Familiarity – The first thing that jumps out at me about other people’s bookshelves are any books or authors that I’m familiar with. This obviously makes it much easier for me to gauge someone else’s book tastes if I have some grounding :), whether I like those books or not!
  2. Genres – A lot of book titles or cover art give away the genre(s) that the book falls into (usually). This means that even if I don’t recognize any of the books, I can get a general sense of the genres the person reads, and hopefully ask them about any of the genres that I like :D. Yey new books!
  3. Age – This is probably more a funny thing about me, but I’m always very interested in whether someone seems to like classics or contemporary books more. It seems to me that you can tell a lot about the way a person thinks if they prefer classics to contemporary books. That being said, I feel like there is some impulse to put the more “sophisticated” books on the front shelves so that Mom and Dad don’t question your manga collection ;-).
  4. Paperbacks vs. Hardcovers – I’ve noticed that there are strong feelings in the community about paperbacks and hardcovers, and I could definitely see some inferences being made from which predominate a shelf. Hardcovers indicate a willingness to invest more in individual books, and an unwillingness to wait for the paperbacks of especially sought after books. Paperbacks seem to indicate more of a nonchalance when it comes to most individual books, since you were both willing to wait for it to come out in paperback, and are okay with it possibly not lasting as long, or at least that’s what I think ;-).
  5. Quality – Try as I might, I just can’t keep most books in good quality. I break spines, I bump covers, I wear out hardcovers from holding the sides too tight (it’s just so exciting!). I know that some people specifically get collection hardcovers to keep on display and paperback copies to read over and over, and I would love to see evidence of that on someone’s shelf! Having two copies of a book would just be such a conversation starter, since it seems guaranteed that the person loved that book!
  6. Number – I’m currently very limited in my bookshelves and books to put on those shelves, but I remember my parents’ sticking books and shelves all over the house simply to have enough space for all the wonderful books. This is definitely partially dependent on the person’s age, I’m sure, since collecting that many books takes time. However, I think I would instantly feel more comfortable in a house with multiple bookshelves in the main areas :).

What do you think? Do you even have that many books on shelves of the non-virtual kind any more?? Oo, looking at someone’s Kindle collection would be even more interesting, don’t you think? I’m sure I’ve missed some obviously awesome book character qualities, so tell me what they are! Where do you fit in these characteristics?

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Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings -A

© 2012, Anya. All rights reserved.


  1. I love looking at other people’s bookshelves. One of the problems with having most of my bookshelves in my room is that when people come in they automatically look at it. Go through it. Usually ask to borrow, like I’m a library! I think how people organize their shelf will say something about themselves as well. Having a color coded or a perfectly alphabetized shelf tells me that person has more patience then I do. I hope that no one goes through my goodreads shelves because those are a wreck. Very interesting post!
    Kendra @ Apocalypse Booked recently posted…Be a Better Blogger: TagsMy Profile

    • Haha, so agreed about organized bookshelves! Mine are organized by space and how I think they look pretty when I have a moment to sort things.

  2. I adore this post! :) I love looking at people’s bookshelves (or their GoodReads) and seeing what they liked/didn’t like. I’m always especially curious to see what genres they like; people are always confused when they look at my favorite bookshelf, because my top favorite books jump from classics to YA to mystery to fantasy to historical. ;)

    Alice @ Alice in Readerland

    • Haha, so true! I didn’t even think to include Goodreads shelves *gasp* I’m living in the 90’s or something ;-). Excellent mix of genres for your top picks, I feel like that would give you something to talk to nearly any other reader about too though :D

  3. I love it when I walk into someone’s house and see bookshelves. and if i see titles i like? i know i’m going to be good friends with them.

    oh good, I’m not the only one who is terrible about keeping the spines in pristine condition! i read my books, and I love them to death sometimes. those poor spines.

    • As a kid I was a little obsessed with not messing anything up, and so it was hard for me when new things became less new. I resolved this conflict by telling myself that things were happiest when they were being used for what they were made for, and books especially are super happy to be read over and over and get all crinkly. It’s like a badge of honor for them that they can show off to all the new books that haven’t been read as much, and the new books are all like “whoooooooa” :D I might be a little crazy, okay??

  4. I LOVE looking at other people’s bookshelves. I’m constantly trying to spot titles I know to see how similar my taste is with that reader or trying to determine what genres are their favorites. Your idea of analyzing them is interesting though. I’m definitely going to have to glance over my own shelves to see what they would say about me. Great post! :]

    • Thanks! I also love looking for books to ask to borrow *horrible person* haha! It makes me wish I owned enough books to make the statement I want, but alas, moving a lot just doesn’t lend itself to a large collection :(. You should take a picture if you reorganize and analyze it :D

  5. Really interesting post! I, too, tend to psychoanalyze via bookshelves. My college roommate’s bookshelf, for example: the Amy Vanderbilt Book of Etiquette, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and the Bible. Mine is full of fantasy and sci-fi, so I knew right away we would be very different. ;)

    I have mostly paperbacks on my shelves at home, and liked your reasoning for the hardcover/paperback debate, but I’d also add that having a lot of paperbacks also indicates limited book funds, especially in the case of a teenage kid. The thing about keeping your manga collection behind the more “distinguished” books is classic, because it’s definitely true!

    • Haha, yeah I might have gotten a little nervous if I had seen that bookshelf! Did you two get along well??

      I completely agree with the limited book funds -> paperbacks. I definitely have similar reasons for buying paperbacks whenever possible ;-).


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