Do You Check Out Other People’s Bookshelves?

Did you even know that even doing so was “a thing”?

Confession : I’m as guilty as hell. And I don’t go about it sneakily either. Bookshelves are less intrusive than poking around in someone’s kitchen pantry after all.

When I look at the books lined up on the shelf I’m not being judgemental. It’s more like I’m looking for a familiar friend or even a book I’ve been unsuccessfully searching for at charity stores or at retail outlets specialising in secondhand books. Like “White Coolies” by Betty Jeffrey, published in 1954, and on which the movie Paradise Road was based. ( I’ve located a copy but refuse to pay in the hundreds for it. Yes, so I have a tendency to be frugal.)

Stickybeaking through other people’s shelves has proved a great conversation starter  and sometimes I’ve even borrowed books that have been spotted. It’s okay: I have a reputation of having NEVER lost a book and ALWAYS returning them to their owner. My daughter did return my personal copy of Kokoda to the local Library which to this day has never been found but that doesn’t count, does it ?

I like this comment from The Guardian in 2012:

Only a bookshelf can truly hold a reader’s history and future at the same time, while the present is usually found in a book bag or on a nightstand nearby. A lifelong reader myself, I’ve always had an obsession with seeing a person’s bookshelf, to get a sense of what they’ve brought inside their home and their head. Bookshelves are universal in that almost everyone has one, and unique in that no two collections are the same. They reflect much more than just the book-buying habits of their owner. Titles are easy to acquire and even easier to sell off or leave behind, so if it’s worthy of your shelf space, I want to know why.”

But, hey, I repeat: I’m not judging…..

Since the Pandemic the number of experts providing all manner of insights has grown exponentially. Have you noticed there is usually a bookshelf in the background when they are speaking? I’m spending a great deal of effort squinting at the television to ascertain the book titles. Aren’t you?

A Twitter account, Bookcase Credibility, recently emerged to keep an eye on this trend. It’s tagline – terminology that I’m grasping with – is “ What you say is not as important as the bookcase behind you”.


This weeks exercise is to analyse the bookcase below. Not mine. Responses in the Comments section please.

29 thoughts on “Do You Check Out Other People’s Bookshelves?

  1. Nice selection, I remember ‘Big Little Lies’ blowing me away until it was Americanised. I am disappointed when I sneak a peek and find shelves of non-fiction books or, worse, business text books. Not so long ago, police officers used to check out a person’s bookshelves as an indicator of character 🙂 Not as easy to do now with electronic devices.


    1. Interesting about the police looking at bookshelves to determine a persons character. I wouldn’t have thought bank robbers, dope growers nor those into child pornography would leave their tools of trade lying about the house in the open.
      My bookshelves are mostly non fiction 🙂 When I downsized four years ago I recycled most of the books and turned the book cases into an area for wine glasses. Much more practical.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I love checking out people’s bookshelves!!! Not so much to judge but just to find my next book inspiration.
    I’ve been feeling guilty lately though realising my bookshelf was hidden away from view, now it’s all in boxes, but most awful – it’s not very impressive, I tend to borrow books rather than buy
    Love that Twitter tag line!


  3. A nice selection, but what bothered me is that she removed some books and haphazardly placed them on other shelves to put her wine on the bottom. I never would have given up my book shelves. I would have put the wine elsewhere. Books deserve their own special place. They are just like fine wine and need to be taken care of. (Just my opinion of course). I noted that my bookshelves are piled high because I’ve run out of room… lol
    And I’d like this person based on her reading selections.


      1. Yes, haphazard does sum it up, but I have to give your friend’s shelves some slack since I have found my cherished bookshelves too have suffered during this pandemic. I’m home all the time and therefore I find myself reaching for a vague quote and thumbing through a plethora of books to find it, ( way more fun than googling), or remembering a play or novel I’d like to reread and then setting it aside because I’m suddenly distracted by a zoom meeting. So I’m starting to understand why she opened up a shelf for wine.😉
        My bookshelves now seem to have a life of their own too LOL. .


  4. Funny how my eyes were immediately drawn to that bottom shelf! I do store empty wine bottles on the top of my bookshelves, but there is no room in my bookshelves for anything else except books. Although I can see the logic in it – grab a bottle while you grab a book!


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