Posts Tagged ‘bookshelves’


Like a lot of readers, I have a stack or two (or five) of unread books around the house at any given time. They are library books, advance copies for my review gig, gifts or loans from friends, books I’ve bought but haven’t picked up yet. And some of them tend to linger for months.

About three weeks into quarantine, when I was really missing the library, I decided to tackle one book from these stacks every week. I bought or borrowed all these books because I thought I’d enjoy them, and now that I’m not able to browse the shelves at the library, I can give them some attention.

I started with Ivan Doig’s wry, wonderful novel The Whistling Season, and moved on to a comics collection my guy had lent me. I tried a book of poetry (which did not stick, for now), and am slowly making my way through A Fine Romance, an illustrated travelogue my friend Kate sent me. I have been loving Mardy Murie’s memoir of her life in Alaska, Two in the Far North, and am hoping to find some other gems in the stacks as I keep going.


This is good for my wallet, since I am just as tempted as usual to buy stacks of books from my favorite indie bookstores. It’s good for my brain, which relishes different kinds of books, and is particularly craving absorbing nonfiction right now. And it’s good for my sense of accomplishment – no small thing in these strange days.

What (and how) are you reading these days?

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Jhumpa Lahiri next to Flavia de Luce. Agatha Christie stacked atop Anne Lamott. E.B. White’s essays, cheek by jowl with Anne of Green Gables.

My bookshelves look totally different these days, since I moved to a new apartment this summer and agreed to let my sister color-code them. (It took several hours and at least two bottles of wine.)

I was skeptical. What type-A bookworm wouldn’t be? I’d always arranged my books carefully by genre, then by author. I thought I wouldn’t be able to find anything. But the new arrangement is both gorgeous and surprisingly accessible. (I stand corrected.) Bonus: I’m rediscovering some titles when they catch my eye from their reshuffled positions. 

Favorites from several years ago, like Rebecca Pacheco’s Do Your Om Thing or Andi Teran’s Ana of California, wink at me constantly these days. I’m rereading the Harry Potter series again, and searching for each multicolored spine (I have the British editions) is a mini-treasure hunt. And my poetry collections (heavy on the Mary Oliver) are scattered throughout, prompting me to pull them out and read a poem or two.

It’s especially fun when a friend asks about a book: let me see where that is. Oh, yes, the cover is blue, but the spine might be red. (I’m looking at you, As Always, Julia.)

Some series, like Laurie R. King’s excellent Mary Russell mysteries, are scattered all over the place. A few, like my Penguin-orange Thursday Next adventures, are happily, haphazardly stacked together (with Ann Patchett’s essays and Life of Pi). And on the fireplace, a tower of black-spined classics (like The Count of Monte Cristo) shares space with newer stunners, including Kate Quinn’s The Huntress

My bookshelves are still a snapshot of my reading life, but these days, the picture is a much more colorful one. I’m savoring the rainbow it creates along my walls, and the unexpected pleasure of beloved volumes, seen in a vivid new way. And I’m sharing snapshots of each colorful shelf, and highlighting a few favorites, over on Instagram each Monday. 

I originally wrote most of this column for Shelf Awareness, where it ran last week. I am one happy bookworm these days. 

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rainbow spines bookshelf books color

As any bookworm knows, choosing your one favorite novel (or any book) is an impossible task. But this rainbow-spined shelf holds quite a few books I adore – novels and otherwise.

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Last week, Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy confessed that she peruses other people’s bookshelves. (I mean, who doesn’t?) A commenter had the idea for a bookshelf linkup. Since we can’t all peruse each other’s bookshelves in person, we’re posting photos of them on our blogs.

Head over to Anne’s blog to see all the linked posts, and read on for a glimpse of my shelves.

We have seven bookshelves (and one book table) in our two-bedroom apartment. The bookshelf in the guest room is full of my husband’s books (mostly theology, therapy books – he’s a counselor – and other nonfiction), so I didn’t snap a photo of that one. The other six shelves (!) and the table are mostly or entirely mine, so they’re the ones I’m showing off.

First up, the dining room bookshelves (there are four):

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This shelf started out as “mystery, food and favorites,” and it’s still mostly that. Flavia de Luce and Maisie Dobbs share the top shelf with Marisa de los Santos. The second shelf holds Shannon Hale’s Bayern series, my nearly complete Fairacre collection (by Miss Read), and my Kathleen Norris collection.

Foodie memoirs and cookbooks take the third shelf; a few have strayed to the top and bottom shelves. The bottom shelf holds a few coffee-table books, photo albums, and the massive Merriam-Webster dictionary I won in a spelling bee many years ago. And those three old books – Tom Sawyer, On Cherry Street and Alice in Wonderland – are heirlooms from my grandmother’s house.

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Next to that first shelf (you can see the door in the first photo above) is our built-in china cabinet/bookshelf, one of my favorite things about our apartment. The top shelf actually holds china, as well as my Madeleine L’Engle collection (on the left) and poetry (on the right).

The second shelf holds biographies, a few books of letters, books on writing, my big blue Norton book of critical theory, and my huge complete works of Shakespeare (the red book on the right). That slim stack of old books on the left came from my great-grandmother (except for Here is New York, which I bought at the Strand).

The third shelf (with the photo of my sister, brother-in-law and sweet nephew) holds memoirs, and it’s overflowing. (You can tell I love this genre.) The bottom shelf holds spiritual books – some memoir, some straight theology.

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This is another shelf of favorites – the top shelf holds a selection of books that lived on the mantel at our last house. They range from travel memoir to a few favorite novels to a few treasured books on writing. The second shelf is a bit random – more favorites in various genres.

The third shelf holds my knitting books, a wedding album, a few journals, and my Harry Potter books (the British editions) and vintage Lord of the Rings books. The bottom shelf is mostly YA, including Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, Elizabeth Enright’s series about the Melendys, and Noel Streatfeild’s Shoe Books.

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This is my main fiction shelf – found for $20 at a garage sale when I was in college. It’s moved with me to every house since then, along with my ancient stereo (which I still use). All kinds of novels are here – Jane Austen, Joanne Harris, Jasper Fforde, Patrick Taylor, Adriana Trigiani and many others. My old set of Book House books (from my other grandmother) are there at the bottom.

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This is the “more mystery and YA” shelf, and it’s also overflowing. (Do we sense a theme here?)

Up top: Agatha Christie (Tommy & Tuppence and Miss Marple), Mary Russell, Dorothy Sayers, Chet and Bernie. (And a few stray Shannon Hale novels.) The YA ranges from Kerstin Gier to Ruta Sepetys to Sara Zarr, and The Hunger Games and the Chronicles of Narnia are on the bottom shelf (with more mystery and a little chick lit).

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I’ve had this dresser and some of the books on it since I was a little girl. The top shelf is L.M. Montgomery, Catherine Marshall, Louisa May Alcott, and Flopsy, my much-loved stuffed bunny. The middle shelf is Madeleine L’Engle’s Crosswick journals, the Mitford series, the Mother-Daughter Book Club series, and the Penderwicks.

The bottom shelf holds the Moffats, the Mysterious Benedict Society, my Maud Hart Lovelace collection, the Oxford Chronicles, and my Ann Brashares collection. My Little House on the Prairie books, my American Girl books and some other childhood favorites are in a box under the bed, and there’s another box, mostly full of Nancy Drews, in the room too.

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Now we come to the aspirational area: my to-read table, in the living room. The front right stack is mostly ARCs to review for Shelf Awareness; the front right stack is library books. (Two hours after taking this photo, I brought home five more books from the library.)

The back two stacks are books I own, or have borrowed from friends, but haven’t yet read. They are constantly growing/evolving.

What’s on your bookshelves? (And do you have as many as I do?)

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