My bookcase – not e-reader – shows who I am
When life is tumbling out of control, I go to my happy place, where I can dream, remember and find order in chaos: I gaze upon my bookshelves.
Bookshelves are back, with sales up by more than 10% in John Lewis. There’s the rise of the “shelfie” – a photo of one’s library. Bookshelves are a cool way to divide open-plan living, and e-readers are falling from fashion because we prefer the beautiful-looking objects produced by contemporary publishers.
For many of us, bookshelves never went away, but it is heartening to learn that they are newly desirable. Displaying the books we love or the books that made us, or even books to impress, is a civilising impulse. Beginners have so many exciting questions ahead: do they arrange their books thematically or alphabetically?
I adore nosing around other people’s shelves, and I’ll admit one judgmental attitude – that sinking feeling when I enter a home without books. Honestly, though, my bookshelves are not for display, but for my own pleasure. And a Kindle can’t match that.
Today’s unlimited information makes the boundedness of bookcases profoundly comforting. My inner librarian is also soothed by arranging books. The biggest question for every bibliophile when they move in with a loved one is: do we merge collections?
Virginia Woolf’s creation Mrs Dalloway believed that love and religion would destroy the privacy of the soul; she’d agree with me that merging collections threatens the same. Perhaps those taking shelfies are right: books are soul music, made for sharing on gloriously open shelves.