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  • Writer's pictureKara C White

If These Shelves Could Talk...

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

Many readers will tell you that some books seem to speak directly to them, appearing in their lives at just the right moment to help them celebrate a season of life or heal through a hardship. Books hold our attention, captivate our minds, and inspire our hearts. But in addition to what books say to us, what do the books we love say about us?

It's a question that came to me as I read Matt Haig's best-selling novel, The Midnight Library. In the book (without giving too much away), the main character Nora gets to experience different lives she might have led had she made different choices along the way. She drops into one life after another. However, each time she slides into another life, she has to find her bearings. She doesn't immediately know where she is or what kind of life she's leading. Often her phone is a great source of information, but in one memorable instance, she turns to the bookshelves in her otherwise unfamiliar home. Looking at the books lining the shelves gives Nora a crash course in her own existence.

Can our home library do the same for us?

The books we own, the books we keep and display, reveal a bit about who we are, how we live, and who we want to be. Sure, they show us our interests and favorite genres. An avid gardener will have gardening books, and a lover of historical fiction or true crime novels will have those books on their shelves. My own shelves will show a love of classic literature and many childhood favorites I've never been able to part with. There are some non-fiction titles covering history, mythology, and religion as well. A few memoirs are nestled on the shelves. I read plenty of contemporary fiction, but most of these I check out from the library so they're not represented as much on my bookshelves.

Yet I think our shelves communicate more than our reading lists. They suggest something of our attitudes about our reading lives. Are the shelves arranged by color, genre, or alphabetical order? Are the shelves minimal or do we have so many books stacked and wedged in that we can barely pull one out to read? [If this is the case for you, check out my post on weeding your collection here!] Are the pages of well-loved titles highlighted or dog-eared (gasp!) or are the pages pristine?

As voracious readers, we tend to view our bookish natures as part of our identities because reading plays such a vital role in our lives. I know this is true for me, at least! Do our bookshelves reflect this? Have we cared for and curated our collections? Whether our shelves stretch from floor to ceiling or take up a tiny space in the corner, we can give our books, and our love of reading, the respect they deserve with decent lighting and the occasional dusting.

So if like Nora in The Midnight Library, you were dropped into your current life with only your books for clues about who you are, what would your shelves say about you? Do you think it would be an accurate illustration of your reading life? If not, what could you add or take away to bring the picture of you into better focus? I know I'll be taking a close look at my bookshelves this week, and I invite you to do the same!

Best wishes for further reading!


P.S. I'm so grateful to all of my new readers! If you'd like updates whenever I post something new, use the Log In/Sign Up button at the top of the page to receive email alerts. You can also follow me on Instagram @kara.c.white. I post there frequently about new blog posts and all things bookish! Thank you!


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