Wednesday 27 April 2011

The Joy of New Bookshelves

Only the true book hoarder can understood the joy of a new bookcase. My 'new' one is old, very simple, not particularly attractive in and of itself, and has been lying somewhere else in the house for years. But - it is space for books. I have some empty spaces on shelves. I don't have to squeeze new purchases tightly between other books, hoping that the whole bookcase doesn't collapse throught the strain.

People see my room in Oxford and comment on how many books I have - to which I can only smile wryly, and think "If only you knew..." I have maybe an eighth or a tenth of my books in Oxford, and the rest are housed in Somerset... with double-stacked bookcases toppling out onto the landing. The bookcases are acquired gradually, generally from Argos or nabbed from my parents - one day I hope to have lots of lovely old shelving, or at least matching, but for now I'm settling for practicality! Anyway, I thought I'd give you a little tour of my bookcases...

Here's the new one, and it's got the end of my fiction - shelves alphabetically by author, to make things as easy as possible to find for my parents when they get emails from me, asking them to post me something.

And back to the beginning of the alphabet - here, double-stacked, we go from A to L... all double-stacked, naturally.

...and from M to P, I think. Hidden behind these rows are my Agatha Christies and some other odds and ends... in fact, I can't remember, I should check... Oh yeah, Colin, I (erm) 'borrowed' your Mr. Funny bookend.

This is a new scheme - I've wanted to house my Viragos together for a while. There are quite a few in Oxford, which would probably finish off this tall bookcase, but for now it's accompanied by some old Penguins and (below the picture) R-T authors. This shot goes to show that publishers shouldn't relinquish those classic, gotta-have-them-all designs...

Here are all the Angela Thirkell novels, kindly given to me when someone who'd lost their parents wanted to find a suitable home. Also featured are Dickens and Trollope (all the Barsetshire authors together) and the bottom shelf has the books my Grandad owned. Yes, one shelf. I obviously didn't inherit my book-hoarding from him...

I don't think this bookcase could hold one more book if it wanted to. This is all my biographies, autobiographies, plays, and poetry - and is at the top of the stairs. I'm slowly taking over the house... Notice the caving shelves, unsuccessfully held up by a wicker basket.

And finally, back in my bedroom. The shelves attached to the wall are the special ones reserved for books by A.A. Milne, Richmal Crompton, and E.M. Delafield. In our old house it was above my bed, and once fell down on me in the night... ouch. The bookcase on the floor is something of a miscellany - children's books, non-fiction, theology... and everything that doesn't go anywhere else. Also in shot: neglected violin and languishing GCSE art project.

Hope you enjoyed it, sorry the photos have been a bit poor, but at least the Virago one is pretty good quality for your zooming-in desires! Why not give us a tour around your own bookcases!

(EDIT: I'm afraid I thought the pictures were big enough, but turns out they're not, and I've not got the enormous originals... will take new photos when I can, and upload those...)


  1. It's good to see other people's houses are overflowing with books as well:) And double stacking is normal, isn't it?? Actually my sister just put up bookshelves that only have enough space for a single layer of books and I felt something was very wrong...

  2. Simon - I squinted like anything and couldn't read the titles of the penguins - better pictures please for book spotters like me:)

  3. Simon, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but, I feel you will need another new bookshelf before long. I loved this post

  4. Oh come on Simon - I am trying to get excited over book porn but I can't see the titles clearly enough! Zoom in for us! Please!

    Love the shelves though - so many enticing and intriguing looking volumes..I am quivering with jealousy!

  5. I severely underestimated you! I only have four/five shelves left at home. I feel tame in comparison.

    I love the Virago arrangement tho, and the blue bound ones in the picture below!

  6. I think the Powers That Be will insist on a visit from a structural engineer before permitting more shelving - after all, they ARE all on the first (US second) floor! (And I still maintain that the shelving on the landing looks as if it will fall on the head of the unwary as they clambour up the stairs. (Btw, that is a strong wire framed grass-woven basket holding that shelf up...nearly.)

  7. That is so impressive -- you are a real collector and you should be proud of yourself. If you've got this many by your mid-twenties, think how many you'll have by the time you're fifty. Though perhaps you'll have a place of your own by then!

  8. I am very envious of all your bookcases! It's so nice to see all your books on display (even is double stacked!). Currently, most of my books are in boxes in attics in Dorset and New York. I dream of one day reuniting them all. My one bookcase is full to overflowing in my studio - in my desperation I am beginning to consider an ipad/kindle.

  9. amazing - these pics have made me feel very envious - I love a higgledy-piggledy bookshelf but my boyfriend is a bit of a 'style nazi' so all my bookshelves are matching. sulk. how many books do you have?!

  10. Wowsers, thats a wonderful array of shelves (and of course of books) mine are still in lots of boxes and containers as I am still in the land of limbo with family so am looking forward to being well and getting into my own pad where I can deck it out like you!

  11. p.s. Penal servitude for 7 years with hard labour / dust Simon's books?
    Mmmmm. Difficult choice. Do I feel a cartoon coming on?
    And he's off at the Book Barn right now buying more books!

  12. Thanks for that tour, Simon, though I must say I'm shocked -- shocked that in Oxford there are people of the what-a-lot-of-books-have-you-read-them-all persuasion.

    Meanwhile, I can never figure why the eminently practical and portable board-and-brick shelves from the 60s aren't still in vogue.

  13. What a great post, Simon. I have just reckoned up & we have 12 bookcases plus books in 2 fitted cupboards - but we have been acquiring them for many more years than you have existed!

  14. Oh my goodness, I am very envious of your book collection. Thanks for sharing - I now don't feel so bad about my three book shelves and piles of books (and books in boxes int he atic and at my parents, oh dear!).

  15. A glimpse at your home-buying future: Measuring the window to wall ration...will the bookshelves fit? Will we have room to add bookshelves? How many more could we add in this house v. that house?
    Ask me how I know! ;)
    Love looking at pictures of bookshelves - thank you for sharing yours.
    OVW, the penal servitude is very real, although my children have discovered that not much damage is done if you leave the dust alone until you pull the book off the shelf the next time. :)

  16. ACK! "ration" should be "ratio"

  17. I love looking at other people's bookcases and yours look wonderful - was having trouble guessing the titles though!

  18. Wowee! I'm jealous because I have most of my books stashed away until I'm living somewhere more permanently. I love the long tall shelf with the Penguin Classics and Viragos grouped :)

  19. Ah, great post Simon. I think it's a clear sign that one is a hopeless book-addict when pictures of bookshelves hold such keen appeal!
    I often find myself scouring other people's bookshelves when I am at their houses - something which they often find slightly odd I think.
    Inspired my your post, I've just added some photos of my bookshelves to my blog:

  20. Sakura - I resisted double stacking for so long, but my room would be impossible without it now...

    Hayley - better pictures will appear at some point!

    Helen - I know, I know... I'm running out of walls!

    Rachel - Better pics are on my computer, and will be posted on a lax day! Sorry to make you jealous - seeing them more clearly will only make you more jealous, though!

    Debs - weakling! Yes, nobody has ever accused me of having too few books... Those blue bound books are my collected Dickens, donchaknow.

    Mum - how much do you really want the dining room anyway??

    Harriet - thanks, Harriet! Only a bibliophile would respond that I should be proud of myself, rather than ashamed :) My plan is to have some space for them when my Dad retires in eight years' time...

    Miranda - oh no, that must be horrendous! I wouldn't be able to cope with my books being in boxes... it would feel cruel...

    Naomi - I would like nicer bookcases one day, mine are all a bit falling apart... How many books do I have - about 1600 I think?!

    Simon - Even though I'm parted from most of my books, it's nice to know they're sitting on shelves somewhere...

    Susan D - don't believe stereotypes about Oxford! There are plenty of people here who wouldn't dream of reading a book for pleasure... My Dad had those board-and-brick shelves, but one of my bizarre pet peeves is the sound of bricks in contact with other things... *shudder*

    Gill - In some delusional part of my mind, I think that I will start giving away more books as I acquire more... obviously this isn't true.

    ABS - that is very controlled of you! And aren't parents useful for this sort of storage issue...

    Susan in TX - I would love rooms entirely covered in fitted bookshelves... that's the dream.

    Donna - I'm sure we all go straight to bookcases when we're in people's houses, especially if we don't know them well - the perfect way to assess people! Better pics will be up soon...

    Polly - I am pleased that I finally grouped my Viragos at home - it will be nice when my ones in Oxford finally join them! It does, however, make me realise that I have fewer than I thought.

    Verity - heehee!

    Thomas - it is a violin - a much neglected violin...

    Tom - I know, hopeless aren't we! Thanks for posting your own bookshelf pictures.

  21. I just saw this post. What an amazing collection you have and it must be so lovely to have so many book cases around ! I am quite envious

  22. What a lovely collection of books you got there! Surely, your place is a sanctuary for fellow readers alike. As a collector and reader, one must assume the responsibility of taking care of their books. If one shelf isn't enough to accommodate all books then one should consider buying or creating a another shelf. Thanks for sharing, and I wish I could read some of your books someday.

    Fletcher Hevey @ Concord Supplies


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