Book stalking

Thanks to Alma Alexander for pointing out this great blog post by Rands In Repose on book stalking:

Where’s your bookshelf? It’s this awkward moment whenever I first walk into your home. Where is it? Everyone has one. It might not be huge. It might be hidden in a closet, but in decades of meeting new people, I’ve never failed in finding one and when I do I consume it…

The Book Stalking Process

This is my process and this is not a process of judgment, but one of assessment, and it proceeds in three phases:

Phase 1: Where are they?

  • Where does you bookshelf live in your home? Is it in an obvious place or are you hiding it? Why are you hiding your books?
  • Is the bookshelf built around the room or vice versa?
  • Do you have a room specifically for books? Hot.
  • Can I see your bookshelf after you’ve sat me down with a glass of wine? Even better.
  • Did you spend money on your bookshelf or is it an IKEA atrocity? Wait, you built that? Awesome.

Phase 2: How are they arranged?

  • Have you committed to a pure bookshelf? What’s the breakdown between books and non-books? This isn’t where I store books; it’s where I demonstrate that I love books.
  • Is the arrangement chaotic or calm? Is this is a shrine or a utility?
  • Vertical or horizontal stacking? What’s the rule? Is there a rule?
  • Is it full? I read. A lot.
  • Does your book arrangement tell a story? Can I find that story quickly or do I need you to tell it? Do you offer it?
  • Do you use bookends? Are they functional or ornate? What’s their story?

Phase 3: And what do you read?

  • Are these the books I expect based on what I know about you?
  • Do these books represent your entire life or just right now?
  • Can I tell, at a glance, the three most important books?
  • Which books are you… hiding?
  • How do you react when you see me stalking your bookshelf? What’s the first story you’re going to tell?
  • Is there a glaringly obvious book that does not belong? When do I get to ask you about it?

What I’m learning during this stalking is my deal. The intricacies of my assessment aren’t the point. You are decidedly and blissfully not me, which is why I’m standing, wine glass in hand, totally and completely lost in your bookshelf….

I must confess that I am a book stalker. You can tell a lot about people from the books on their shelves.

As I wrote in a previous blog post:

I live my life surrounded by books. My husband and I have thousands of them, old and new, in bookcases covering the walls of nearly every room of our house.

Our books are more than just texts. They are artifacts that express who we are and what’s important to us. They are time capsules that can take us back to a particular memory or moment in time. They are symbols of our relationships– with each other, with friends, and with the authors who inscribed their books to us. They are unique, collaborative works of art, a marriage of ideas, language, typography, illustration, and design.

One response to “Book stalking

  1. I have to admit that I actually broke up with a guy simply because he had no bookshelf in his house. Bookshelfs (and books, of course) tell you everything about a person.

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