Books as self-portrait

Your library is your portrait.

– Holbrook Jackson

I saw this quote recently on the @fridayreads twitter feed and it really got me thinking. I like the thought. My books are so important to me so the idea of me creating a self portrait with every book I buy, is just beautiful. And not just because of my love of book shopping (see The never-ending to-read pile). No, I really like the idea that when people comes into my living room where my book shelves take up an entire wall, they’re not only able to see that I really care about books but also learn something about who I am as a person by looking at the books that line my shelves.

Now first of, I have to say that I don’t take full responsibility for all the books on the shelves. For some reason, I never thought twice of allowing my boyfriend to also have his books on the shelves. So all the books with maps of battle movements and about the crusaders – they’re not mine. So let’s set them aside and just focus on the books that are actually mine.

So what do we have? First of, we have a lot of contemporary fiction. Contemporary fiction is probably the genre I read the most and what I’m most able to relate to. In this category, we find most of my favorite authors – ie. John Irving, Joyce Carol Oates, Haruki Murakami and Stephen King. I have several books by each of these authors (both my King and Oates collection can actually be seen on the picture above). I don’t know where to start mentioning other authors in this category since there’s just so many…

There’s also a lot of Classics. I like the thought of being well-read. I want to be well-read. And to be that, you have to read the Classics. I want to be smart and clever and intellectual so yeah, you’ll find Proust, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Joyce. As well as Austen, the Bronte sisters, Flaubert and more. I don’t want to brag about what I’ve read but I do like knowing things. I like winning in board games, I like recognizing inspiration in newer novels. And besides that, the Classics are Classics for a reason – they’re good!

I think the third biggest category is the fantasy novels. I also have a bit of science fiction and steampunk. I know it’s not quite fair to view these as being in the same category but a lot of book stores do it, so why shouldn’t I? So in this category we have Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Robin Hobb, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Gail Carriger and more. Since I fell in love with the fantasy universe by reading Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss’ lovely DragonLance novels, this has been a genre I return to. I find it hard to find good fantasy  and to me, good fantasy doesn’t necessarily mean literary fantasy like Tolkien – just give me a beautiful imaginary world that I can believe in.

I also have a lot of books about animals. I really love animals and so I have books about veganism, living with animals and the amazing things animals are capable of doing. So because of this, I have books like Stacey O’Brien Wesley – The Story of a Remarkable Owl, Bob Tarte Enslaved by Ducks and Donna J. Haraway When Species Meet – as well as a shelf in the basement with lots of dog related books.

Now the shelves in my living room doesn’t tell the whole story. In our bedroom, there’s a few shelves too. This is the home of all my DragonLance novels as well as my Discworld novels. I’m not hiding them there. In an ideal world, they would all be standing on the big book case in the living room. However, there’s only room for so many books on that so something had to go. It’s been a while since I read a DragonLance novel but I read so many of them when I was in my early 20s and really discovered fantasy as an adult so they are a part of my history.

I still read my Discworld novels but it fitted well to put them on the same shelves as the DragonLance novels so there they are too. Right next to my bed.

Aaaannnnd … that’s still not the whole story. I’ve had to relocate parts of my book collection after having our second child. So I have most of my non-fiction books (mostly philosophy and art history books) in storage. Since these speak about my education and professional interests, they too tell a huge part of the story of me.

But my living room book case does tell about who I am now since for the moment, my main focus is on fiction and since I prefer having it take up such a big part of my living room. But it’s not only the books on the shelves and the fact that they are placed in this room, that talks about me. The way they’re organized does as well. See, from time to time my boyfriend suggest that we organize the books by height or color or something equally silly (he knows better now so he only does it to tease me). But as I say to him each time, there’s only one way to organize books – by the first letter in the author’s last name. I’m very anal about this. And it just has to be this way.

And now the million dollar question: What does your book shelves say about you?

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