A Deeper Look Behind Your Bookshelves

Photo by Aneta Pawlik on Unsplash

Bookshelves are an important part of every readers life, whether you’ve fantasised about finding a secret door behind one or if you use them to store your large to-be-read pile, bookshelves are more than an organisational tool some even being a statement piece of furniture in the room. It doesn’t matter if you only read 1 book a year, a 100, or even none, many like to own the works that they are reading, or have read, and store them, sometimes in an aesthetic fashion. Since the start of pandemic there has been an increase in the purchases of books, and as a result the argument of the storage of books has once again reared its head. 

For many keeping the books that you own sounds perfectly normal, but what is the result if you read 50 books a month? Surely it is not sustainable to do so, depending on how much storage you have you’ll run out of space by the end of the year. So, what do you do? Do you pass some of them on to friends and family to read, donate them to a charity shop or simply just get rid of them? I spoke to bookstagram account holder @read.by.emily_ to find out how she stores her books. 

All of the books are stored in a neat and orderly fashion on a singular shelf, when asked why she keeps her books she replied “I … especially the ones I have enjoyed reading. It allows me to remember the story and possibly even read it again if I loved it that much.” So just the mere sight of her favourite books reminds her of the detail stories and why she fell in love with them. However, @read.by.emily_ does has a policy for when she eventually does a clear out of her shelves “I would never throw away a book I adored, one that is a first edition/signed or one that was bought for me as a gift.” 

Like many avid readers the argument of the space saving e-reader has been brought up but @read.by.emily_ recognises that although owning a kindle she rarely ever uses it. Though has a goal for this year to “make more use of it” as she recognises the difference in price between an e-book and a printed one. When asked about her e-readers bookshelves, as they are lined up to look like actual bookshelves, @read.by.emily_ acknowledged that she has “never deleted books on [her] Kindle .. and don’t think I ever would in the future.” So why do we feel more inclined to get rid of our physical books?

In an article for the British Psychological Society, ‘The psychology of stuff and things’, cognitive neuroscientist Dr Christian Jarret talks about the connection between our physical ownership of objects as well as the emotional power with which we naturally associate with them. “It’s as if reflecting on our things restores a fragile ego”, so by having your favourite books to look at whilst you’re not feeling your best can actually help. However, much comfort and healing these objects can be to us it’s not to say that you’ve got to make space for everything you own. 

Books and your collection of them aid in the ability to be seen as members of a specific social group, by the titles you have regardless of whether you’ve read them or not. A recent documentary on Netflix titled ‘The Minimalists: Less is Now’ (available on international Netflix) focuses on not just our possession of material items but how we are conditioned to think that we need them all. Similarly, people such as Marie Kondo have spoken out about keeping the books that feel strongly about. Whilst you may enjoy a large majority of the books you read; think about which ones you find yourself smiling about when you see them on your shelf. That’s not to say don’t keep all the books you read but if you find yourself running out of space and can’t create more maybe it’s time to have a organise.

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