The bookcase as a guide to personality

I aired my mixed views on e-readers a while ago but one thing I didn’t mention was the joy of nosing around someone else’s bookshelves. Or the use of bookshelves for showing off. How will academics and intellectuals persuade visitors how clever they are without being able to surround themselves with a particular calibre of book? How will authors position themselves in front of the serious and deep section of their bookcase for photos? And how will people pick over their choices by peering at the blurred spines on the shelves behind them? Probably the first thing I do in a strange house is go to the bookcase. Actually that’s about the first thing I do in a familiar house too.

People are full of ingenuity, I’m sure we’ll find a way round it. Until then I expect sales of Kindle cases in the shape of the must-read book of the moment to be strong.



  1. I love perusing other people’s bookshelves too, and I think you’re right that we’ll find a way round it. People will probably exchange e-readers in the same way that mp3 players might be used now as a substitute for browsing someone’s CD collection. A bookshelf is a wonderful mixture of public and private though, and it will be a shame to see that go.

    1. You can’t check out someone’s e-reader surreptitiously. And you can’t borrow a book from it to read while you’re staying or to take away with you till your next visit. Does this reveal far too much about my habits as a guest?

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