Your personality as described by your bookshelf!

Over the years, I have accumulated a large number of books and numerous bookshelves to store them. Today I was having a critical look at the various titles to see whether I needed to keep them all.

My enjoyment of reading takes me to the internet quite often, but I simply cannot walk past a bookshop without ducking in for a quick scan of the shelves to see what is on offer. I rarely make a purchase (unless it is a specialised bookshop) because I have a technical taste that is not shared widely. However, this also means that sometimes a technical book, which may be hard to sell, is very much discounted and a bargain is to be had!

But I digress :-)

I believe that one can tell a lot about someone by scanning their bookshelves. Firstly, if there are no bookshelves, then reading is probably not something they enjoy! But assuming there are rows of books to peruse…

A bookshelf with an encyclopaedia and textbook...

A bookshelf with an encyclopaedia and textbooks in various scientific disciplines; Astronomy, Botany, Chemistry, Geology, Geography, GIS, Histology, Mathematics, Palaeontology etc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do they enjoy fiction or non-fiction? Autobiographical stories about the life and times of many people are very popular. Some of these have a political slant, others focus on working in diverse and perhaps disadvantaged communities. Others are just stories about the life of, well, someone who wanted to write a book about themselves!

Does the bookshelf owner enjoy mystery adventure stories, or creepy tales of ghoulish suspense? Are there numerous books about adventure in far off lands, suggesting a desire to escape to another more exciting space? Popular magazines may feature perhaps; or lots of children’s books – favourites from way back? Big ‘coffee-table’ books filled with stunning photos which required the author to stand in mosquito infested waters for weeks before the perfect shot was obtained?

Romantic novels where hero meets heroine and they ride off into the sunset could provide light relief from the daily chores or a responsibility-laden reality. Art and craft, or woodworking books may indicate that the owner is creative and enjoys these activities.

Keen gardeners will almost certainly have a selection of ‘How to grow’ books, or ‘cultivating the perfect lawn’! Birdwatchers will have dog-eared identification references casually left under the binoculars for easy location and reference. And model train enthusiasts will have every copy of the magazine ‘Model trains’ from when it was first published!

Nederlands: bookshelf

Nederlands: bookshelf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some bookshelves will be systematically sorted with novels together, books on archaeology in their own section and all the ‘Gardener’s Digest’ volumes lined up according to publication date. Less organised individuals may have everything higgledy-piggledy, but still be able to put their hands on a specific book without needing to search too far to find it!


Bookshelf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My bookshelf certainly has many different types of books and shows a wide variety of tastes (thanks to contributions by the whole family). A whole section exists on drawing and painting, and another on cycling and travelling. Throw a few fictitious novels, children’s favourites and many books on plants and gardening into the mix as well.

Most books have been read at least once, many have been read numerous times. Through the years I have also accumulated many reference books, which get consulted from time to time. I really enjoy computing and multimedia and have many books waiting to be read, practised and skills honed. All I need now is another lifetime to get through all I have planned :-)

I like being as organised as I can be with my books, otherwise I can never find what I am looking for. So I do try to keep all the same sorts of books together.

I think that all the titles on my shelves together do define the interests, skills and likes of my family rather well. And I could not find any books that were not worth keeping!

How well does your bookshelf define your interests and personality?

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About Madoqua

I have been to lots of places, seen lots of things and had some great experiences. This blog has writings about these adventures; a place to share the many photos I have collected and to describe the lovely things I have seen. In recent years, I have discovered the delights of biking and have cycled in lots of places. You can read about these adventures on my other blog "Cycling through the middle ages".
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34 Responses to Your personality as described by your bookshelf!

  1. Azevedo says:

    My library basically consists of fiction and nothing else. Two shelves of books in English and one in my native language (Portuguese).Oh, and I have a speaker on it as well :D

  2. mudlips says:

    That’s so funny. I think about this stuff too. I’m very suspicious of people that own lots of things but have no bookshelves full of books.I own a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Most of the non-fiction is science or reference. Fiction, I prefer classics or foriegn authors typically. I also have lots of poetry. All in all, Mr Mudlips would tell you that the books are a bit out of hand. I am quite compulsive about buying books, so have run out of bookshelf space (really no more walls that are suitable for more) and have taken to stacking some of my topics. Poetry, for example, is all stacked on a table next to my bed. That stack is actually 2 stacks and they are both getting a little tippy due to height. Oh I could go on. You’ve definitely touched on a topic I enjoy. Thanks for asking!

    • Madoqua says:

      What a great response – thank you! I can readily identify with your book collection habit! Interesting that you like science books, we definitely have that in common.
      We have a superb bookshop in Sydney, and no trip to this destination is complete without at least one visit. It is enormous and has a selection of books on practically any topic you care to name. Of course, I never leave empty handed :-)
      I agree with you about people with lots of things, but no books!

  3. scrapydo says:

    I am also a book collector. When I came to NZ I donated most of my non fiction to a friend who also loves to have books on all kinds of things especially the more older books. I am so glad I could hand them over to him. I only brought books on dogs, scrap booking, orchids and some books I used to read to my son while he was a toddler. I also brought some Afrikaans recipe books and novels with me. They were more important than furniture and even clothes

    • Madoqua says:

      It’s interesting how some of us develop such an attachment to books. They are such wonderful things to trigger imagination. Two people can read the same book and interpret/imagine it so differently.
      How lucky you were to be able to give your books to someone who appreciated them. I have recently been given a dozen or so old books on the history of the Knysna district. These are all out of print now, so could be on the valued list. However, they mean more to me because the person who gave them loved them so much himself.

      • scrapydo says:

        I kept some real precious books also. This friend of mine is also a real collector.Glad he took them all.

        • Madoqua says:

          What sort of Afrikaans recipe books did you keep? I have a lot of South African recipe favourites (eg a crustless milk tart, which is sooooo nice!).
          I so miss the fantastic rusks that all South Africans take for granted and we just cannot get. I have tried to make some, but they are not the same! If you have any reliable rusk recipes, I would be delighted!
          Maybe you could post some of your traditional favourites?

  4. Your post reminded me that I must once again cull my library – by half, I’ve promised the movers, because I’ll never be able to afford a place big enough to house all these bookshelves when I move back to Oz!

    You’re right though: the gardening books, reference and pleasure, all together, though I must say not in the same shelves as the growing collection of The Sub-Tropical Gardener; design and architecture books together; European authors seem to have coalesced into a group distinct from South and Southeast Asian writers, with a little sub-group of Sri Lankan stories crammed into their own pigeonhole where I can plunder them almost without looking. The biography and autobiography seems to have organised itself in much the same way, though mostly among the fiction sections of the shelves. I’m surprised to see entire nooks devoted to a single author, or actives like writing, or history, while all the travel books are crammed up in untidy stacks in another – which had been designed to showcase a beloved statue … but needs must otherwise there’d be piles of books throughout the house.

    • Madoqua says:

      Oh no! Not culling the contents of the bookshelf :-)
      Packing is not the greatest job, leaving is often sad, but deciding which books (ie “old friends”) must be left – that is just incredibly hard!
      Hopefully you will be able to find a worthy donor for your treasures!
      You sound like a very organised bookaholic!
      Good luck with the library downsizing and the subsequent move!

      • Thanks Madoqua – I think I’m going to need it. I’ve no idea what criteria to use for the process … :)

        • Madoqua says:

          Yes, that could be a big problem!

          Maybe you could get a few tea chests and send all the books back labelled “for future re-discovery”. You could keep them in your garage and re-discover one box each year, with the last lot going back into mothballs!

          That could be fun!

          • It could be fun indeed! At some point though, i’d need to find a new house unless I rotated them – one box in, another packed up to be mothballed for six or seven years :)

          • Madoqua says:

            A nice garden shed might suffice? :-)

          • Ummm – I’d hate to see what the books looked like after a few years in a garden shed in the sub-tropics of Australia unless our crates were hermetically sealed impervious plastic :)

          • Madoqua says:

            Fair point!
            However, one of my favourite books includes a story about someone who had converted their garden shed into a private English pub. It had all the mod cons, but still looked like a shed from the outside. The book was fiction, but I suspect was based on a real place somewhere in England. You would need a library ‘shed’ like this!

          • Ah, now, a magical library shed tucked in a picturesque corner of the garden – that sounds perfect :O)

  5. Our bookshelves are mainly non-fiction, so you can see what our interests are. Not sure they reflect our personalities though. My fiction is mainly in digital format nowadays, so you can’t see the changes in my book taste over time.

    • Madoqua says:

      It’s interesting that you don’t believe they reflect your personalities. Perhaps they mirror what you find interesting, which is a bit different.
      I did think about digital libraries, and wondered about whether they fitted with the post or not. But it got a bit difficult to include that aspect!
      So I figured that I would stick with the analog bookshelf concept!
      I thought I would really enjoy digital books, but even though I have purchased a few novels, I have not really read and re-read them as I do with my printed books. I am not sure why this is, because I am not averse to digital media!

      • It also probably depends on what you think of as personality. To me it’s what you’re like emotionally, what you attitudes and behavioural responses are. And I’m not sure that all people liking a particular type of fiction have the same personalities. For example, my sister-in-law and I read a lot of the same crime (mostly Scandinavian) fiction, but we’re very different personality-wise.

        Obviously digital libraries need to be taking into consideration, but they aren’t as obvious to visitors to your home.

        I went through a period when I found it very difficult to concentrate and finish a book. So I started listening to audiobooks. More recently, I’ve been buying e-books and I enjoy been able to do searches for particular passages. There is still something about holding an actual book with a pretty cover in your hands though.

        • Madoqua says:

          You have me inspired now to have a closer look at e-books for novels. I think with reference/how to books, that having the physical book makes it a bit easier to follow lessons etc.

          Your comments re the personality differences between people are certainly true. So, the titles on a bookshelf can only be a guide to what the owner likes for some sorts of books :-)

          • What will show your personality though is how you arrange your books – randomly, alphabetically by author or subject, or according to size and what looks good together. You’ll definitely be able to spot the obsessives there! ;-)

          • Madoqua says:

            I had to smile when I read this, because you are spot on!
            It is also interesting seeing what people do when they run out of bookshelf space. I had to laugh at Mudlips having ‘tippy’ piles of books!

  6. scrapydo says:

    I nominated you for the reality blog award

  7. I am sad that most of my book purchases going forward will be on a Kindle. I love having rambling piles of books all over the place but the advantages of digital are too great to overlook.

    • Madoqua says:

      Digital collections do have a lot going for them. Compactness, environmentally friendly (no paper required), portability, ease of finding resources and so on. So I wonder why we still enjoy print material?
      Perhaps it’s just something we will need to acquire (or, in the case of books, not acquire :-)) over a few generations. I think that many of us grew up with books and have collected/accumulated them over the years.
      Having said that, my offspring are definitely of the digital era, yet are book lovers too!

  8. Colline says:

    Often my bookshelves have had to be trimmed: when I moved from home to my own place; when I left the country of my birth. And yet, every time, they slowly fill up. And looking in my childrens’ room, I see that they have taken on my habit :)

    • Madoqua says:

      I think reading is something children learn by example. My parents did not have many books, but for as long as I can remember, they have been avid library borrowers. Once you realise how much you can learn from books, they become very treasured.

  9. restlessjo says:

    I got seriously sidetracked reading the comments and I’d like a magical garden shed/pub too, please! It’s hammering with rain outside so I’m using my Monday morning walking time for a catch up. Not getting very far! As you might expect I like books with a travel background, but I tend to take them out of the local library. I have to really want a book to part with cash!

    • Madoqua says:

      I wish I could wave a magic ‘garden library shed wand’ and create this space for all fellow book lovers! Wouldn’t it be fabulous!
      We have had a few very hot days on our patch of the world – some rain would cool things a bit, but hammering down sounds a bit too wet :-)
      Good idea to use a library for books – some libraries are also good spots to escape to on dampish days!

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