Are you competitive about your bookshelves?

Jan 07, 2013
There are so many things I love about the start of a new calendar year: reflecting on the past twelve months, setting goals for the upcoming year, getting a brand-new planner… Whether or not you believe in New Year’s resolutions, it’s hard to shake that feeling of wanting to make the upcoming year your best one yet. As Megan brought up in anOOM post last week, January is the perfect time to set reading resolutions. Sure, it’s great to vow to be the best reader you can possibly be, or to read a certain number of books per month, but what happens when those resolutions become competitive? A friend of mine recently confessed that when she goes into other people’s apartments, she immediately judges them based on the content of their bookshelves, and then compares their shelves to the content of her own. As soon as she said that, I realized I’m guilty of the same thing. Here on OOM we’ve talked a lot about Bookprints — the five books that have shaped your life and made you who you are — but seeing someone’s entire collection all at once certainly speaks volumes (no pun intended) about who they are. How important is it for our bookshelves to reflect our personalities? And do we do it for our own sake, or to look good to those who visit our homes? Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting your bookshelf to be impressive, or wanting it to accurately reflect the titles you’ve read, but is it problematic when we judge others by the contents of their shelves? Sometimes I’ll visit a friend’s apartment and stare enviously at shelves full of thick classics (particularly titles that have been on my “To Read” list for years and that I still haven’t gotten around to…) That, in turn, sparks some sort of book jealousy deep inside and I get a little competitive about what is (or isn’t) on my shelf. Should I go out and buy a copy of War and Peace, too? Pull my Shakespeare collections out of storage and put them on display? Purchase used copies of books I’ll probably never read in order to fill sparse shelves? Sometimes I have to remind myself that bookshelves are misleading: because someone owns a book doesn’t mean he or she has read it. Similarly, in this age full of ereaders and library cards, it becomes increasingly difficult to put all the books you’ve ever read on display; just because a book’s not on someone’s shelf doesn’t mean he or she hasn’t read it. What are your thoughts? Are you competitive about what’s on your bookshelf? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Image via Nina Hale