You know what I realized? Since moving into this house, setting up my bookshelves, and recommitting to reading my own books (which is going swimmingly, by the way, are you interested in hearing more?) I haven’t shown you around my bookshelves as they are currently configured. Shall we change that?
Starting with: the above. Here’s where I do the bulk of my reading, usually after the kids go to bed or in the morning over my first cup of coffee. I’d like a rug to cozy up this space, but we’re renting and I don’t know what my next reading nook will look like, so I’m resisting temptation. Other than the chilly toes, I like this spot very much. You can’t see them, but there are three skylights almost right over the couch, letting in lots of natural sunlight. And I do love this view: this is my “priority” bookshelf, where I house most of my favorites, and I think the books on these shelves best represent who I am as a reader. Take a closer look? Well, sure. From the top left corner:
Literary fiction and sci-fi/fantasy. I don’t spend much time over here, to be honest. The top shelf houses my tiny lit-fic collection, some of which I plan to keep but others of which are just on the shelf until I get to them (if I love them, I’ll keep them; otherwise, they’re headed to the library donation once I’ve read them). There is also a small stack of bird-related books; ignore that, it should be on a different shelf. Next shelf: another small collection, of science fiction and fantasy, just my favorites. Tolkein (I have gorgeous Folio Society editions, thank you Steve!) and Lewis; Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series (still have to read the last one); more Valente (can you tell she’s my favorite modern SFF author?); some YA Lumberjanes novels; my treasured and much re-read collection of Outer Banks ghost stories and lore; Nimona.
Non-fiction and poetry. Next shelves down are a bit more in my wheelhouse. The upper shelf houses narrative non-fiction arranged in roughly chronological order, except that the left third of the shelf is all Churchill. (Behind Nugget’s first birthday invitation is a boxed set of A History of the English Speaking Peoples. #nerdalert.) On the lower shelf, I’m roughly evenly divided between memoirs and poetry – although poetry is starting to take over and might need its own shelf soon. The struggle is real.
Hardcover classics and oversized books. Ooof. These two are a bit of a mess, aren’t they? (The router isn’t helping matters.) On top – overflow hardcover classics, mostly from Penguin Clothbound Classics, MacMillan Collector’s Edition, Imperial War Museum Anniversary Editions, and Hodder (you can’t see them, they’re behind the college pennant, but I’m working on E.M. Forster). Underneath, I have larger coffee-table style books, omnibus editions of classics (left over from my high school days), and family albums, all sort of cascading together in an unholy mix.
Comedy and Slightly Foxed Quarterlies/Books About Books. Moving on to the second bookcase from the left! The top shelf contains comedies, but this is about to be broken up, because I’ve decided Barsetshire needs its own shelf – Trollope and Thirkell will be keeping company soon. (I’m sure Anthony would be disgruntled and Angela delighted.) Underneath, I have a complete (!) collection of Slightly Foxed quarterlies, alongside a handful of books about books. This shelf, too, is due for a reshuffle. I want to get the quarterlies all into slipcases, and they’re starting to encroach on the books-about-books’ space.
Slightly Foxed, Persephone, and NYRB Classics. More that need a tidy! The top shelf houses my Slightly Foxed and Plain Foxed Editions, Foxed Cubs, and Slightly Foxed Paperbacks (and a square glass vase with bookmarks). This shelf is getting too big for its own good and needs to expand. And below – most of my Persephone books (including Persephone Classics) and NYRB classics, but not all – and my Persephone collection has some significant holes, so this is another group that is crying out for more space. (As I’m writing this, it occurs to me that the common refrain is: I need another bookshelf. But where to put it?)
Penguin Drop Caps and Children’s Hardcover Classics. Here are a few mostly neat shelves! Upper level: Penguin Drop Caps, which I collected a few years ago. (I don’t agree with every selection for this set, but it was unthinkable not to have the complete alphabet, as I’m sure you’ll understand.) On the lower shelf, a mix of childhood favorites and newer acquisitions (mostly of childhood favorites in nicer editions). Winnie-the-Pooh; the Little House books; the Puffin in Bloom collection; several Folio Society editions of children’s classics I read for the first time as an adult; and some miscellaneous. And my Willow Tree figurine of a mother and baby, which I got around the time of Peanut’s first birthday to remind myself of the squishy newborn months.
The Victorians. Moving right along to the next bookcase – it’s the Victorians! Can you even handle it? We have Jermone K. Jerome’s classics of vacation hilarity (Three Men on a Boat and Three Men on the Bummel – both fabulous); the Folio Society’s editions of five of Gaskell’s novels (why didn’t they include Cranford with this collection?!?!); Lark Rise to Candleford and The Pick of Punch (both of which may be Edwardian? sorry) and my grandmother’s complete set of Dickens, bound in green leather – a true treasure.
Jane Austen. Speaking of treasures, Jane Austen gets two shelves almost completely to herself (at least for now – one of these is probably going to get repurposed as a Barsetshire shelf by fall). I love the Folio Society editions of her novels and letters, but I also love the Penguin Clothbound Classics set – how is a girl supposed to choose? The rest is mostly Austen-adjacent history and criticism; over to the lower right is Trollope, though. I have always thought he and Jane would get along. Ullathorne could have been in Highbury.
L.M. Montgomery and Harry Potter. Last two shelves on this bookcase: one crammed to within an inch of its life (literally) with L.M. Montgomery’s journals and novels (including my cherished Emily paperbacks and my beautiful Anne editions from the Folio Society – I will never stop lobbying them to finish the series). And underneath, the Harry Potter books (including the illustrated editions that have been published thus far and the start of my next collection – the Ravenclaw versions).
Travel and Nature and Nature and Travel. Last bookcase! The top two shelves are a hodgepodge of travel and nature; there’s a little of both on each shelf. I should organize them better and make room for my bird books. One of these days.
Paperback Classics. I’m honestly surprised I only have two shelves of these; clearly I’ve been very restrained. There are a few holes here – I think I have one more book to make a complete set of the Sourcebooks D.E. Stevensons, and I’m working on that Thrush Green collection, which is still in its infancy. But I love the Maud Hart Lovelace series, and I am beyond excited about the gorgeous Elizabeth Jane Howard set (which was just reprinted, is a new acquisition, and hasn’t found a permanent home yet – send wine).
Mysteries. Last shelf! (For now: more to come next week.) This is part, but not all, of my classic mystery collection. Some (but not all) of my Hodder editions of Dorothy L. Sayers; some (but not all) of my British Library Crime Classics collection. I do have a complete collection of the Flavia de Luce mysteries, which I love – have to get to the final two, though – and now I have all of the Josephine Tey editions that Folio Society has published in its most recent collection, a great achievement. I need to read The Red House Mystery soon.
Everything is a bit crammed together right now; I really do need another bookshelf but don’t know where it would go – that’s the only thing standing in my way. I’ll show you some of the overflow situation next week, and then the family bookshelves (most of which are also my books) the week after. As for the question everyone asks when they see my bookshelves: how many of these have I read? I think about 60%, roughly. And knocking more off every week, thanks to my renewed commitment to reading from my own shelves.