Matching the Bookshelf to the Reader: what our book shelves say about us

Matching the Bookshelf to the Reader: what our book shelves say about us - The Willoughby Book Club

We recently asked you to have a go at matching the book shelf to the reader, and we got a lot of correct guesses! 

If I ever see a picture of someone with books in the background I'll be the first to admit that I zoom in straight away and have a good look. If I'm invited to your home it's guaranteed that I'll be having a good nose at your books, and I always want to know what someone is reading/just read/wants to start next.

A collection of books says so much about a person. They can represent accumulated knowledge, or aspirations of where the reader intends to travel next.  They reveal the hoarders amongst us, and the ruthless de-clutterers. Why have these titles been kept? And what about the tiny personal bits and pieces of life's flotsam and jetsam that gather amongst books as poignant reminders of time and place? 

In addition to the titles themselves, what does the method of displaying the books say about us? Are the books arranged beautifully by spine colour? Meticulously filed in alphabetical order? Or a serendipitous jumble?

Given that bookshelves say so much about us, we've found it rather exposing to display ours for dissection! 

What would your bookshelf say about you? We'd love to know.




My current house doesn't have a single shelf, so at the moment my books are in heaps in the fireplace.

I like being surrounded by books. I tend to hang on to books and and I often re-read books I've loved before, so it's easy for my collection to get rather out of control. This is a very pruned version. These stacks mostly contain books I haven't got round to reading yet, with a few exceptions. I read everything I could get my hands on by Donal Ryan last year and they are scattered in amongst the stacks, along with some nice-to-dip-into books like Weird Walk and Radical Love, and recipe books which annoyingly I have to keep at the bottom of the stacks due to their size.

The paper decorations are left over from Christmas, and the lights (shamingly) from Ramadan 2023, really I just layer decorations on decorations because I can never bear to take them down. If I leave them up for long enough I never have to re-decorate I suppose...

I have filed my books in meticulous alphabetical order in a past life, but at the moment I'm quite enjoying the low-level chaos of stacks of books, postcards and other bits and bobs that have drifted into the fireplace.




My bookshelves are for my ‘keep books’.

I don’t tend to hold on to my books after I’ve read them. I read a lot of standard bestsellers and psychological thrillers, and know I won’t ever pick them up again so I pass them to a friend or take them to a community book swap shed. Plus I only live in a small house so space is a problem!

I do, however, have a few shelves of what I call ‘keep books’. These are books with nice covers, special editions, some classics, some really old Enid Blyton books, my Harry Potter collection. Ones that I still probably won’t read more than once, some not even at all, but they mean something. The problem is, I keep adding to this collection and I’m running out of space!




My bookshelf is very much a reflection of me- a bit scattered, somewhat messy and containing a wide range of interests! 

My shelves are ever-changing, as I tend to lend out or give away books after I've read them, unless they are particularly special to me. They are a holding area for my potential future reads, a mini world of exciting possibilities that I can't wait to get to. The majority of my books are things I've 'booklarked' from charity shops and online second hand stores. Is there a greater feeling than finding something you've been looking for, for ages? I seem to always be accumulating fancy notebooks and journals in the hopes that I'll reveal my inner poet, but for now they will continue languishing on my lovely, Liv-painted shelves. You might also spy the odd book in Italian or English-Italian dictionary from my studies.

Alongside my books, I also keep a few other tchotchkes on my bookcase...candles, a metronome, copies of Weird Walk zine, which is my latest discovery and obsession! In general, my book shelf will reflect where I am at any place in time. If it's tidy, well, that must mean I've decided a fresh start is in order. If it's fit to burst with accumulated books, I've  been particularly magpie-like on my weekend excursions. It's my happy place that fills me with joy as I sit with a cuppa on the sofa, gazing at and pondering my next anticipated read. I wouldn't have it any other way!




If my shelf could talk it would say that I'm not a book hoarder at all! My collection is minimalist and I enjoy curating the one shelf. I really like coffee table books for inspiration on home decor and improvements, as I have recently renovated my kitchen, so I have a nice spot to enjoy a coffee and read. I'll be starting work on the garden soon, under the reliable guidance of Monty Don of course!

My shelf also contains some recent and current reads, ones that my colleagues have suggested. I have been especially enjoying Claire Keegan. I'm just about to begin reading Walk the Blue Fields, one of her wonderful short story collections and I cannot wait! I always love a recommendation and look forward to chopping and changing the books on my lovely shelf over the coming months.




I'm a collector and maximalist at heart and love to have all the things I love in one place. In other words, all my books and gaming paraphernalia are in one convenient place for my perusal! 

I tend to double stack my books horizontally, much to the horror of my colleagues, but it works perfectly for me. I am also something of a completionist and read series of books, keeping authors and series together, but generally organising by vibes only. I have been known in the past to stack books next to each other where I think the authors would get along well together.... No judging, please!




Just by glancing at my shelves, you might notice that I like my books to be organised and immaculate. I read everything, from fantasy to romance to interesting stories from across the bookish spectrum, which you can see from the purposefully protected spines on show. There's also a special section for my favourite comic books and I always order by size!

I absolutely love cats and like to display cat-related  that I have collected over the years, as well as Funko pop vinyl figures of my favourite comic book and film characters! I also like to try my hand at crafty things now and again, if you can spot the intricate but gorgeous book nook on the first shelf. 

My bookshelves are my favourite things and I will always find bookish inspiration when browsing!

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