Bookcase judgement

I’d like to talk today about bookcase judging – not judgement on the quality of the bookcases themselves, you understand … but the contents thereof.  In this current lock-down period, there’s been an explosion of communication by video, resulting in our personal space being on display to all manner of person – both personal and professional.

I thought I’d ask some questions after I caught an online discussion complaining that the public at large were ignoring the actual content of a political interview, being focused instead on the contents of the politician’s bookcase.

Now, I’ll admit having previously checked out the background in photographs & training videos, to see if I can recognise what’s on bookcases – especially when I’m a bit bored – but not with any intent to judge, more because I’m interested in a vast variety of reading material, and never tire of adding to my overwhelming To Be Read pile.

But then I remembered a book club friend browsing my bookcases when I first hosted one of our gatherings, and my wondering what impression he’d gained from that experience, as it contained almost none of my favourite fictional reads. I largely read fiction on an e-reader, so this is what currently appears on my bookcases …

  • Hardbacks – that I can’t bear to part with, intend to read again, or I’ve yet to read
  • Paperbacks – that I intend to read again, or I’ve yet to read
  • Professional books on the subject of coaching, counselling, psychology & self-development
  • Books on the craft of writing
  • Training materials from professional courses attended within the last 5 years
  • Photograph albums going back to the days of film when I still printed photographs
  • Essential oils – my wide collection of single oils & blends, together with diffusers, burners, spray & roller bottles, and associated literature
  • My collection of Spanish porcelain – significantly curated down in size since the last house move, as apparently Himself finds them creepy (he has a thing about faces watching him)
  • Frames containing reasonably current family photos
  • DVDs of films & TV series – to watch or re-watch – including my shame viewing pleasure Dawson’s Creek 😉
  • Camera-related bits & bobs, including Himself’s antique Russian camera
  • 8 box-files containing my filing

Lastly, I had a moment of wondering how much Himself’s books on all things militaria and WWII may have caused me to be judged, especially as they appear right behind me during video calls. For while there’s no copies of Mein Kampf or Mao’s Little Red Book, the glass skull and the (deactivated) hand grenade being used as bookends might surely raise the odd eyebrow.

It got me to wondering whether people curate the background of their video calls, or whether they just have a tidy up? An alternative view could be to give it absolutely no thought, on the basis that people are jolly lucky to be let into your home – however virtually – so they can take you as they find you.


Which school of thought do you fall in to? What story do you think the contents of your bookcases might tell about you?


© Debra Carey, 2020

20 comments

  1. Hah! My current bookcases have been completely emptied in preparation for my move, and I have parted with the majority of my beloved hardcovers. I am moving to a place that is less than half the size of where I live now, and books are heavy to move. Lately I tend to read and borrow books digitally now, for the most part. Ditto for my music collection – it’s either streamed or in my computer’s/phone’s library. Such a shift for me – a bonafide book and music lover – to part with my physical collections! So, in my new place I will have only 1 antique lawyer’s bookcase and it will be scantily filled. No one would ever guess that I read over 100 books a year!

    Deb

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this thought…the bookcase challenge. I’m going to post a pic of my shelves and get reactions. And yes…people are totally judging what’s in the backgrounds of video calls. My daughter took down a stuffed animal that was visible when she was in class. My friend commented that some people really need to redecorate.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There was a report here on one of the networks (CBS) about a website that’s been rating the backgrounds of journalists who are home reporting. Some got high marks for an attractive background, while others were skewered for minimalism or it being boring. But like you, and others apparently, I’ve been riveted to the books behind these people; enough so that I’ve put the remote on pause and walked up to the TV to look closer. 🙂 In my case I know I’m not judging, but I am being shamelessly nosy.

    Of course, in my younger days (teens and twenties), I was incredibly judgmental as I looked through people’s record collection. Youth, yech. – Marty

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow Deb, that is a major shift – I’m seriously impressed! I know it’s something I need to do too, as despite having downsized many a time, the amount of books I have always tends to spiral out of control. One day …

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Marty, I couldn’t agree more with your comment about the judgemental nature of youth – I know I was a terror for it. I was amused when my friend browsed my bookcase as I knew it wasn’t a true reflection, but I never got into a discussion on the subject for I trusted he knew my taste well enough to realise that. One benefit of wisdom coming with age. That said, I’ve now spotted a rash of tutorials about how to manipulate your background to project a false image, which is a shame …

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Man-oh-man, LA was asking this, too. I’ve no idea what my bookcases say about me [us?] other than we like books. Not fussy about which ones, just need to have them around. For comfort, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ha ha! Yes, apparently I inspired her to ask the question 🙂 I’m glad you said you like to have them around for the comfort – that’s how I feel about them. My idea of home is lots of loaded bookcases, not so worried about the rest, but I need to see shelves heaving with books to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Good call Neil! I did originally do calls from my usual chair in the living room, but my swan neck reading light tends to “grow” out of my head – being a photographer it keeps catching my eye as an unforgivable sin! 😉

    Like

  9. I do a biennial bookshelf purge. I don’t choose to curate for looks, mostly because I don’t care what anybody thinks about what I read.
    I also have random tchotchkes, but grouped in ways that make sense. (at least to me)
    Bookshelves are uniquely personal and I’m a fan of letting my freak flag fly. Even though others can see them, my bookshelves are for me.
    I don’t have the patience for folks who shame each other’s choices.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I have peeked at friend’s record collections so I know how curious I am, and I am also curious about what other people read. I had hoped that LA was going to start an online book club, where everyone reads their own book and reports. No updates yet.
    I have my computer facing a window behind me and I just close the shades, the other direction would disclose my varied collection from James Bond to The Da Vinci Code (illustrated hard cover).
    Liked this post, fun and lots of comments from bloggers I know. – David

    Liked by 2 people

  11. So pleased you enjoyed it Dave. It is fun getting a peak into people’s lives, not just through words but my these snapshots of their interiors.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. All you will see in my background on a video call is my sofa. If it’s a Zoom call, you will see whatever fun background I choose, since I discovered you can use photos from your camera roll. When I’m bored I keep changing my background every few minutes to see if anyone notices; so far they haven’t! My bookcases are overflowing with fiction of various kinds, non fiction – history, science, old school textbooks I still like and… unicorns, dragons, spaceships and characters from Lord Of The Rings movies.

    I don’t blame people for staring at the politicians’ shelves, out of curiosity, but I’m betting that your average pollie is in his/her office and the books are all legal tomes or bound Hansard … 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Sue, how excellent – unicorns, dragons & spaceships! I’m moving my vote for most interesting bookshelves to you 🙂 I suspect Himself would prefer those to my spanish porcelain (sadly for me). Some of the politicos do have pretty obvious or on-message offerings, but there are a few fictional choices which people have found entertaining to identify.

    Like

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