Bookshelves Talk: What Do Your Bookshelves Say About YOU?

One of MY fiction shelves!
By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

I counted the number of bookshelves in our house. We have at least 14. And almost all of them are bursting with books.

After running out of wall space for more bookshelves, I've started collecting ebooks and audio books. So of course, now I have "bookshelves" on my Kindle.

So what do all my bookshelves say about me? If you were to walk through my house and browse my shelves, here are a few of the types of books you'd see in great abundance:

In the family room you'd see books about marriage and parenting, spiritual formation, theology, and other self-help types of books.

Lining the walls of our basement you'd find tons of history books along with science, nature, music, art, and poetry books.

Heading upstairs to the kids' bedrooms you'd discover hundreds of picture books, easy readers, and children's classics. Each of the kid's bedrooms is packed full of their favorites.

And then in the master bedroom (aka my office) you'd finally find my shelves, mainly stocked with historical fiction and of course my writing how-to library.

As you browse, what impression would you glean from the various books you find? You'd probably gather that my husband is not only a licensed professional counselor, but that he also went to seminary and acquired a Master of Divinity. From the variety of books in the basement you'd likely suspect that we homeschooled and that someone in the house was slightly obsessed with history (me!). And then from all the books upstairs, you'd get the feeling that we read a wide range of fiction.

Our bookshelves really do say something about our work, lifestyles, and our values, don't they?

What I'm realizing is that my VIRTUAL bookshelves can say a lot about me too. This wasn't something I thought a lot about when I first started my Goodreads account several years ago.

At first I didn't keep track of any books I was reading. I viewed Goodreads through my author eyes and was mostly looking at what was happening there with MY published books.

But then I realized Goodreads is designed for readers. If fellow readers clicked on my account, sure they'd find out about the books I've written. But more even more than that, they'd get to walk around my Goodreads home and browse my shelves there.

If I have nothing on my shelves would they assume that I didn't read anything?

On the other hand, do I really want the whole world to see every novel I read? If I listed everything, what impression would I give?

These are the kinds of questions I've been grappling with. And I think they're the kinds of questions we should all be asking ourselves in our social media culture that has made so much of our private lives public.

The fact is, whether real or virtual our shelves DO say something about us. 

If a boss from work, a neighbor, or one of our kids stumbled across our Goodreads shelves, would we be embarrassed to have them see what we're reading? After all, if I put a book there, in a way, I'm giving my stamp of approval to read it.

As an author with a large readership, what will my readers think if they browse my Goodreads shelves? If I add a book that's different or isn't quite as sweet as what I write, will they think I'm recommending it? I certainly wouldn't want to mislead any of my readers to pick up something they might find offensive.

And as an author, can I really leave terrible ratings about other author's books on Goodreads? What will that say about me as a person AND a professional—that I'm overly critical? But should I only add books that I can positively review? What would that say about me—that I'm unreliable because I only say positive things all the time?

Sorry for the barrage of questions. But as you can see, I'm sorting through the issue of how public we should be with our bookshelves.

Here are just a couple of conclusions I've drawn:

One, we need to take into consideration how what we leave on our shelves can impact others. When we're in a position of influence (i.e. parent, professional, teacher, author, etc), we have a greater responsibility. People are watching us, they're looking at our reading and reviewing habits, and they may even model us.

And two, we need to consider how what we leave on our shelves can affect our reputations. If what we put out there (on our virtual bookshelves or with reviews) could harm how people view us, then it's probably best to keep it private. Discretion is always the key, and if in doubt, leave it out.

So you tell me! What do your bookshelves say about YOU (both at home and virtually)? How do you decide what to add to your virtual shelves?


The WINNER of the advanced copy of A NOBLE GROOM (from the Valentine's Giveaway):

Karen Fallot! Congratulations, Karen! I'll be emailing you soon!

Thank you ALL for sharing your romantic stories! I was blown away by all of the sweetness! Some of your stories even brought me to tears! :-)

And I'm sorry for announcing the winner of the giveaway late. I had a terrible, horrible, awful case of the stomach flu at the end of last week and have had a difficult time functioning and catching up!

Stay tuned for more giveaways in the coming month!

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