Bookshelves I Have Known

source: fotolia (purchased)

It’s true that I already recounted the Ikea Bookshelf Saga, but let’s ponder bookshelves again today.

It’s just that…they are so versatile and present. They can change a room, make artistic statements. There’s a reason they are so often featured in home decorating shows. You don’t have to look very hard on the web to find pictures of bookshelves in all sorts of dramatic configurations that will take your breath away. Absolutely amazing. And I love every bookshelf I’ve ever had, though not a single one of them was fancy.

When I was growing up, my room featured a tall combination piece with three long shelves for books above and a cabinet below for everything else—namely, Holly Hobbie dolls, horse statues, and a box of shells I had collected on trips. It was sturdy and spacious—there was even a spot for a record player where I spun scratchy 45s.

In college, my shelves were made of white plastic milk crates. They stacked nicely and took abuse well, which was good because those dorm rooms were small and, you know, college.

By graduate school, my books lived on a rickety shelving system fashioned out of bricks and two-by-fours that was expanded several times over the years—all I can say about that structure is thank goodness it never fell on top of anyone.

When we moved into a new house, my husband and I bought some grownup (at least that’s what we thought at the time) faux-wood shelves and lined the front room wall. After we had kids, though, guess who needed the space to store the unfathomable wave of baby gear and toys slowly engulfing our entire house?

We had no choice but to lug all of the books to campus. I’m an English professor, so luckily, the office was already decked out with three large metal shelves. I quickly begged a fourth and, well, that was as many as they would let me fit inside because of fire codes or something. The shelves took up so much space that I had to remove a desk, but hey, sacrifices had to be made.

Then IKEA came to town. Somehow, little by little, we acquired more bookshelves. I blame, at least partially, the super-cute cube designs. We now have four-cube, six-cube, and eight-cube formations in various rooms. Heaven help me, I keep catching myself thinking that we need more. They are definitely not elegant, but the amount they hold is mind-boggling.

And surely the most beautiful thing about any bookshelf is its function: to hold our real treasures, the books (and pictures of loved ones, of course).

What kind of bookshelves do you have/love/want? And how do you organize your books: color, shape, topic, author, genre, historical period, or…? So. Many. Choices.

25 thoughts on “Bookshelves I Have Known

  1. Let’s see, we have one set in the living room, one in the master bedroom, three in my office and one upstairs for the offsprings’ books. Organization is not a high priority except for the one on the living room. That one contains hardbacks, autographed copies, and my wife’s collection of Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton novels. I get to have my books next to Janet Evanovich. That’s pretty cool!

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  2. Cynthia, I had the brick-and-board “fancy” bookshelves, too–except mine were huge heavy cinderblocks instead of brick and wow, were they a pain to move. I could hardly lift those blocks (and I always moved in the 90-degree heat). I miss them, though. I’ve always dreamed of a gorgeous bookshelf–okay, several–in that famous-author style. The whole “study,” in fact, with casual, buttery leather chairs and soft light etc. etc. Not gonna happen. I have weird bookshelves all over the house, none of them awesome. When we moved into our current home, there were built in bookshelves in the room that is now the dog’s fancy realm. I have had the most success with bookshelves from the Container Store. They actually fold and you can stack them.

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  3. I too graduated from built-ins holding plastic horses above my books as well as a 45-turntable, to milk crates, to bricks-and-boards, to Ikea, to yes, once again: built-ins! I knew we were secret twins, Cyn, and this now proves it!

    Our house has bookshelves in almost every room, and the one in my study holds not only books, but a host of knick-knacks I’ve collected since childhood, which makes it difficult to actually pull the books off the shelves….

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  4. We had bricks-and-boards and the milk crates too. It’s like a rite of passage, eh? I had to laugh yesterday because we have a houseful of books on all kinds of shelves (and other places) but my husband said, “I’m going to the library to find something to read.” He recognized the irony, but we all know what he meant!

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  5. Cynthia, I love bookshelves. Upstairs I have an ikea set of drawers where I keep some of the older ones I’m contemplating giving away. My bedroom has a crate and barrel leaning tower bookshelf.
    Downstairs I have wood wine and fruit crates I turned into a small bookshelf as well as 7 bookshelves I designed and built. They are waist high because of the moulding on our walls. Kind of looks like a library. There is no rhyme or reason to the order, because they are all my hubbs books. I don’t get to use them! Loki

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  6. I love bookshelves and wish we had an amazing wall of books complete with a library ladder. Alas, I have to settle for bookshelves in almost every room. (We had to draw the line at the master bedroom.) Also, we use a lot of those Ikea cubbies–but for the kids’ school stuff.

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    1. I fantasize about library ladders, too, Jen! We only have three bookshelves in our apartment, overstuffed with books and books lining our windowsill — and numerous boxes of books in storage! I have to hoard books on Kindle now.

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    2. Happy that you have a lot of bookshelves and oh, I share the wish for a library ladder. (May not have one in real life, but I put a ladder in the bookstore mysteries in the first chapter, ha.)

      Liked by 2 people

  7. All I know is that I tons of bookshelves and they’re still not enough for all my books. I just gave away seven boxes and still have stacks under my bed because I have nowhere else to put them. I wish I had a true library – and yes, Jen with a ladder!!

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  8. I ran out of bookshelf space a year and three months ago. And I know that for certain because all of the books I’ve gotten since them are neatly stored in the shipping boxes they came in…if they arrived that way…labeled on the outside with their contents and stacked all around by reading room slash office and my husband and son have been warned if they hear a crash they’d better come check that the room hasn’t imploded on my head…death via my tbr pile. I’m considering doing away with my two reading chairs and simply investing in a dining room table for the room. I can only imagine how many books I can pile on top of one of those!

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  9. I look all book accoutrements, with big-puffy-heart love for bookshelves. Mine are organized by how the books make me feel (nostalgic, scared, happy, etc.), and are interspersed with photos and knickknacks (heavy on the knacks).


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