Book Shelves #1, 1.01.2012

Every library answers a twofold need, which is often also a twofold obsession: that of conserving certain objects (books) and that of organizing them in certain ways.

—Georges Perec, from “Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books” (1978)

For all of 2011 and half of 2010, I ran a death mask on this blog every Sunday. I liked the idea of having a regular, uniform post on the blog, and I enjoyed searching for death masks (and life masks) and learning about them. However, my interest is waning; it’s time to move on.

Still wanting to run a regular post each Sunday, I’ve elected to photograph the bookshelves, or the surfaces that hold books in my house. These will not be beautiful, arranged pictures, but rather simple pics from my iPhone documenting the spaces that books occupy. I will photograph each space “as is” and then remove a book or two, photograph it, and then comment on it.

I didn’t know where to start, so I started with what may be the most plain book shelves in my home, the nightstand next to my bed. (Right now it is unusually tidy, having been cleaned out and partially restocked for the new year; in a week or two it will be crammed to its wooden gills). Here is what it looks like:


Not very exciting, I know! This is perhaps the only photo in this book shelf series that will not feature shots of spines. Like I said, I don’t plan to arrange any of the shots in this series. I talked about a lot of what’s in here in yesterday’s riff on recent reading and a post last week on stuff I plan to read in 2012.

Stuff on the top tier tends to be stuff I’m currently reading; the second shelf is filled with books I’m always rereading, or picking at slowly. The third shelf is where stuff goes to marinate or get dusty or cry to be shelved.

There’s also a bunch of kids book on the floor. More kids books are in this giant magazine stand, along with some notebooks, art pads, and probably an actual magazine or two (Anthony Browne’s book Changes is a surrealist masterpiece for kids, by the way):


The Perec quote above comes from an essay collected in Species of Spaces and Other Pieces. “Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books” will be in some ways the guiding inspiration for the Biblioklept book shelf series; my aim is not so much to present beautiful pictures that show off my books (I’m not equipped to do that, and other people do it very well already), but to comment on how my books are arranged and how they move and flow throughout the house; it will also give me a good opportunity to pick up books that might have been lingering (do books linger?) on a shelf for sometime.

I pulled these three books, not quite at random, from the shelves. The Perec book is one of those volumes I like to read scattershot-style. The latest issue of Paris Review still has a few pieces I haven’t read. Nausicaa: I meant to start it the other night. It will migrate to another room, a day-reading room, not a night-reading room:


I don’t anticipate future book shelf posts being quite this long; my intention here is to kind of set the ground rules (for myself) or delineate both spirit and letter to this project. As such, a final note on movement: I will move “outward” from this nightstand, photographing any place where books are set. I will photograph every kind of book in this house in its natural habitat; this includes children’s books and cookbooks, but does not include personal photograph albums, instruction manuals, or anything else of that nature. I plan to do 53 total book shelf posts, including this one (there are 53 Sundays in 2012).

My hope is that readers will respond to these posts by sharing their own bookshelving habits.

13 thoughts on “Book Shelves #1, 1.01.2012”

  1. Aha! I’m very excited about this series, I love how every little corner and surface around your house holds book. I think it will be super cool to have it documented :D


  2. What an interesting project! A visitor to my home last night commented on how every surface seemed to hold books. It would be very interesting to look at these individually… there may be some logic to the seeming haphazard scatter that I have yet to uncover. I may join you in this exercise :)


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