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bookshelf voyeurism

hello, my name is jean pierre de rosnay… and i’m a bookshelf voyeur.

hello jean pierre. okay, bookshelves…


so, out of curiosity, what kind of bookshelf do you have?

sadly, i don’t have one. at the moment. because of money and space constraints i just haven’t been able to get one.

so how do you have your books now?

they’re all in piles. there’s one in the lounge, in and around the tv and there’s one in the bedroom around my bedside table.

and i assume this isn’t ideal for you.


how does it make you feel?

well… not great. ’cause i like my books a lot. they’re my friends. i like to have them out and displayed, on a shelf. i don’t know… its hard to explain… it’d just be nicer that way. i want to be able to touch them and see them all at a glance and be able to just pick one up, open it, look at it a bit and then put it back.

i see.

but, things are finally looking up so i think i’ll be able to get one in the next few months. ah, thats good. okay, so lets talk a little bit about your problem.

well. um… i guess it has to do with how much i like books.


i like books a lot. i like how they look, how they feel, how they smell, i like old books, new books, paperbacks, hardbacks… all kinds. i love the covers of books, the different covers of different editions.

okay. so …

so, i guess… well, i remember my mom’s bookshelf. she had a lot of books, and she had this tall and wide bookshelf. there were tons of agatha christie’s “dune”, “the lord of the rings”, “tai pan”, “sun signs”, “hamlet” and lots others. i just used to love looking at them, being around them. just walking past them was nice.

and how did it develop from there?

well, from there i was always interested in friends’ bookshelves. initially it was just to see what books they had but then it developed to seeing how they kept them. it amazes me all the different ways you can keep books, the different ways you can arrange them on a shelf, even how where you have the bookshelf affects how the shelf looks.Β 

that doesn’t sound so bad. are you sure you’re not being a little hard on yourself?

well… no… because, you see, it doesn’t just stop with friends, it extends to strangers as well. i’m interested by any bookshelf, no matter where it, who it belongs to or what kinds of books it displays.


its gotten to the stage now that if i walk down the street and notice a bookshelf, then i just have to look. i have to look at how they’ve arranged it, how many shelves they have, the colour of the bookshelf, where it fits in with the rest of the furniture, are there ornaments on the shelves and the overall effect. needless to say, one can’t really assess all of these things in just a glance, so i normally have a good old look. sometimes i, er, even… stop… and, er, stare…

you stare?


into other people’s homes?


people you don’t know.


just there, in the middle of the street.


for a few seconds.

yes… well, sometimes for longer.


’cause, you know, sometimes the person has created a really nice effect with their bookshelf, and i want to try and work out how they’ve done it…


sometimes its really hard, you can’t always put your finger on what they’ve done… so i, er, go past their house again, when i can, just so i can look at their bookshelf.


iΒ don’t go out just to look at their shelf, its just when their house happens to be on my way. i mean, i could take another route, but i may as well go past their house… since i, er, … you know… i may as well…

i see.


thank you.Β  uh, for… sharing that.

Categories: books
  1. September 8, 2007 at 4:47 pm


  2. September 8, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    HAHA!! I love this post. I sympathize all too well with it. I’m a bookshelf voyeur as well. As soon as I walk into a house I gravitate towards the bookshelf, and it ALWAYS distresses me whenever I walk into a house that doesn’t have a bookshelf!! I can’t even fathom that. Or, I shouldn’t say doesn’t have a bookshelf, but doesn’t have books! There we go πŸ˜‰ I’m amazed at how many people don’t own books…how does that happen?!

    I love your stacks of books!!! I wish I could see all of the titles more, but it makes me happy just to see all of those books πŸ™‚

  3. September 8, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    haha, great post! I don’t think you are alone. πŸ™‚

  4. September 8, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    Ah, it’s okay JP. I share your affliction. Whenever I go into somebody’s home I gravitate towards the bookshelves. A home without books disturb me – it’s like a man without a face.

    It’s also nice to see how people organise their bookshelves – how they put their favourites together, and how some childhood favourite like Dr Suess can stand proudly next to War and Peace – because the thing they have in common is the person who loved them.

    Okay, when you guys look at the photo of JK Rowling at the back of the Harry Potter books – did anyone else check out the books on the bookshelves behind her?

  5. September 8, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    I also love this post πŸ˜€ And don’t worry, your affliction is much too common.

    I understand the pain of having no bookshelves, but let me tell you, those are some fine looking piles of books.

    One of the most stressing things about moving soon for me is having to part with my beloved bookshelves. It’s going to be weird not to be surrounded by books. In fact I’ve been taking pictures of them so I can look at them when the house feels too empty. Nerdy, I know πŸ˜› And since you’re a bookshelf voyeur, let me share them: here’s one, and here’s another, also a DVD and Video Game shelf.

  6. September 9, 2007 at 4:34 am

    Oh wow Nymeth! Those. Are. In. Credible. πŸ˜‰ Isn’t The Cure’s Trilogy DVD great? It’s one of my favs. I love all of the action figures dispersed throughout…reminds me of Megan’s bookshelves, especially with the Pumpkins poster on the side…they’re her favorite band. Y’all would get along perfectly!

    Sorry for taking over your comments section JP πŸ˜‰

  7. jean pierre
    September 9, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    haha! i’m glad you guys will relate. the post is humorous, but i do feel a little embarrassed about the way i gawk at bookshelves…! πŸ™‚

    i agree, it is the weirdest thing to see a house without books (or bookshelves for that matter, chris πŸ˜‰ )… its like a house without food or something, or a man without a face as nymeth put it. its somehow empty.


    i can relate wanting to see the titles of the books…! i was starting really hard at nymeth’s picture trying to work out every single one of them πŸ˜‰ i’ll take some more pictures of my books when i finally get them on a shelf.

    and take over by all means chris! we all know each other and i love it when there is interaction like this in comments sections!


    i agree – its so cool to see how people arrange their favourites and to see what odd combinations you see next to each other. it says so much about people.

    i don’t know this photo of rowling that you’re talking about, but i can definitely relate, if i see a photo of someone with their bookshelf behind them i always look at it very intently. in fact, sometimes i wonder if it is even their bookshelf, you know… how do we know. and if it isn’t that’d be terrible. thats false advertising. sort of. false something at least…


    moving away from one’s bookshelf is awful…!i deeply sympathise. i’ve had to leave a lot of my books in cape town too…

    those shelves of yours are brilliant! thank you so much! from my post you can certainly imagine how much it means to me. i love all the little statues. its such a lively and colourful bookshelf! it looks so exciting. it makes me want to dive into it! i love pratchett and gaiman of course πŸ˜‰

  8. September 9, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    lol, I love this post. I don’t share your affliction to quite that degree, but I’ll always check out someone’s book shelves if I get the chance.
    I also suffer from the “piles of books that don’t fit on the shelf” syndrome.

  9. jean pierre
    September 10, 2007 at 7:56 pm


    oops! sorry i just got back to you now – your comment got caught in my spam pile! πŸ˜‰

    glad to know i’m not alone πŸ™‚

  10. September 10, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    Jean Pierre: I’m glad you liked my pics πŸ˜€ I knew you’d appreciate the Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett shelves. It makes me sad to part with my books, but it’s only for 6 months, and I have a feeling I will soon have many others to keep my company in my new home.

    Chris: I am impressed that you managed to spot the Cure DVD in the midst of everything! It really is a great one. The pumpkins are/were my favourite band as well. Well, I don’t like the 2007 incarnation much, but the older stuff still means the world to me. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for that band. It’s nice to know Megan is a “pumpkinhead” as well! I think we’d get along too.

  11. September 27, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    I have finally stopped laughing long enough to type…what a fabulous post! Though I thoroughly enjoy perusing other’s bookshelves, I have to say I have never gone to such lengths! You could have a field day at our house though…if I just counted correctly, there’s 19 packed to the gills bookcases here (not to mention stacks of books in other handy places as well).

  12. jean pierre
    September 27, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    oh, debi, don’t say such things!!! 19 bookcases…!

    i’m glad you enjoyed the post πŸ™‚ and thanks for stopping by!

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