Bookshelf Etiquette

This was an interesting blog post from the New York Times book blog, Papercuts, about bookshelf etiquette. Its not a topic I’ve ever given serious thought to, but the idea behind it is pretty interesting. What does your bookshelf say about you? What should it say about you? Who you are, what you want to be, or what you want others to think you are?

I also posted the original blog post from that started this discussion.

Book Etiquette

The Unabridged Rules of Library Management

RULE #1: THE PRIME DIRECTIVE — It is unacceptable to display any book in a public space of your home if you have not read it. Therefore, to be placed on Matt Selman’s living room bookshelves, a book must have been read cover to cover, every word, by Matt Selman. If you are in the home of Matt Selman and see a book on the living room shelves, you know FOR SURE it has been read by Matt Selman.

RULE #1: COROLLARY A: The living room books ARE NOT the combined book collections of Matt Selman and his wife. (She may have read some of them, but who knows, really.) This is only the collection of Matt Selman.

RULE #1: COROLLARY B: Writing in books on the living room shelves that Matt Selman has NOT read — I) Indexes. II) The ending part of the author’s acknowledgments that is just a list of names. III) Poetry that has been snuck into an otherwise interesting book. IV) Books written by my father that I told him I read. V) The super boring text in art books.


RULE #2 — Actual book copies of audiobooks that have been listened to, but not actually read, MAY be placed on the living room library shelves, IF A) the audiobook listened to was UNABRIDGED, and B) the actual book copies of unabridged audiobooks have been looked through to make sure you didn’t miss anything and to see the pictures. If anyone says “listening isn’t the same as reading,” get into protracted and unpleasant argument about it until they think you are insane and leave to visit someone whose bookshelves are full of a mixture of read and unread books — A LIVING HELL.

RULE #2: COROLLARY A — It is encouraged, but not mandatory, to “break-in” the listened-to-but-not-actually-read-with-your-eyes books by creasing the spines, dog-earing the pages, etc., so they “fit-in” with the read-with-your-eyes books.

RULE #3: NO BORROWING — No borrowing of books is allowed under any situation.

RULE #3: COROLLARY A — Books may be borrowed if it is a super super super awkward situation. (Like, a pregnant lady really wants something to read while on she’s on bed rest, and your wife says, “sure you can borrow The Tipping Point, Matt won’t mind, right honey?”)

RULE #3: COROLLARY B — If a book is allowed to be “borrowed,” a replacement is purchased online as soon as the original leaves the house. No attempt is made to recover the “borrowed” book.

RULE #3: COROLLARY C — DVDs may be borrowed at any time. Keep as many as you want as long as you want. Just don’t take Time Bandits, Simon Schama’s A History of Britain, The Lord of the Rings Extended Editions, um… the original Die Hard, I guess. Eh, forget it… take ’em all. Why did I buy these stupid things at $20 bucks a pop? I wish I had that money back.

Tours of the library are available from 10-5 PDT, until the writers’ strike is over. Proposed borrowing of book(s) will result in abrupt cessation of tour and re-direction to DVD closet or boxes of wife’s books in the garage.


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