The Beauty of the Bookshelf

A little while ago, I took it upon myself to go through all of my bookshelves and dutifully record every single book that I own. After devoting an entire Saturday to this cause, the total ended up exceeding 800 books, which wouldn’t be too out of control if I had any sort of system to organize them. Aside from a shelf dedicated to David Foster Wallace and another dedicated to the books I studied in grad school, there’s not even a sliver of organization at all. For someone who works in a bookstore, that’s pretty sad. 

Once I finished up my own inventory, I got to thinking… What do other bookshelves look like? How do other people organize their books? Are there any books that appear on everyone’s bookshelves? Luckily for me, I was able to speak to some of the incredible, award-winning editors at HarperCollins Canada about their bookshelves to answer some of my questions.

Patrick Crean, Publisher

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SR: How do you organize your bookshelves?

PC: Roughly into fiction, history, philosophy/metaphysics, memoir, art. Organized around what I consider key books.

SR: Describe your bookshelf in one word!

PC: Eclectic!

SR: What is the most expensive book on your shelf?

PC: Limited edition of Tales of Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb, illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1909)

SR: Is Harry Potter on your shelf?

PC: Yes, the first novel

SR: What is one book that you think all readers should have on their shelves?

PC: The Odyssey by Homer

SR: What book has been on your shelf for the longest time that you still haven’t read?

PC: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Suzanne Sutherland, Editor, Children’s Books

Books Suzanne has worked on: The Ice Chips Series by Roy MacGregor and Kerry MacGregor, illustrated by Kim Smith; Be My Love by Kit PearsonInkling by Kenneth Oppel

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Bookshelf game on point 👌👌👌

SR: How do you organize your bookshelves?

SS: As a former bookseller, they’re primarily alphabetical by subject. Adult fiction takes up the biggest space of the shelves my husband and I share, but my kidlit shelf (from board books and picture books up to YA) obviously has my heart.

SR: Describe your bookshelf in one word!

SS: Eclectic!

SR: What is the most expensive book on your shelf?

SS: A signed copy of Raymond Carver’s Cathedral

SR: Is Harry Potter on your shelf?

SS: Of course! First Canadian editions, all.

SR: What is one book that you think all readers should have on their shelves?

SS: I don’t think there is just one book! Maybe it’s a copy of whatever book made you first feel like a reader when you were young.

SR: What book has been on your shelf for the longest time that you still haven’t read?

SS: A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz. And it takes up so much space! The next time we move, I’m finally going to have to reckon with that doorstopper.

Brad Wilson, Editorial Director

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That poor book never stood a chance

SR: How do you organize your bookshelves?

BW: Alphabetically by author with separate sections for fiction and nonfiction (I worked in a bookstore for many years)

SR: Describe your bookshelf in one word!

BW: Surprisingly, “roomy.” My last dog developed a book-eating habit (SR note: see picture above for photographic evidence) and chewed his way through several shelves of books. Still haven’t recovered and I don’t have many fiction books by authors with last names that start after the letter O.

SR: What is the most expensive book on your shelf?

BW: An atlas, but must admit that it’s a sample so I didn’t actually pay for it (a perk of working in publishing?)

SR: Is Harry Potter on your shelf?

BW: Of course!

SR: What is one book that you think all readers should have on their shelves?

BW: Stephen King’s On Writing. Even if you’re not a writer, it’s a brilliant book about writing and storytelling with fascinating insight for all book fans.

SR: What book has been on your shelf for the longest time that you still haven’t read?

BW: Not sure, sorry. It’s definitely way more than just one because I’m very behind in my to-be-read pile (SR note: arent’ we all?).

Janice Zawerbny, Senior Editor

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SR: How do you organize your bookshelves?

JZ: By subject, subdivided by country. (No, really.)

SR: Describe your bookshelf in one word!

JZ: Dangerous (because it’s overflowing and could fall at any moment).

SR: What is the most expensive book on your shelf?

JZ: My most expensive books are art books, one of which cost me $1000. Perhaps not most expensive, but most collectible, are a boxset of signed, leather-bound books by Anne Rice; a signed copy of A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace (SR note: I’m seething with jealousy right now); a first edition of Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers; along with some first edition Edward Gorey books.

SR: Is Harry Potter on your shelf?

JZ: No. I’m waiting until retirement to read the series.

SR: What is one book that you think all readers should have on their shelves?

JZ: The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain De Botton

SR: What book has been on your shelf for the longest time that you still haven’t read?

JZ: Roberto Bolano’s 2666


We want to know: What word would you choose to describe your bookshelves? Do you have a preferred method of organization? What book haunts your shelves, begging you to read it despite the fact that you bought it a generation ago? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @SavvyReader!

Happy reading,

Jesse

Follow me on Twitter @JesseDorey15!

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