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Let’s talk bookshelves

24th October 2020

Let’s talk bookshelves.

The Sunday Times recently featured an article (3 October 2020) titled “Zoom makes us judge a book by its cover for the perfect rainbow shelfie” and illustrated it with a photo of Ben Fogle (who’s a British writer, broadcaster and adventurer for those of you beyond UK shores). Viz:

Let's talk bookshelves

Photo ©The Times

Brave soul, I thought, his rainbow shelves will cause a stir. Probably.

The article went on to cite how the shelfie backdrop has become a de rigueur accessory for any Zoom meeting (what happened to good old Skype?) and that people are being very creative with the presentation of their shelves. People do the rainbow thing (how on earth do you find the book you are looking for when it is organised by colour?). They also turn the books back to front so their intellectual presence is there but you can’t visually riffle through the shelves to see the message they convey! They could be saucy narratives for all anyone knows!

Photo ©St. Louis Post Despatch

In the article, various book vendors cited an appetite for books with a worn look, slightly yellowed and others flagged that some will mass-purchase books either by colour or by author (Dickens might float your boat, for example to demonstrate that you are a well read person). Don’t worry about the content, the look is all!

It all went horribly wrong for British PM Boris Johnson, when a wag at a school, where he was delivering one of his peppy speeches to the nation, had lined up a few cutting titles along the top shelf. The beady eyed observers soon went into overdrive about the books gamely arranged for viewer appreciation, including The Twits, The Subtle Knife, Betrayed, Resistance, Fahrenheit 451 (I thought they had perhaps overlooked Lord of the Flies?). When Johnson is captured on his home turf, he apparently has big gold-lettered, red-spined books on his shelves, a very impressive home library.

Let's talk bookshelves

There is in fact a whole Twitter account dedicated to this new phenomenon and they are never short of punters with bookish backdrops (if you want to follow them, they share their amusing and entertaining observations too – Bookcase Credibility on Twitter)


Jason Isaacs caught the mood of the moment and stuck up a notice instead of filming himself against the usual backdrop. At the bottom he has written “Mysterious artistic objects” and above that “Impressive Book Collection”

Even on the popular TV programme TOWIE (The Only Way is Essex, a popular TV programme in the UK) a sumptuous bookish backdrop had been spotted.Let's talk bookshelves

Hello! Magazine got their readers salivating when they promised a peek at the Duchess of Cambridge’s bookshelves but disappointment was huge when all that could be seen was a row of elegantly cloth bound Penguin Classics, clearly placed for effect.

Dominic Raab (currently the UK’s First Secretary of State) hastily assembled stacks of books including biographies of Richard Nixon and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a book about economics and Niall Ferguson’s Virtual History. Great and eclectic reading for a Foreign Secretary (I must say they all look a bit pristine, but there you go…)

Let's talk bookshelves

Photo: Guardian

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, is a great book lover and has shared with her followers many a book shelf in her time (and we do like her because she follows TripFiction on Twitter). She is a great supporter of Scottish writers

And then in Japan, you have to have a totally different mindset when you think about bookshelves, in a country renowned for earthquakes. Architect Shinsu Fujii has designed slanted book shelves, which you can climb, for a small house in Yokohama. In this way the books won’t spill out when there is an earthquake! You can read more on this link 

Let's talk bookshelves

It’s time we, at TripFiction, went through all our shelves and book piles! Happy reading!

Have you got any bookshelf stories? Do share them with us below!

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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