All Stars: My Book Life

Today I am glad to be featuring a guest post by Kanalt of Well Planned Life as part of the Philofaxy All Stars Blog Tour

I read a lot.  I don’t read very fast due to time constraints, but I always have one or two books going at once—a physical book and an audiobook to listen to in the car while driving to and from work.  I don’t own any audiobooks but I own plenty of physical books.  Because I consider them to be an essential part of my décor, I will never not have any.  I do weed out my collection from time to time, mainly when I can no longer display them in an eye-pleasing manner.  Yes, for that is how I organize my bookshelf, in a way that’s pleasing to the eye.  I used to buy most of my books, but in the last few years, I have bought very few.  Now it seems I get most of my books from the library.  I work for one, so why pay for books when I have such easy access to them?  I still will buy a book now and then—if it’s an author I love, if I want something new to take on vacation, etc.  Many of the books I already own have yet to be read, so I’m trying to not buy as many so that I can get through what I have first.  But you know how it is, I will check out a new book before getting to the ones I at home.  Oh well, that’s just the way it goes.

So what does my bookshelf look like?

My shelves consist not only of books but also pictures and very few knick-knacks.  (I’m not a knick-knack collector but I do have a handful.)  The shelves reside in our entryway by the front door.  There’s a lot of space there that’s hard to fill, but the bookshelves fit perfectly.  I desperately need new ones (I got these from a coworker when she moved a few years ago and they were 15 years old then).  Sadly, there is no room for a chair to make it a quasi-library, but maybe someday when we move from our condo to a house we can have a library/office.  The living room or patio works for now.

The organization of my book shelf is not rocket science but it probably doesn’t make any sense to anyone else but me.  Some people books anywhere but not me.  I put paperbacks of similar size together, as well as hardcovers.  I have a small collection of young adult novels that are together.  The few non-fiction titles I have are also together.  I do have a few author collections, and of course those are together.

Adriana Trigiani:

Jennifer Weiner:

Marian Keyes:

Sophie Kinsella:

Jodi Picoult:

I have several signed copies of Jodi’s books, and I have read most of them.  Perfect Match was the first book of hers that I got—given to me as a gift—I had never heard of her, but this was the start of my loyal following.

I used to buy old books—classics mostly—because I like the look of them, so they are grouped together as well.

Celia Garth isn’t considered as classic, and not very well known, but it’s a much-loved book in my family so I took my grandmother’s copy when she passed away.

You can see that I have a small Jane Austen collection going on as well.

The Christmas Tree is also not a classic but I love it.

You may have noticed that there is more than one copy of To Kill a Mockingbird on my shelf.  That is because it is my favorite book.  In fact, I have three copies.

The first copy I got was the small paperback edition.  This copy was well-worn by the time I got it as a hand-me-down, and since I read it every few years, it has a lot of wear to it.

The inside binding is even wearing thin.

My mother gave me the hardcopy when I graduated school.  I have always wanted a first edition of the book, but they are very hard to come by and are wicked expensive.

The trade paperback edition I got when I led a book discussion on it for work.

Some of my other favorites include:

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (has a very Jane Eyre feel, another book that I love)

The Christmas Tree by Julie Salamon

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (check out the upcoming movie, as opposed to the original)

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

The Myth of You & Me by Leah Stewart (I have previously mentioned why I love this book)

Honorable mentions go to:

Summer by Edith Wharton

1984 by George Orwell

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

So.  Having shown you a bit of my personal library, you may wonder how I go about picking my next selection (well, maybe you don’t care, but too bad, I’m gonna tell you anyway).

First, I have to say that I do the very bad thing of choosing my books by their covers.  I know it’s a cliché; people shouldn’t do that.  But honestly, it’s my jumping off point.  This is not to say that I won’t read books I don’t like the look of—if someone recommends something to me, I might read it (if the storyline interests me).  But there are so many books out there; I have to have a starting point.  And this is it.  I prefer simple, clean, organized covers (you’re shocked, I know) rather than a ton of color or something that looks hand-drawn rather than photographed.  Some examples are:


Secret Daughter

Objects of My Affection

(These titles aren’t necessarily on my list, but doing a search through Barnes & Noble, they are covers that appeal to me for some reason.)

Once I’m hooked on an author, I will more than likely read other books by that person regardless of what the cover looks like (though to be honest, I’m always disappointed if their new book’s cover doesn’t appeal to me—I’ll still read it though).

This selection process has backfired on me too—I will choose a book because I love the cover so much, not pay attention to what it’s really about, and absolutely hate the book (sorry Twilight fans).

With all of that said, I do have a process by which I research my books (and movies and music).  I keep a list of how I can search for new titles (again, you’re shocked, I can tell).

When I have time, I go through my research list and check each resource listed (once I have checked a source, I make the text unbold so that I know where I left off).

You can see how many favorite authors I have:

Again, the same bold/plain text rule applies.

There are several book sources I check as well:

Once I have found a book I am interested in, I add it to my ever-growing book list.

Yes, just like my Filofax, my booklist is color coded.

Black – titles that I can only get in physical book format

Blue – titles that are available on audio, whether in CD format or as an electronic download

Green – titles I own

Orange – items I have placed on hold at the library

Red – items I currently have checked out

Bold – titles I have a high interest in, regardless of what category it falls into

I also keep a list of upcoming books, items that haven’t yet been published.

Again they are color coded:

Black – anything that does not yet have a specific date

Orange – titles that have a specific date that is too far away to request

Red – titles that I can request but whose date I want to add to my Filofax

Green (not shown) – titles that I have in my Filofax (I carry only three month’s worth of calendar pages with me, which is why I need the distinction)

Once an upcoming title has been placed on hold, I will move it from the upcoming list to the regular book list.

For anyone who might be wondering, I do try to update my list every time I check something out or return it.  It doesn’t always work out that way, but the color coding helps with this too—if I forget to remove an item from my book list, I can see that it needs to be when I open my file.  Anything in red that I’m not currently reading needs to be removed or made a different color if I never did get to read it.

I keep all of these lists as Google Documents.  My list is way too long to keep in my Filofax (currently I have 272 titles on my list).  Also, I need the list alphabetized by author so that I can search to see if a title is already on my list or not—sadly, my Filofax won’t put the list in alphabetical order for me, and I can’t search an un-alphabetized list very well.  I don’t want to have to reprint a written list every time I add or remove a title.  Plus, using Google Docs allows me to access my list when I need to, and since I’m using the computer to do the research anyway, it just makes sense for me to use this format.

I hope you have enjoyed my explanation of my book choices and that I haven’t bored you to tears.  Thank you to Bluebonnet Reads for allowing me to provide this guest post!


14 thoughts on “All Stars: My Book Life

  1. I have really enjoyed reading this post. It’s great to see someone who shares my slight reading OCD. Well, I say ‘slight’ but the Access database I built tells a different story…

    1. Ray, thanks for sharing your comment! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one. I don’t know how to use Access very well, so Excel is my go-to program.

  2. Wow, this is a very impressive TBR list/system. I keep toying with the idea of building a database like Ray, but I hesitate because it would be so time-intensive building the database and entering the data.

    I currently have my tbrs in Google docs too (only the tbrs, and only those I’ve remembered to write down), but it’s much less systematic, because my reading activity is quite whimsical. My interest is in tracing what leads where, the leaps from book to book — ideal for a database, actually. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, M. I haven’t used access for anything but I know it’s labor intensive, depending on what you’re using it for. With that said, I would imagine that the most time consuming part would be setting it up. Once you’ve got it going, it should easy to use, no? I have considered doing a database file instead of a spreadsheet, but I don’t use my tbr system in a way that would warrant it. I find the spreadsheet serves me just fine and it’s easy to use. Interesting, that you read books based on a path from a prior book. I never thought to do that, although I can see the benefits, especially if you read mostly non-fiction.

  3. Wow. I have a house chock full of books (and grew up in a house even more full!) but never made any real attempt at organization. They are where they fit. Which is terrible when I just NEED to get my hands on Susan Sontag and I need to spend an hour combing the shelves looking for “Under the Sign of Saturn.” My father has a system which no one but him can decipher but allows him to locate any book in his library in minutes.

    Interestingly, although I read a lot I don’t know many of your favorite authors very well. I remember the authors from my cataloging days but I don’t know that I’ve read any of them!

    To Kill a Mockingbird is also one of the titles on my short list of favorite books. I re-read it about once a year.

    I really enjoyed this post!

    1. Josh, I organize and have a system for everything. It can get to be too much – sometimes I think i should just go with the flow more. But I love to organize, so whatever. :) Generally, I read mainstream fiction, though I tend to stay away from the really popular authors/books (Patterson, 50 Shades trilogy, etc.). The more popular it is, the less likely I am to read it – it never lives up to the hype in my experience. Yay, another TKAM fan!

  4. I am a huge Jodi Picoult fan and have all her work in hardback. I became a fan after reading My Sister’s Keeper many years ago. My favourite is Nineteen Minutes.. or is it Second Glance….oh they are all so good.

    1. While I still love JP, I have stopped buying the books. Interesting – I didn’t like Nineteen Minutes as much as others. The same with Second Glance, although it’s so different from what she usually writes, so that could be part of it. I actually want to reread that one to give it another chance.

  5. I love organized book shelves and groupings of books by author, size or color. Just a little ocd here. lol Your bookshelf set up and book collection is fantastic. Big Jennifer Weiner fan here; my daughter usually gets me her latest each birthday or Christmas but she must have forgot this birthday. :) So I may pick it up. Your tracking of your books is great too. I regret not keeping track of all the books I’ve read; I used to be an avid reader and have read hundreds and hundreds but sadly did not write the titles down and I would never remember them all. Really quite disappointed in myself for not tracking!

    1. Thanks, Cheryl. I have loved JW from her first book. A few in the middle I didn’t love, but I couldn’t not read something of hers. She has three books that came out as ebooks only, so if you haven’t read them, they are available on iTunes. I only started keeping a list of the books I’ve read a few years ago, so it’s not a complete list. These are stored in my Shelfari account at the moment, but I may create my own list for them soon.

  6. I am so excited to see Celia Garth on your shelf. I also love that book! I usually read it at least once a year, sometimes more often. One of my favorite vacations was to Charleston, SC, wandering around trying to find all the places mentioned in Celia Garth.

  7. I loved reading this blog post! I use excel to organize my TBR books and to record what I have finished reading. I started this in 2000 and have one Workbook and a sheet for each year broken down by Fiction, Non-fiction and Audiobooks. I then have a TBR sheet where I color code based on Kindle books I own, physical books I own and books I can get at the library. The first sheet of the workbook is a summary sheet breaking down each year and the type of book read. At the end of each year I print out the current year list of books read just in case something ever happens to the Excel file, I will have a hard copy :)

    1. Thanks, Amy! I’m so glad I’m not alone in the booklist as spreadsheet arena. One thing I haven’t done is keep a written list of everything I’ve read. I’ve thought about it many times but just never started it. I’ll soon start a library/reference binder and so I may start keeping track in there.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s