Decorating with Books

I’m not an interior designer or a photographer, but here are some photos of how I decorate with books at my house.  Books best represent my personality, so I’ve come to collect them and showcase them in my home.  There was a time when they were all in boxes in our unfinished basement, but now that we’ve lived in our home for 10 years and had time to unpack and furnish it, here’s what I’ve done with my books.

This is my living room, the first place people see when they walk into my home.  This wall once stood blank and empty, but we filled it with IKEA Hemnes cabinets in gray and from there I put little knickknacks, trophies, piano music, photos, baskets, and most importantly my books. I focused on book jackets that were purples, yellows, golds, creams, greens, and browns to match the rest of the room’s accessories.

Here’s a close up of my favorite part of the shelf.  It features the books in the colors I mentioned above, but it also has a picture of one of my favorite authors, Virginia Woolf.  This picture is actually a postcard one of my favorite English professors gave me after she visited England, her home country, and the place where Virginia Woolf lived and wrote.

This is the plant shelf in my master bedroom.  When we first moved in, I did not know what to do with it.  I tried arranging plastic plants, baskets, and silk flowers on it, but it always ended up looking corny and from the 1980s.  So, I decided to put my personality on it in the form of my book collection.  These are all books that I have read and enjoyed.  Because you can’t see the titles, here’s a list of what is on this shelf from left to right.

Our Sister Killjoy by Ama Ata Aidoo, Watership Down by Richard Adams, The Inferno by Dante Alighieri, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure by Dorothy Allison, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank, The View from Pompey’s Head by Hamilton Basso, A Place Where the Sea Remembers by Sandra Benitez, Little Big Man by Thomas Berger, Women in Their Beds: New and Selected Stories by Gina Berriault, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, March by Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Stranger by Albert Camus, My Ántonia by Willa Cather, O Pioneers! by Willa Cather, The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Shannon’s Way by A. J. Cronin, Mary and O’Neil by Justin Cronin, The Hours by Michael Cunningham, Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres, Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos, The Way Things Are by E. M. Delafield, Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai, Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass by Isak Dinesen, Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow, An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III, That’s How It Was by Maureen Duffy, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards, The Secrets of a Fire King by Kim Edwards, What is the What by Dave Eggers, Silas Marner by George Eliot, Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, So Big by Edna Ferber, White Oleander by Janet Fitch, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, The King of Torts by John Grisham, Norma Jean: The Life of Marilyn Monroe by Fred Lawrence Guiles, Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh, Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh, A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney, Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories by Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, A Modern Instance by William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson, Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella, Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, Shopaholic Ties the Knot by Sophie Kinsella, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, Passing by Nella Larsen, Quicksand by Nella Larsen, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Christy by Catherine Marshall, Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel, Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough, The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy, Liars and Saints by Maile Meloy, Paradise Lost by John Milton, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor, Mama Day by Gloria Naylor, The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor, Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky, Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Bellefleur by Joyce Carol Oates, Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates, Do With Me What You Will by Joyce Carol Oates, Them by Joyce Carol Oates, We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates, Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor, The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer, The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie, A Tree Brows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith, All the Little Live Things by Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington, Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray, Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler, Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler, The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler, All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, Madame de Treymes and Three Novellas by Edith Wharton, Summer by Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk, Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple, Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple, The Priory by Dorothy Whipple, We Knew Mr. Knight by Dorothy Whipple, Frost in May by Antonia White, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson, The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan, Love, Lucy by Lucille Ball, The Pearl by John Steinbeck, and A Book by Desi Arnaz.

As you can see they are in alphabetical order by author’s last name until the end, when my ceiling slopes close enough to the shelf to require only smaller books on that end.  Hence, the disruption in my alphabetized collection.

From this shelf, you can also get a good sense of my taste in books and the authors who are my favorites.  The authors who are represented more than once (and several times over) are:

Willa Cather

Sandra Cisneros

Kim Edwards

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Jennifer Haigh

Ernest Hemingway

Jhumpa Lahiri

Nella Larsen

Maile Meloy

Gloria Naylor

Irene Nemirovsky

Joyce Carol Oates

Betty Smith

Wallace Stegner

John Steinbeck

Anne Tyler

Edith Wharton

Dorothy Whipple

I’m also proud that my collection includes women and men alike and authors from many different cultural and literary traditions.  My books represent Africa (from a native perspective and from a colonizer’s perspective), the United States (the deep south, the east coast, the mid-west, and the west coast) the United Kingdom, Central America, South America, China, Hispanic culture in the United States, Ireland, Italy, India, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Colombia, Japan, Hollywood, Spain, Afghanistan, France, Poland, Sweden, Canada, Pakistan, and Iran.

I love books.  What do your bookshelves look like?

And, because I couldn’t fit all of my “decorating” and bookshelves in this post, here is part two.


38 thoughts on “Decorating with Books

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      1. it’s not by rainbow, but just by what i was feeling at the time. 🙂 i tend to have a lot of white and orange covers, so those went at the top, and then the rest of the rainbow followed. thanks! 🙂

  1. This looks awesome, I love your ceiling size bookshelf in those next few pictures and your photo of Virginia Woolf, swoon. This is why we can’t go solely to e-books because we need books for interior design and intimacy. : )

  2. that is quite a collection. I have to say, my room is a shrine to books and candle and I love decorating every part of my house with them. My family jokes about it, but they don’t know the plan.
    I want to set up a library in one of the rooms. And there is nothing like too many books.
    Love your décor ideas though.
    Thank you for the list.

    1. I love your plan! A room with nothing but books. That sounds like a place that I would love. Ah, libraries! Good luck continuing your collection and creating that room. 🙂

  3. You’re so right, books represent my personality. I love the way you arranged them between ceiling and shelf 😀 I think I will also end up like this in the end 😀 My bookshelf is already not enough and I have to pile them on the front sides of the shelves or under my bed. And I really like that literature gives one a view of different cultures and countries. I also have different cultures in my shelf: German, French, Indian, Japanese, South American, North American, African, and I still have to buy a lot of books *o* I am still at the beginning!
    So much to read, so less time

    1. There’s never enough time! It sounds like you enjoy your books. Good luck with getting them all into a “home.” I think that part is fun, almost as much so as reading them.

  4. your book decorating is lovely… looks like my ideal place.
    When or if i manage to buy my own house it will end up like this…books everywhere…
    and i agree when you wrote that books show your personality. 😀

  5. I absolutely love your collection and this post (and I will check out your second post when I get a chance). I am hopelessly decorating-challenged, and I could use some ideas…right now the three of us (husband, child and I) share 2 bookshelves, and everything is kind of a jumbled mess. I have those plant areas (so that’s what they’re called!) in our house too and I never knew what they were for (aside from collecting dust)! This will inspire me to do something about my books, which right now have spread to the floor and are just sitting in piles….

    1. Yes, put your books on those “dust-collecting” plant shelves. I didn’t know what to do with mine until I had this idea. I haven’t looked back! I love the atmosphere it adds to the master bedroom. And the color!

  6. After several moves, many of my books are still in boxes in the basement. I can’t bring myself to part with them but have not been sufficiently motivated to take them out. I think it’s time my book collection sees the light of day again. Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. Currently all my beloved books are stored in numerous boxes whilst we build our new home. This is hard for me because I basically cannot get to them, but on the upside when we move into our new place they will all have somewhere to live out in the light instead of locked away – hooray.
    I love the first shelves you have there and adore your planter shelf!

      1. I know right?! Well we purchase the land in October 2013… it didn’t settle until November 2014. So now we are going through all the paperwork process. I dream of my home often hahaha.

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