My Bookshelves Tell a Story

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The Decorista recently wrote a post about decorating your shelves. It had lots of great tips, but the style just didn’t work for me.

Maybe my shelves just need to be as cluttered as my mind, but I like to have actual books to read on my book shelves along with my knickknacks.

book shelves

Books I have enjoyed and books I am wanting to read, sit right next too vintage and antique novels. And family heirlooms sit next to pottery by local artisans and interesting pieces I picked up at the local thrift store.

Not only do each of my shelves tell a story, all of the items have their own stories to tell- a peacock fan that was already an heirloom when my grandmother owned it, a set of big cat nesting dolls that belonged to the late wife of a family friend, A book called “Cotton is King” that I found in my grandparents’ basement which someone once used like an old family bible, and an old wooden truck that was my husband’s when he was a child. All of these memories are displayed on just one shelf.


I have one self that is devoted almost entirely to the things of my childhood. A clown doll I had as a baby sits in front of the book of nursery rhymes that I always read when we went to visit my grandparents. I can still quote all of “A Frog He Would A-wooing Go.” That shelf also has my collection of vintage L. Frank Baum books, which I loved reading as a child, and still occasionally re-read today, right next to my Shel Silverstein books. Those poems still spark my imagination.


Of course, not everything on my shelves is about my childhood. I have a shelf with vintage cameras. I love taking photos. Ok, cameras and old books. Old books are beautiful. Why can’t we make them like that anymore? I feel like if we went back to crafting truly beautiful books people would start reading again.


I also have a fairly large stack of bibles on my shelves in several different translations, mostly KJV which is what I grew up with, but also New American which is the translation of choice for the Catholic church as has some books in it that the protestants took out. That’s something I learned when I joined the Catholic Church a few years ago. That stack of bibles sits next to a beautiful piece of pottery by local artist, Joe Smith, a vintage mirror, and a cute little ceramic fox that just happens to remind me of the taxidermy fox that sits in my mom’s living room that was trapped by my grandpa.


Of course that couldn’t be any more different than the shelf below it, where Yoda stands guard over toy tractors, including a couple that were hand made for my husband by my friend Dave. This is also the shelf where most of my more modern books live, books that I have just finished – like The Oracle of Stamboul, or that are on my to read list like The Traitor’s Wife. It’s also the shelf where most of the books I am drawn to read again, like American Gods, The Vampire Chronicles, and C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy.


I also have a shelf that is mostly full of memories. Among other things, it contains a photo of my first cat, Flash, the rose I carried at my sister’s wedding, and the trophy my husband won in a tractor pull where one of the dual wheels fell off after he finished. I also seem to have a lot of Willow Tree angels on my shelves. They were all given to me as gifts at one time or another and hold a special place in my heart.


So, what do you keep on your shelves? Are they simply full of books, do you have other items that mean something special to you? What stories do your bookshelves tell?


  1. anna on January 20, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Mostly books, yes. Even though paper books are hideously expensive here, and in English more so, I have far too many for the limited space we have. But also other little things. Nothing like your lovely bits and pieces–and the shelf unit itself is beautiful! Just meaningful little things: a figurine I picked up 25 yrs ago in a shop, the ubiquitous soft animal toys (the real bosses of this place), and my collection of useless objects–stones, bits of coloured glass, etc.

    • Andrea on January 20, 2015 at 10:19 am

      It still sounds lovely. It’s nice that you have things that mean something to you. My shelving unit actually came out of the bank my mom worked at when they remodeled. I also have a matching “dresser” that used to be a file cabinet in the bedroom. And when I lived at home this was actually part of my bedroom furniture. But I do love having it in the living room now. It’s nice to share the things I love with other people- even if my husband hates having my big furniture everywhere.

  2. O! Jolly! on January 20, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    The Decorista pic made me laugh. I’ve seen lots of shelves lately with books arranged with the spines toward the inside. Yes, I like minimalist look, but that’s just silly. It’s much more important to have a meaningful arrangement.

    • Andrea on January 21, 2015 at 7:40 am

      Thanks for stopping by O! I’m glad I’m not the only person who thinks that idea is a bit off. When I saw it my first thought was “why?” Anyone who actually intends to read their books would never position them spine facing inwards. You wouldn’t know what you have to read.

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