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Shelfwalking

Shelfwalking: Conquering and Maintaining a Book Wall

by Mary Ruth

It was just supposed to be a shelf. I never thought my books would reach this many. I guess, at some point, collecting became borderline hoarding. 

But reading is one of my therapies. When I lived away from home for six years to study and eventually work, books were what helped me through my loneliness. Because I wasn’t well-versed with ebooks before, I was completely reliant on physical books to explore stories. I’d have a weekly trip to Booksale and bring a book or two home to my dorm, and immerse in reading. That continued for years.

That’s why when I finally went home, I had an overwhelming number of books with no specific place to store them. My current bookshelf that my dad had made was full—books stacked so high it almost reached the ceiling. And even with that, we’d find books stacked on the living room, a corner table, a bedside table, even on the kitchen table. So when our house underwent renovations, I specifically asked my dad if he could reserve a wall for my books. And it was literally a full wall.

What’s on my wall?

This portion of my book wall probably draws the picture of how varied my reading selection is. I just love a good story so I jump from one genre and medium to another.

1. Romance Novels. Romance composes maybe around 80% of the books on my shelf. It’s a genre I read a lot, and it is what started my reading obsession. From Filipino to contemporary to historical to independently published romances, ask me and I have them. I think the reason I have so many romance books is because I have the tendency of ‘hunting’ for the book releases of authors I loved. So that includes a lot of Julia Quinn, Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood, Sarah McLean, Catherine Anderson, Susan Mallery, Linda Lael Miller, and Carly Phillips, just to name a few. I also have a stash of independently published romance novels on my middle shelf.

2. Fiction Novels. I don’t have a wide array but I do have the Harry Potter series, my sister’s The Lord of the Rings books, some Paulo Coelho, and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.

3. Psychology Books. I work in the field of Psychology so I have a natural attraction to psychology books. I have books by Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Viktor Frankl and Erich Fromm.

4. Classics. I’m obsessed with Jane Austen. I have three versions of Pride and Prejudice along with her other works. I also have a handful of Shakespeare and other classics like The Great Gatsby, Gone with the Wind, Little Women, To Kill a Mockingbird, and A Room with a View.

5. Others. Manga, some biographies, non-fiction, self-help and poetry. I’m only starting with my obsession so I have a feeling I will need to rearrange soon. I also love the musical Hamilton: An American Musical so I have the stage play book and the Hamilton-inspired romance Alex and Eliza by Melissa Dela Cruz (but it was borrowed by my cousin so it’s out of the shelf).

How do I organize?

I usually arrange them by author then by their series’ reading order. That way, it’s easier for me to see if I’m missing or lacking a book. I put the series of books that I’ve read and completed on the top-most shelf that I can reach since I won’t be accessing them until I decide to reread. The historical romance genre is placed lower where I can easily see them since it’s a genre I always go back to.

On the extreme left are my Precious Hearts Romances, My Special Valentine and Mills & Boons books. I usually pick them up if I’m in a mood for a short read. A little above those is where my classics are.

A special shelf sits in the center. These are books signed by authors. It’s also the don’t-touch-without-permission portion and the books I’ll pack first in case of a fire.

And now, for the most important question…

How do I maintain my book wall?

With a lot of time, patience, and stamina! I constantly update the shelves when I buy new books but I dust them off as often as I can. I also have a scheduled annual book wall cleaning that lasts the whole day—from 6am to 6pm. 

The process starts with taking the books off of the shelves, grouping them according to authors and labelling the group with a sticky note. After which, intensive dusting and wiping (and sometimes vacuuming) commences. After the shelves are clean, I sit down and start sorting the books. Ever so often, I make the hard decision of picking out books to let go, either to sell or to give away. These are books I may have not enjoyed or books I know I won’t re-read anymore. This part of the process takes up the most time. I guess because I tend to succumb to nostalgia and recall the stories and moments in my life when I got a particular book or series.

Having a book wall—in a room which we call the ‘mini-library’ in our house—is a tough task. But no matter how hard it is to maintain nothing beats the feeling of being surrounded by words. And well, it’s also really satisfying to look at and makes a good backdrop for photos. Haha!

That’s it for my Shelfwalking! I hope you enjoyed your time with me, and let me know if we share any similar titles. ☁️

Follow Mary Ruth on Instagram and Twitter @rymahurt, and on Facebook.

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