It’s important to choose your words (and your wordsmiths) carefully, but for many of us there is actually no more vital an issue than where to put our books.

In the last 10 years we have lived through a revolution in the way we store our knowledge. But while we can now browse an entire personal library on an electronic device the size of a paperback, there has been a burst of creativity in that most traditional of bookish accessories, the bookshelf. Bookshelves today are modern art, engineering experiments and, of course, status symbols. And this is the subject of my new book, Bookshelf (Thames & Hudson, £14.95) which is inspired by the blog of the same name, a pictorial guide to the world’s most intriguing bookshelves, bookcases and things that look like them.

Bookcases and bookshelves – whether they are shaped like Mexican snakes, made of felt or hold books upside down (all of which can be found in the Bookshelf book) – provide a welcoming habitat. Alberto Manguel’s portrayal of reading at home in The Library at Night (2007) is one of the most evocative descriptions of how a collection of books becomes more than a pile of papers, how even the very smell of his wooden shelves relaxes him. This is the library as emotional sanctuary. Or to put it another way, e-reading is all very well, but wouldn’t you rather keep your Proust in a bookcase shaped like a polar bear?

So please do take a brief video tour of the book below. Especially if you like the idea of a circular bookshelf in your sitting room.


Alex Johnson is a journalist and professional blogger. He is part of the online team at The Independent and runs the Shedworking and Bookshelf blogs.