Cultures Literature

A home library – when reading nooks are no longer enough

Yes – a home library is not for everyone. But for those of us still dreaming to live inside Waterstones or Foyles, it is the closest option for now. 

There is a certain anxiety in creating a home library due to the idealised version we have been sold by mainstream media. Two floors of wall-fitted, mahogany bookshelves with a spiral staircase and a medium-sized chandelier of warm lighting. Not to mention the fireplace as the central attraction crowned with a massive oil painting of some horses running. It does not need to be like that, and most home libraries do not need to be so intimidating. A ‘home library’, then, is a chosen room (or corner) for myriads of books of different genres. 

In fact, I think most home libraries are created accidentally. Rarely do we intend to create a home library until we realise that the reading nook with a bookshelf has reached its maximum capacity. Or, when you are a humanities student, and pieces of furniture no longer take up the most space in a room. Books do instead. I had two piles of books under a chair, another two over a small bookshelf, and three more piles over my wardrobe. Organisation led me to start putting together a home library and there are huge benefits as to why you should also be thinking of creating one.

Perhaps the most obvious one is that only books you like are on the shelves. I have purposely placed Wilfred Owen’s poetry collection beside W.B. Yeats’s because Yeats disliked Owen. Starting a literary war between poets – even if that is on your bookshelf – is also another possibility. 

Creating a home library can be a collaborative project too with people you live with. That way, exchanging books or discovering a new genre can become a lot easier than relying on random people on Goodreads for recommendations. And it is a great way to spruce up a house, especially if you are arranging the books in a colour-coded fashion. 

When we read books, we do not only consume the content, but are also aware of where we read them, and what is going on outside the book at the time. Every book, then, stores a certain memory of life and home libraries can bring all those parts of life together on one big shelf. Perhaps you read the Divergent series on a family holiday or got gifted an entire collection of H.G. Wells’s novels on your birthday – a home library can bring together all those memories and experiences in one room.

Now, if I have convinced you to get a home library – how do you create one? “Well, there is not a prescribed method” is probably not the answer you are looking for, but here are some things I have learnt in the process of creating one.

Firstly, placement is not really that important. You may want a place with good natural lighting and enough space to be able to expand the library later should you wish to. Otherwise, I think smaller places with darker corners can also be a great starting point. Second-hand (or preloved as I like to call it) bookcases will give a more rustic character to the library and is a cost-efficient option. Rather than emptying the wallet with a painting for the adjacent wall, miscellaneous pieces can make great decorations. I have a Rubik’s cube, a ring holder in the shape of a cat, birthday cards and a mini notepad scattered on different levels of the bookshelves for aesthetics. There is no problem in starting off with a half empty bookshelf too and building up your collection slowly. The most important point is that it is your home library and personalisation is key. 

Fariha studies English at Keble and is one of the junior lifestyle editors for Michaelmas 2021. Outside of studying, she spends a lot of her time in bookshops and buying more books than she can possibly read.