My Other Obsession

It’s no secret around here that I collect power tools the way old ladies cats. In fact, I may or may not have added a little something to my tool collection this week, ahem, but that’s a confession for another day.

Today I’m here to admit that I have another little problem.  And by “little” I mean that one whole wall of my spare bedroom has been dedicated to this  obsession for the last year. That is, until this weekend–when I finally went out and bought a damn piece of furniture for once in my life instead of putting it on the every expanding project list– and now my secret is out in the open for everyone to see.


That’s right. I’m a paperback addict.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I buy hardcovers too. And ebooks. And graphic novels. And pretty much any other stories I can get my hands on. But it’s old worn paperbacks, with their bent spines and stories I’ve read a dozen times, that really have my heart.


Wait, wait, let’s step away from my obsession for a minute and talk about this shelf. It’s the Emerson Bookshelf from World Market, and I’ve been eyeing it up for over a year.

I never bought it because even though there were some very specific things I loved about this shelf, I was also considering creating my own bookshelf with gas pipe a la the old master closet from memorial (except freestanding instead of attached to the wall).


(More on how that closet was build here. I still miss the damn thing.)

If I had internal filters for whether or not I am going to DIY something, they would probably look something like this:

  1. Can I build it better? (i.e. a custom size, with a different look, with better materials or craftsmanship)
  2. Can I build it cheaper?
  3. Will it be fun (and by “fun” I mean “a challenge”)?

Although that’s really probably giving me more credit than I deserve, because mostly I build things when the mood strikes and buy things when the mood strikes, and I tend not to have to justify it to myself either way.

However, I saw this shelf when I was strolling through the aisles of World Market the other day, and a quick survey of my inner DIYdiva revealed that a.) I actually liked the look/coloring/details of this bookshelf better than the one I had in mind to build, and b.) realistically I wouldn’t get to building a bookshelf until sometime next fall. Or winter. Or the following Spring.

So I was like, eff that, put this thing in my cart. Except it was slightly too large for a cart. And also my car.


What? I can totally drive while ducking.

Turns out my skills do not extend to being able to carry a seven foot long box into my house single-handedly, though. And I’ll admit, that had me stumped for a good three minutes while I tried to figure out how I was going to get it out of the car. And then *facepalm* I realized you don’t actually need to carry the entire box in at once, you can just open it and carry in the parts.


So. That was easier than hitching it up to the donkeys and having them drag it in (which was Plan B.)

I hadn’t actually gotten around to assembling the bookshelf, nor did I have plans to this weekend because I had a lot of fun stuff lined up that involved actually being showered and out in public, but then I got my third flat tire in the last six months. Third. I’m not complaining, but just in case the Universe is listening in, I’d like to state loudly for the record that I don’t need any more practice installing the spare tire.

I’m quite the effing expert at it now.

Anyway, the point of the story is that since I had one flat tire and one that was looking dangerously low (and no way to get them fixed until Monday) I found myself unexpectedly home with nothing to do except laundry or make a mess in the Parlor.

Big surprise which direction I went there.

Which brings me back to this:


It also brings me to maybe the most disturbing thing I’ve ever read on the internet. See, these books have actually been boxed up for three years, because that’s how long it’s been since I lived in a house that had actual real furniture in it. (Because, you know, there was that year I lived in a garage while building a house, then the year I spent living temporarily in the unfinished house then moving into a rental for six months, and the last year which has been spent whipping the Liberty House into shape, which is all just a bunch of excuses for why I still have not unpacked things that were boxed up in 2009. Back when I said there will come a time when I have to stop building my life and start living it, this is the stuff I was talking about. At some point I have to unpack.)

And, holy shit, I’m full of words today. The point is, I’m a little rusty at, ah, setting up a finished room. When I went to put curtains up in here I damn near had an aneurism and finally emailed the ever-stylin’ Jen from Rambling Renovators— whom I have followed forever— in a dead panic about window treatments. (She made this Pinterest board for me because that is how awesome she is.) But since I don’t have anyone on speed-dial for styling bookcases, I turned to the internet and, horror of horrors, the internet was all “it’s okay to keep a few hardcover books out but paperbacks should be boxed up or thrown away.”


Blink. Blink.  

Excuse me?

Or, my favorite, “paperbacks have no place on bookshelves.”

Holy fucking WHAT?

There was also the suggestion to wrap all of your books in the same color of paper. You know, like you used to do with grocery bags and your schoolbooks when you were six.

Internet. We need to talk.


I’m trying to be open minded here. Everybody has their own style, and for some that means a bookshelf with fifty fucking knick-knacks and three books they bought at a thrift store and never plan to open. And, you know, cool. They’ll probably be in Architectural Digest, and I will totally be happy for them while I’m snuggled up in my house, surrounded by stories I love. Because at the Liberty House, there will be books.


There will be books in every damn room. I will be surrounded by pristine hardcovers, paperbacks that look like they’ve been read a hundred times (because they have), science fiction and chick lit and short stories and classics. They will not be shelved by color, or genre or how pretty they are. In my house Jane Austen will cozy up with Tolkien, and Thoreau will rub shoulders with The Brothers Grimm (the originals? You should totally read them.)

And when you zoom out to look at the big picture? There will also be messes.


This is only the beginning…

55 Responses

  1. I couldn’t agree more with you about the bookshelf. A.) It’s gorgeous, I love that line, and B.) Books are meant to be read! Our built ins in our living room are filled with paperbacks, along with our shelves in our room and we already have a collection/mini library of kids books for our nieces and nephew in our “play room” Books are beautiful, wonderful things. Why are beat up paperbacks “ugly” but everyone will scuff up furniture they just painted to look “shabby”

    Internet. Stahp.

  2. I LOVE that bookshelf. and my house has books everywhere, too. paperbacks and hardbacks. together. hahahaha i have an old bakers rack for a bookshelf…that holds cookbooks, too. and plants…and picture frames…and books. i need a classier bookshelve….like yours.

  3. I still read this blog because of the cat. Glad he made an appearance. 🙂

  4. What??!? No paperbacks on shelves??? Let’s ignore the portion of your post where you’re embarrassed at having books only packed up since 2009 (bwahahahahaha! I’ve got boxes from, ahem, 1999 that need to be dealt with), and just focus on The Book Thing.

    The Book Thing is a real, living, breathing, Love. I came into my marriage with more books than clothes way back when, and my new husband (who was not a reader, which I did not know, which may or may not support the theory of getting to know someone before agreeing to marriage after only one month) thought I was nuts. But figured that at least he wouldn’t have to buy any, because I had Enough Books.


    20 years later, we have books in the living room, books in the dining room, books in the kitchen. The boys’ room has books falling out of the shelves, the foyer has a shelf with books sticking out, our room is filling up, the spare room has its own collection, but my nemesis is the attic. We’ve only been in this house nine months, and the finished attic is, um, compromising the structural integrity of the rest of the house (not really… I don’t think. We *do* need to buy a floor jack and reinforce the dining room floors, and the living room… but I digress). All this to say, books rule. Literally and figuratively in my house. We don’t have enough bookcases right now, and still we bring books home. Weekly. It’s a sickness at this point. Except… Saturday we found a three-volume set of Encyclopedia Britannica’s in mint condition copyrighted 1771. For a dollar apiece. Now, I think that more than makes up for the cost of the bookshelves, right? Right? Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    1. I love everything about this comment. And of course you need a set of encyclopedias for 1771… are you effing kidding me? How awesome.

  5. Oh man, the internets would hate my bookshelves. Stacked two deep, and merely styled to shove as many books as possible on them.

    Yours is super pretty, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 🙂

  6. Paperbacks make up 90% of my over 500 book collection.
    I’ve run into the same problem when looking for “ideas” for styling a bookshelf, no one uses paperbacks. Let’s be honest 1. they are cheaper than hardcovers 2. easier to carry around 3. hello BENDABLE! 4. i love a worn paperback!

  7. Umm, I’m pretty sure you could fit two more of those bookcases (which I love by the way) to either side of the windows (with window seats in between?). And think of the books they could hold! Books are the entire basis of my decor, the more the merrier . . .

    1. I’m pretty sure YOU ARE RIGHT. lol. But I’ve got plans for a couple of built-ins in other rooms so I may save a few books for those. Or, you know, compulsively buy more whenever I’m within 100 yards of a bookstore.

  8. In my crowd, several households have custom-built paperback-depth shelves to line the hallways and rooms, and basically wallpaper the place with books. Of many kinds, including beat-up paperbacks.

    What with there actually being empty space in our new place, we got to buy some big bookshelves and our entire collection has enough shelf space. Things are shelved by genre/subject then alphabetically instead of by size then genre, thanks to this! I’m sure this condition will remedy itself over time.

    Once we unpacked the books, the house started feeling a lot more like home, with all my old friends there. I don’t have a large book collection by my standards, but it was still around 20 boxes.

    1. Yes… home isn’t fully home until the books are unpacked and the magnets and photos and etc are on the refrigerator!

  9. We have books from many different genres. I’ve go my Jane Austen, Tolkien, love stories, fairy tales and even a collection of children’s books. I can’t wait until we move out of our apartment into a house. I plan on finding a room where we can make a huge built-in and display all of our well-love books.

  10. Glad to see you’ve read Gutted. Great book!

    Nice bookshelf too. We need a World Market in Canada.

  11. I just have to say–you don’t have to listen to the internet because some of them actually arrange books by COLOR. It makes my head explode. Paperbacks rule!

  12. Hahaha, I saw the same thing about covering your books with paper, and had exactly the same thought…wtf!

    Most of my books are paperbacks and I LOVE the way it looks. Mainly because I love my books and love to see them out, but also because I actually like the aesthetics of the giant explosion of colour that is my bookshelves.

    I spend way too much money on books, but I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.

  13. A library, I would love a library room! Good for you for “being you” and loving those paperbacks. My son hates when I “break” the spine on a paperback. He has a love of books that is almost like “this thing is gold” type of love.
    Of course, that’s my fault…

  14. No paperbacks? You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m glad you didn’t listen to that crap.

    Any designer worth their paint chip book knows that their design is more about the people who live there than the magazine shoot. Know what people do? They collect things that they love. Know what designers get paid to do? They get paid to work people’s collections into their designs.

    I love my paperbacks and they are all over my house. They are separated by color, however. This does three things for me:
    1. it helps my OCD by creating an organizational system.
    2. it forces me to relax my OCD because Dahl gets to hang out with Sagan, and why not?
    3. It creates blocks of color that work into a spot with other items without being what those designers are complaining about.

    There is a pile of orange paperbacks under the lamp on the end table. There is a pile of blue paperbacks on a shelf under a conch shell I found on vacation. There is a whole row of white paperbacks at the back of a bookshelf and decorative things are in front of them. They’re everywhere and they’re awesome and I’m always picking one up to enjoy.

    Sorry to get preachy, but I firmly believe that design is about one’s vpersonality and one’s life, and making all of one’s most loved things as easy to reach as the shiny things. So I think you should proudly display your paperbacks in a way that you feel looks beautiful, and that you should totally toss some antique tools up on that shelf so that the books have friends to hang with while you’re out with the animals.

  15. I can’t believe you didn’t colour-block your books 😉 Thanks for the shout out. I like your bookshelf. Its like you – a mix of rough, a mix of pretty, and always breaking the rules. Yay for unpacking – that’s a big deal.

    1. See? I didn’t even know “colour-blocking” was a thing. lol. But if anyone could pull it off, I bet it would be you. As always, thank you for the inspiration!

  16. You can NEVER EVER EVER EVER IN A BAJILLION KATRILLION YEARS have too many books, paperback or otherwise.

    I still kinda resent the Man for making me get rid of 3 massive boxes of books when we moved. We downsized by 1500 sqft, and just didn’t have a “good” place for them. Which to him (a non-reader) is someplace he doesn’t have to look at them.

    But I still have over 2500 books in the house that are just MINE. Then there’s the boys’ books, which I find in random places like, behind the toilet tank and under the desk in my room, and in the little hidey-corner under the bar in the kitchen. And in their closets. Stashed with a pillow & flashlight. It’s AWESOME.

    And to think, I only have 2 bookcases in this house.

  17. Personally I like the way books look when they’re on shelves or piled on tables or the floor…but I don’t like how dusty they get. My ideal would be to have cabinets with shelves behind doors that close and keep the dust off the books. I have no DIY skills beyond thinking up things my spouse doesn’t want to do….but if I could, I’d have a wall of cabinets for book storage rather than open shelves.

  18. Love your bookshelf and love paperbacks. I’m saddened by the fact that my books have been packed up for the past year. I miss being able to grab one whenever the mood strikes. And on that topic, how would I find the right book if I organized them by colour? I remember the story, the genre and maybe the author. I don’t remember what colour the jacket is.

  19. Love the bookshelf!

    And the internet has serious issues when it comes to books… I think it’s some kind of superiority complex. Anyway, it makes zero sense to ever do what most of the internet seems to do with books. Arranging them by color is stupid, and saying paperbacks don’t belong is some sort of perverse inanimate object racism to me.

    We call our lower level ‘the library’ because that’s what it is. I love my books, I’m a collector of books, and while some of my most precious are hardcovers illustrated by Brian Froud, I also have to have a spot for Ender’s Game! I just have things roughly organized by subject and I put the biggest books on the outer edges – that’s it.

    So yeah, that turned into a novel of its own, but the point is, I like your bookcase, and the internet has issues.

  20. Every time I move, which in the last ten years has been 5 times, (same city diff areas). I hear, “man you have a lot of books, why do you need this many books?” I finally figured out that the only way to answer is: “why yes I do have a lot of books”.
    Eventually I’ll find my version of “Liberty House” and won’t have to hear that anymore!

  21. The Internet largely seems to view books as props instead of, you know, things to READ. Paperbacks are much easier to read in bed and deserve equal representation on the shelf. I can say this with authority; I’m a librarian.

  22. My husband is also not a reader. Which would have struck him off the list had I not already fallen in love with him and his blue eyes. 🙂 I have an intense love affair with books. Lots and lots and lots of books. And I have kids too, which means I also get to buy children’s books. 🙂 My husband simply cannot understand my need for books in every room of the house. EVERY. I grew up as a missionary kid….12 different schools by the 8th grade, more states than I can count, two different continents, etc. While we had nothing that was permanent, we always had our books. We paid a lot of money over the years to move those books with us everywhere. They are my dearest friends. They make me feel like I am at home! So yes, display your books, all of them, any way you like. The internets can suck it! 🙂

  23. I am with you all the way Kit. My books follow me everywhere. I move them in rolling suitcases I buy at Goodwill. I have hundreds of paperbacks. Have read everyone and many of them many times. I put shelves up on one wall of my bedroom and it only held 1/2 of them. My neighbor told me they look like art! Whatever books rock, hard cover, paperback, whatever.

  24. I feel that all of you… none of whom I have ever met, and probably never will are my best pals. I could start a “book anon” group if anyone really pressed the issues of books. In particular 95% of mine are paperback, and most of them from secondhand shops so bent spines are the norm. Does the whole “nook” and “kindle” wave bother the rest of you? I see a day in the too near future when buying a paperback OR hardback will be very difficult. Sometimes technology is NOT a good thing, whereas a book ALWAYS is. The best answer to the security question who is your best friend: a book.

    1. BTW… Kit, I forgot to say, more than once I have had to unload a heavy box piece by piece. And for the record, two rolled carpets and four people WILL fit into a Buick. Good job on all of it.

  25. You are stylin’ girl! No really, the bookshelf looks great and I Love the donkey. I agree, wrapped books are the worst. They remind me of the plastic covers some people used to use on their furniture and on their car seats. It is the most ridiculous decor fad.

    I have had to completely limit myself to ebooks.I don’t like not having the physical book but it has gotten out of control and I do not want to be turned in for a role on hoarders. I just finished The Age of Miracles and really enjoyed it. The house is looking good!

  26. One of my least cool tool purchases was a hand truck. But over the years, I’ve used the heck out of the two-wheeled beast. You’d love the ability to cart stuff into the house and even up stairs, without the necessity of a truck-back unpackaging fest.

  27. Whatever internet – we have one of the walls of our living rrom entirely covered in bookshelves, and that’s mostly paperbacks. Completely not organised by either alphabetical order or colour.

    Colourblocking has never made sense to me. I like to keep books by the same author or in the same series together, and quite often, in the genres I primarily read, these are not the same colour.

  28. I moved in with my boyfriend two months ago and he is just now realizing how many books I have as I unpack. He wasn’t too happy but maybe that will encourage him to help me build more shelves!

    I love how you stacked the books backwards to see just the pages! I usually stack my books by size and color just because of my love of symmetry. But Frank Lloyd Wright has his own shelf in my collection.

  29. “paperbacks have no place on bookshelves.”

    Wow. Fuck that noise. 🙂 Go home Internet, you’re drunk! Books on parade!

    Also, that bookshelf is amazing.

  30. Thank you for finally find a shelf for the “Daring Book For Girls”, and many a Shel Silverstein. They have a great home.

  31. Did anyone else try to zoom in to read the titles? Yeah, I did. For some reason this post and all of the comments are making me feel that my recent bookstore purchase is justified. What, you don’t drop $100 at the bookstore too? Now to drop $100 at the local lumber yard to build a complex of bookshelves to house said purchases (and the hundereds of purchses over the past 20 years.)

  32. The paperback thing reminds me of an article I read once that said you shouldn’t put family pictures on the main floor of your house. Your guests don’t want to look at them.

    Ahem. Excuse me??

    My house, my rules!

    I vote YES on the paperbacks. Books belong everywhere.

  33. So, I did not read all the comments. I’m just going to assume that everyone said basically what I’m going to say….

    The Internet is wrong.

    AAALLL books shall be displayed and have value. Your book shelf is lovely. And so are your books. I hope you pick an old friend to sit with and read soon, since now they are out of their temporary homes….just like you. 😉

  34. Paperbacks RULE! You can bend them and crease the spine with love. They are lighter in weight for travel, and are cheaper than bulky hardbacks. Also, they take up less space, so you can amass a larger collection when space is at a premium (not that you have any issues with space at Liberty).

    I have a degree in English Lit, and I approve of your paperback obsession. Carry on, dear.

  35. I’m new to your blog and Kit – this post? Makes me absolutely fall in love with you. I’m all about books, messes, and cats. 😉 Your home – even from pictures – has that totally warm, homey, comfortable, welcoming feeling about it. And your donkeys kick ass.

  36. I was eye-effing bookshelves just like this, and found inspiration from several versions, including a very similar one from World Market. I chose to build it because (a) I had a ton of leftover oak flooring, too rough to be floors; and (b) why the hell not? Here is the result:

    My boyfriend and I are BOTH obsessed with books, and it is becoming nuts. Every time we move we vow to get rid of some. But … we just can’t. 🙂

  37. Oh. My. I think we could be besties. I’ve been cruising DIY blogs for several years now, but just stumbled upon you. Adding you to my blogroll NOW. 🙂

  38. I have proper bookcases which I built myself because I prefer it that way. I have long since filled them up and have had to store the excess elsewhere. However, within a year or two I will have finished out on the remodeling, part of which includes lots and lots of new bookcases. I have a library of over 1000 volumes and love it. I don’t have so many paperbacks these days. When I began the library over 40 years ago they were all I could afford, but as money go better I went to hardbacks, only because they tend to hold up better. As for “there is no place for paperbacks in a home…” I have to agree completely with what you said.

  39. I have every spare shelf, nook and cranny in my house (including some pretty substantial built in bookshelves) packed full of books. And 90% of them are paperback. And I have ready Some of them many times over. I love my kindle for nighttime bed reading, but nothing beats the feel of a real book. Buy more shelves and fill ’em up girl.

  40. Okay, so I was just catching up on my favorite blogs after taking an exam, otherwise I would have chimed in the day you posted this because YOU ARE SO RIGHT.

    Those design rules where you are supposed to put a few hardcovers (that you chose for their appearance) flat on their sides to support a precious little vase? And no other books so as not to mar the aesthetic? Get out of my face, “designer” heathens. What the heck are you supposed to do in your house of knickknacks and curated pieces? Drink? Sit around and admire your taste as your brain atrophies? Or sit around pretending to be in fourth grade as you cover your books with paper?

    Also, just from a semantic perspective: we don’t use beautifully designed desks to store toilet paper. Why oh why use a beautifully designed BOOK case to store junk? It’s in the name, folks, that’s where the books go.

    And yours is exactly perfect and could only be improved upon if there were a few more flanking the windows.

  41. “Paperbacks have no place on bookshelves?” That’s the silliest thing I’ve heard! 90% of the books on my shelves are paperbacks. I actually prefer them over hardcovers too. I’m not big on ebooks since I’ve always liked having a physical copy of a book to carry around rather than sitting in front of a screen to read.

  42. I’ve always wanted to build a library with a small house attached.

    And a workshop.

  43. I’ve recently come across your blog and have been binge reading starting from the beginning, because apparently I do that.

    “There will be books. There will be books in every damn room.”

    I read that and went home that day and shuffled books, all of which had been cooped up in my office, to every room in the house. It’s a happier house now. So, thank you!

    1. Awesome! I forgot about this post until you commented, but I still live by that principle… there are books in every damn room.

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