My partner is of the opinion that once you’ve finished a book you pass it on; to a friend, to a charity shop. There is no point in keeping them.

I am of the opposite view. I love a shelf of books. When I visit someone else’s house for the first time I’m drawn to their books, to see what they’ve read.

A book shelf holds not just books of stories but memories. I have no recollection of what ‘Possession’ by A S Byatt is about but I clearly remember reading it on an overland trip across Zimbabwe. I do know ‘Middlesex‘ is the story of girl who grows into a man (a difficult plot to reduce to a sentence) and I read it under a palm tree on a beach in Cuba. On a long flight to New Zealand I read the epic ‘America’s Queen’, the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Some books remind me of commuting into London in my youth; the Colin Macinnes’ books beginning with ‘Absolute Beginners’.

I lost a lot of books in a fire it makes me wonder if I do need to keep books at all but then I look again.

There are books on the shelf that I don’t remember where I read them but I do remember being incredibly moved by them; ‘The Women’s Room’, Marilyn French. There are books that changed me ‘The Ragged Trousered Philantropists’ and books that I simply got lost in the story, Gabriel Gracia Marquez or Maggie O’Farrell. ‘Perfume’ has the best ending. ‘Tales of the City’ Armistead Maupin was a gift from my partner after our son was born. Tucked behind some DVDs are Beatrix Potter books from my childhood.

I don’t read very much anymore and I have weeded some out but it was wrench. When I begin to try to distill my books down to collection of favorites I struggle. I had five favourites in mind when I began writing this post but that pile grew and then I gave up. I love the shelves of books and I love all the things they represent.




  1. Anya from Older Single Mum

    I’m with you on the bookshelves thing but every now and then have a clear out, I always regret it. though 🙁 Can’t bear the thought of a Kindle. Lovely photos. I just know I would love your home! 🙂

  2. Nikki Thomas

    A beautiful post and I agree that some books do hold precious memories. So many of my books have had to go now as we have so much stuff, but I have a selection that I will never get rid of. That is a seriously impressive collection of books that you have, amazing!

  3. bavariansojourn

    Now that looks like one interesting book case! I love hoarding books as well, but I remember finding books on the tube from time to time when I was commuting, from people who had left them there on purpose, in the hope that you would read it and then pass it on to someone else. I think that’s a nice idea! 🙂

  4. emma

    A good collection of books at home is what saved me from zero interest in what was being taught at school. My father had collections of books on artists, musicians and great/classic fiction which sparked my interest and gave me direction so I think collections of books at home or at least good access to books is vital (at all stages of life!).

    The thirst for books (outside school text books) – that spark your imagination and make you realise there is a different world out there, that all things are possible – is something we are trying to address with the children we work with the slums of Kampala. We’ve started some mini libraries for them and they can’t get enough!

    I *heart* heart books.

    1. helloitsgemma

      I had little interest in reading as a child and we had no books at home. Something I made up for in my late teens and 20’s. Something I have no intention of repeating with my own son.
      A fantastic legacy creating a library – everyone where ever they are should have access to books.

  5. Trish @ Mum's Gone To

    Beautifully written post, Gemma. I tend to give books to charity when they haven’t meant much to me but the memories revived by seeing old favourites on a shelf are wonderful.

  6. woollyandred

    I have become more ruthless, as i’m a hopeless bookworm. We’d filled one room & half of the garage with books, and it was becoming ridiculous. I have an informal system now, whereby charity shop thrillers/detective stories/”chick-lit”(don’t like the expression, but you know what I mean) get bounced straight back once read.

    Others are, like you say, too precious to get rid of – either because of what they say, where they came from, or the memories they evoke.

  7. Fi (@Childcareisfun)

    I’m with you! I keep onto books forever because they often have memories behind them. My hubs is book obsessed – I once suggested buying him a kindle and it was as if I’d suggested we kill the cat.

  8. Jenny paulin

    Gemma I have a man who thinks the same thing and that probably why we have NO book shelves in our home! Something I will be rectifying when we move to our new one! Most of my books are in storage and a load more are in the loft. I love collecting books and although I may never read them again, as you say I am proud of what I have read and what they meant to me. Xx

  9. Perfecting Pru

    I only keep a few books which I return to for reference (but lots of magazines). I just never read a fiction book again so I’m always taking them to friends or the charity shop so that someone else can enjoy them.

    I’m loving the new blog look by the way!


    1. helloitsgemma

      World book day. A collection of books are given out. They are all numbered an logged in a website and the idea is you leave them and the next person registers they have the book and then passes it on or leave it somewhere and the person that finds it registers and the journey of the book gets tracked – I wonder how well it’s worked?

  10. Midlife Singlemum

    I also love a full bookcase. I used to collect all the books I read but now I only keep those which I’ve absolutely loved. The rest are re-gifted, When you live in a country where books in English are very expensive it is a very welcome gift and people like to get a book better than chocolates when we go for a meal.

  11. The Fool

    I do like the look of a full bookcase but I’m afraid I’m with your other half, if you’re not going to read again then pass it on otherwise you’re just creating a dust trap

  12. @bluebearwood

    Big book people in this house. Although I was pleased when Mr Dad got a kindle as he had piles of reading books everywhere! Always find it strange when I go into a house with no books showing

  13. Helpful Mum

    Great post. I am jealous of all the places you have traveled to! I love looking at the books on our own shelves. Many are my husband’s which I have yet to read. I whittle them down every year or so but it pains me to do it and I keep the classics!

  14. fivegoblogging

    I love how you recall where and when you read some of your bpols but not the plot! I am the same and can not give books away without them being wrenched from my grip. Happy reading !

  15. single married mum

    I used to keep everything – now, I do weed out some of the ones I’ve read, but can’t for the life of me remember! Not great at reading books again, even if I’ve loved them.
    Like the idea of passing them on, but there are some I’d never part with, like my travel books, even though they’re way out of date – or ones from my childhood. Memories again.
    Don’t feel I’ve done much reading this year, need a good recommendation to get me going. Lovely post.

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