Over the past three months, we’ve all been given a rare glimpse into people’s homes. Some stay-at-home newscasters opt for innocuous, fake backgrounds, but many invited you into their kitchens or living rooms, spare bedrooms or dens. Some of them look so perfectly coordinated, it’s as if they’re staged just for broadcasting. I’ve watched a toddler walk across the room behind the speaker, and I’ve heard newscasts interrupted by barking dogs.
As a reader and author, the most interesting part to me is the people who show their bookshelves. Confession: if I’m broadcasting from home that’s what you’ll see, because my office is wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. The photo attached shows just one, and it’s filled with books I haven’t read yet. You can see how varied my interests are. There are also some crazy titles there, and I’ll admit I’m a fan of out-of-the-box theories! Along with those, I have lot of presidential biographies to read, because I’m still working on reading a bio of each.
I’ve arbitrarily categorized people who use books for backgrounds into three categories. First are the ones who seem to be content with showing you what they read. I like these ones best, although you can never be sure if someone’s fudging about their bookshelf! These people have volumes behind them on dozens of subjects, written by hundreds of authors. Sometimes there’s an entire shelf dedicated to one author, perhaps the person’s favorite. (I have a shelf filled with John Steinbeck novels I’ve toted from place to place since college. I loved them and can’t bear to part with them.)
Other people show you what they want you to believe they read. They choose titles that portray them as intelligent, liberal, conservative, affluent, socially responsible, dystopian -– whatever. The books and authors are carefully selected and arranged to create an image of their owner.
And then there are the authors, God bless their hearts. They put their own titles on the shelf behind them. The front cover is facing out, reminiscent of Barnes & Noble but no personal bookshelf in the world. I see this constantly on political and financial shows. There’s Alisyn Camerota on CNN interviewing John Doe from Goldman. He’s quarantined in his home office and six copies of his latest book are lined up just to the left of his head. You see it every day. I can’t blame them. You gotta make a living.
Remember the good old days when we were invited to other people’s houses? I loved perusing the titles in their bookshelves. Those books are real – there’s no media audience to impress – and they give you a fascinating insight into the personalities of the people who read them.