17 Bookshelves We Need to Borrow From

by Tori Telfer

Bookshelves are such a weirdly intimate thing. When someone starts browsing my collection of books for the first time, I always feel slightly on edge. I find myself wanting to explain everything, like, "All my Márquez is over here, that book of Shakespearean insults is a joke from my mom, and yeah, I haven't read The Interestings yet but I do own the paperback version, see?"

It's a well-known fact: checking out the state of someone's bookshelves will tell you more about them than their OkCupid profile. A stack of crisp New Yorkers means that person has big intellectual aspirations that they haven't quite been able to keep up with. (Sympathy fist bump.) A collection of indie lit mags means they're definitely a writer — or else just the world's nicest patron of the arts. Some Bridget Jones novels next to a biography of Sylvia Plath says that they're not afraid to explore their femininity from all aspects. Graphic novels? Too cool for school. Tons of Updike/Cheever/all the other literary Johns? Smart but irritatingly bro-brow (that's what happens when bros go high-brow). A robust collection of childhood favorites? Adorably in touch with their roots — or the proud owner of a wildly ticking biological clock.

But sometimes you meet a bookshelf that you wish you could call your own. It's got the perfect, well-worn balance of guilty pleasures, classics, and childhood gems. There's an absolutely beautiful art-house edition of The Great Gatsby that you just want to look at forever, and enough Dear America books to thrill your 12-year-old soul for a hundred years. This person owns American Gods, which you've been meaning to read for a long time, and they've got a fantastic edition of Kafka from the '70s with a sort of ugly-chic cover, not to mention every must-read Pulitzer finalist from, like, 1972.

Looks like you've met your book soulmate. Now all you have to do is work up the courage to ask them that big, scary question — the question that gives you butterflies just thinking about it: "Will you — will you let me borrow one?"

Until then, we'd like an unlimited library card to these little corners of book perfection, please:

1. This teenage dream

Because this girl just gets us.

2. This patriotic gem

Because you can ignore all the books from Tennessee.

3. These creaking shelves

Because if you don't borrow a couple of novels soon, the whole thing is going to collapse.

4. This annoyingly-pretentious-but-still-amazing book tree

Because you know every single one of those books will make you cooler (in a Williamsburg-y know-it-all sort of way).

5. This slice of reclaimed wood country paradise

Because you'll probably end up writing the Great American Novel then and there.

6. Antoine Thomson d'Abbadie's library

Because the fact that is a real person's personal library just seems cruel and incredible all at the same time.

7. This sweet little nothing shelf

Because the vintage simplicity is too much to bear.

8. This bedroom wall

Because you'll never get out of bed until you know everything about everyone.

9. These ramshackle shelves

Because there's definitely a first-edition Harry Potter in there somewhere — and someday, that alone could send your great-great-grandchildren to college.

10. These meta-shelves

Because they're telling you to.

11. This cozy living room

Because there's a chair for your boo, too (...OR YOUR IMAGINARY FRIEND).

12. The world's sweetest snowbank

Because your heart just melted at the goodness of humanity.

13. This 1950s daydream

Because your future husband is waiting there with a cigarette, a glass of whiskey, and some William Carlos William poems.

14. This freakishly intimidating library of matching books

Because it's looking you right in the eye and daring you to pick one.

15. The corner of this girl's room

Because it's perfect for gossiping, drinking rosé, and looking through all her novels for the scandalous parts.

16. This study in simplicity

Because when there are only 9 books on a shelf, every single one should count.

17. This poetic bedroom nook

Because every day is a Saturday morning when you're reading in bed.

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