We all know that the contents of the bookshelf hold the key to the inner mind. What a person reads is the raw material for how they think. This personality quiz is not that.
No, I have chosen a far more abstract and less reliable method. It has the virtue of not only being quite inaccurate but it is also my own invention and has very little practical application! The method relies on the actual, physical arrangement of the books themselves. In this heroic attempt to truly judge a book by its cover, no account is taken of the actual subject matter or content of the writing. Apply this method at your own risk. It does not work but at least it can create hilarious misunderstandings and prejudices that will entertain you and your friends for minutes at a time! Anyway, I hope this amuses you.
(Any similarities between actual people and the personality types listed below are inadvertent.)
Read on to find out who you are…
stacks on the floor
You are lazy and/or upper class. Because of the ennui from which you are sorely afflicted, it is too much of a bother to sort your books. You do not re-read and have a good memory of what you have already read. When you read a book the whole experience is what matters: the coffee shop you were in, the smells you smelled, where you were sitting… you remember your life by recalling what sort of books you were reading at the time. You use holy cards as bookmarks. You refuse to check out books from the library because another person you don’t know might have touched them. You either are a genuine eccentric or attempt to give off the impression of eccentricity. You read whimsically, regularly, widely, and the books simply pile up as you finish them one after another. Often you read two or more books at a time. Many of them will be un-locatable later, you know this at the time you are adding it to the stack and don’t care. Reading is probably a pure pleasure for you and your reference books are kept to a minimum. When you were in school it grated on your finely tuned sensibilities to be pressured into working through a reading list for class.
You have a dark side that we cannot ignore. All of the above may simply be a ruse to hide the fact that you are obsessively goal oriented and your habits may have developed because you read so aggressively that you really have two, tightly controlled collections: that which has been read and that which will be read soon. Your personality is carefully manicured. You are doomed to spend your life fighting the desire to organize your books, full well knowing that to do so would be to admit that you might, after all, be a sensible person.
carefully arranged as a harmonic visual
You are the type of person who asks every acquaintance you have if you ought to purchase a particular book, which version, which dust cover is most attractive, but always a hardback. You insist on giving extensive tours of your bookshelf to guests. You like to hear positive feedback about the aesthetic sensibilities evinced by the physical beauty of your collection and you take great joy in the quality of the materials that go into making each book. You are an extrovert and like to read books with others and discuss them later. After consulting with friends for months you will purchase a book but immediately be dissatisfied with the way it fits on the shelf and sell it cheaply to your friend who has his books stacked on the floor.
We are not talking about a visual arrangement as simple as descending size or matching colors, that would be too easy. There is a mysterious orderliness in the organization that is unexplainable to others but you know it when you see it. The calculus has to do with the quality of the artwork on the dustcover, the size and weight of the book, the way in which the title is printed, and the general spiritual atmosphere cast by the contents inside. We know this but the exact formula itself is ultimately a mystery. When the books are in perfect harmony with each other, this gives you a sense of supernatural peace.
You are a librarian. Literally. You and other librarians are the only ones who would organize anything in this way. You are type A. You appreciate the books specifically for the ideas contained within and are not a collector. They are valuable as a reference library and you have probably saved your college textbooks in case they come in use later. You are precise in your statements and cautious in placing any academic opinions when conversing with others. You do not loan books out because, even though you don’t particularly care about the aesthetic qualities of the physical book, you take care that they are in good condition. Others aren’t careful with them and they have returned to you in the past with creases and small stains that displease you. You discriminate carefully and dole out your reading time to only those books that are truly worth it. You will never take a flyer on a random book from the discount bin at the local bookstore. That would be crazy.
You have abundant organizational skills but either don’t consistently put them into use or overdo it so much that you derive no benefit from being organized in terms of efficiency or time saved. The organization of your bookshelf is a thin veneer over an ocean of turbulence. You do not have music on while you read, you require complete silence and may even sit at the kitchen table or a desk because relaxing on anything upholstered prevents you from concentrating. You set goals to read either a certain number of minutes per day or books per year.
by general subject
This is how books are supposed to be arranged, right? One friend I queried about the physical arrangement of his books did not even understand the question; after all, there is only one, normal way to organize books. It had never occurred to him that there was any other.
At your best, you are thoughtful and hospitable. You form the vast majority of humankind and there is something commendable in the way you fit into and form the dominant culture of book-organizing. It is a sign that you are at harmony with the universe. At your worst you fit in a little too well, without question. Or, if you do question you keep it to yourself. For instance, you patronize the nearby chain-coffee shop franchise because it is convenient and consistent but don’t really like it. That’s where everyone else goes, though, and it is better not to cause a fuss. Occasionally the siren song of the best seller list entraps you and you read a popular novel. You feel silly for doing so but you really shouldn’t.
stack of unread books on the nightstand
You are a parent. Children have destroyed all of your books by reinterpreting their contents as so many coloring pages. The few remaining good ones, i.e., all of your Laura Engels Wilder, have been brazenly re-appropriated and used as instruction manuals for how your entire family will now live. Your children now call you Pa and are demanding a butter churn.
You have no energy left to give and as soon as you begin to read at night you fall asleep. It has taken you years to read the first chapter of a historical biography. You have started and abandoned Infinite Jest at least 3 times. You probably gave up the pretence of being a reader years ago. In spite of all of the above, you are very happy.
on a kindle
You have fallen into a modernist, techno-Heideggerian cult* and must extricate yourself immediately. You have good intentions but we are all worried about you.
*Or, as the Holy Father would have it, a “technocratic paradigm” run by economic Overlords.
piled onto a cinder block and plywood contraption
You are in grad school. You have not yet blossomed into the person you will one day become. You eat fried eggs on tortillas every night so that you can save money to afford to purchase more books. Your parents don’t understand you but don’t worry it should only be temporary. You are passionately interested, at this point in your life at least, in one or two subjects at most and your book collection is largely limited to these topics. A lot of your books have post it notes sticking out of them where you marked pages to go back over later. You will never go back over these pages later. In spite of this, you are a creature of hope, exemplifying for all the world the power of an oft-overlooked virtue. Seriously, though, you need to eat better. You are going to get sick.