Culture House Daily

The shelfie: the ultimate antidote to the selfie

22 February 2014

Shelfie [n.]: a bookshelf selfie

Has the shelfie replaced the selfie as the most fashionable use of a camera phone? I’ll admit it; I’m a fan of the odd selfie. What better way to record a social occasion — so everyone knows you were there — than to take a squashed photograph at arms length with your nearest and dearest? It’s become so popular even our politicians are partaking in a cheeky selfie. The Prime Minister is known to have taken at least three selfies, including a disastrous one at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, while Ed Miliband has been seen huddling beside Joey Essex.

But the new trend of the shelfie is the perfect antidote for the chattering classes who find a selfie simply too gauche. Anyone can get involved: take a picture of your favourite bookshelf and post it on Twitter with #shelfie. Sounds pretentious? Maybe but browsing them on Twitter provides a fascinating insight into people’s lives. Some of them are works of art while others are a great CV. How well read the photographer is for a start; whether the shelfie-er is a hoarder or tidiness maniac, a fiction freak or a biography buff as well as their political persuasions.

The shelfie was first seen at the end of last year but is currently experiencing a second wave. Ashamedly I’ve done a shelfie – showing off half of a bookcase at home. After extensively browsing existing ones from my friends, I duly prepared my shelves– hiding the books I didn’t want anyone to see, tidying up the area and getting just the right angle with my iPhone. From that single shot, you can find out a lot about what my interests are and what I do for a living.

That’s the beauty of the shelfie, and why it’s a significant advancement over the selfie. It almost has a purpose. It’s the ideal riposte for the wannabe intellectual who doesn’t like self-portraits. Go on, try it out yourself! You won’t regret it.

Or, if you still can’t be persuaded, here’s the top ten shelfies:

1. British Library – Hard to compete with the big guns, look at those beautifully bound, matching books.

2. The Bodleian Libraries – the beautiful, and not so, from the heart of Oxford. Just look at how many books there are!

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3. Tim Shipman – a very tidy impressive collection in the Daily Mail’s deputy political editor’s home office

4. Colin Meloy – inside the reading den of the indie musician. Who wouldn’t want to spend an evening there?

5. Lucy Luck – who says shelfies have to be on a bookshelf? Very nicely arranged up a staircase, a paper alternative to the traditional wine bottles

6. Glenn Horowitz Books – from a New York bookseller specialising in first editions has a lovely collection, as you’d expect

7. Bill Gates – with his seven favourite books in 2014, you can spy a hue library in the background

8. Richard Hammerton – some serious preparation work here – all of his paperbacks are colour-coded
Screenshot 2014-02-22 09.34.59

9. Ed Miliband – this selfie is sponsored by the left-wing campaign group 38Degrees. Alas the Labour leader doesn’t look very proud of the book collection behind him

10. Peppa Pig – small, not very impressive, but at least it’s all matching

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Show comments
  • Trapnel

    No.4 wins my vote: a good shelf is not much use without a good chair. As for shelving books, the best advice given comes from a London bookseller who, when asked how he arranged his books, replied if he bought a short fat book he tried to find a short fat hole.

  • glurk many who feel they must have one to flash around actually read the books? Suspect that pepper pig hasnt……!

  • Albert

    Great! How about this little collection on my website:

  • Marie Louise Noonan

    Sheer genius. I love it!

  • mitate

    i’m all for it by way of antidote, but not first editing out those books you don’t want seen. that’s a “faux shelfie”.

    • Marie Louise Noonan

      I agree. No edited shelfies. That would be like photoshopping a selfie.

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