The Modern Bowerbird: Tales of a Bookshelf

The books on your shelf are more than just titles — they tell your life story. What tales do your tomes tell?

This post comes from our Australia contributor, Miann Scanlan. Follow along with her on Instagram @freepeopleaustralia!

Like a big sister reading a little sister’s private diary, a guest at a party snooping in a medicine cabinet, or a spy rifling through a bottom drawer for hidden scandals and secrets, you can tell a lot about a person simply by the books that line their shelf.

I’m the type of girl who gets lost for hours perusing the titles and blurbs of the books in a person’s home because for some reason, since I was a child I’ve always gravitated toward the books rather than the décor.

Your bookshelf is an intimate physical representation of your accomplishments, aspirations, associations, personal development, guilty pleasures, wildest fantasies, memories, interests and other countless unconscious pieces to your own unique puzzle. Deep down are you a dreamer, adventurer, or astrologer? Does your bookshelf take you to the buzzing streets of modern day New York, or perhaps into the mind of a French philosopher at the peak of the revolution?

Through books we can time travel, play make-believe and even create our own intangible art using the words to paint complex and vivid images in our minds. Your own interpretations of what’s on a page, like snowflakes or fingerprints, will never be the same as someone else’s. And to me, that’s the magic that books hold: Preserved in dried ink, on flattened paper, between two covers, that make up the endless world of possibilities lost in a page of carefully curated characters

The unread books that have been staring you in the face for the past five years that you swear you could have read, or books that took you years to read that evolved along with your life; those that were bought for you as gifts or those that you bought yourself as a treat after a testing semester at school. The books that remind you of someone you loved, the books you forgot to return to a friend, or the coffee table books you will likely never read, and be pleasantly surprised by their pages when they are opened for the first time by a visiting friend.

Recently, I spent a day getting lost in the magic of my good friend and long time creative collaborator Jessy Cameron’s personal book collection.

Jessy is the type of girl who hands you a canvas tote bag inscribed with “there is thunder in our hearts” before you set off for a big adventure, and who hosts the first and last inaugural going-away-but-probably-coming-back-soon extravagant dinner in your honour.

She is thoughtful, effervescent, intriguing, and playfully philosophical and you can make up your mind about the rest of her by the books strewn about her eclectic apartment. You see, like me, Jessy collects books the way a bowerbird collects sticks and brightly coloured flora from the forest bed or an accomplished Girl Scout collects badges.

Born from her childhood obsession with collecting treasures at flea markets, Jessy has an eye for the exquisite and ephemeral, from trinkets and jewels from all over the world strewn about her incredible home, it’s the books, as always, that have fascinated me the most.

All curious books courtesy of the biggest stargazer, daydreamer and modern romantic I know and love, Jessy Cameron.

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The Modern Bowerbird: Tales of a Bookshelf
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