What you read says a lot of unsaid things about you. So I tend to snoop on people’s bookshelves. This post covers some of the critical points.
That was pre-COVID.
Now I have to rely on Zoom backgrounds. It’s distracting in a meeting. Not the fake Zoom backgrounds – the real thing behind the person. The titles are illegible. So I go by the thickness of the spines. Do they look like reference tomes? A variation indicates a range of topics. Or at least some type of diversity.
The bookshelf could be loaded with unread books giving a pretence of wisdom. Or operating as a display of status. What I look for is “messiness” on the shelves. It’s a rough indicator of reading activity. Another is bookmarking. Are any jutting out the books? Coloured Post-It notes are a sign of a hard-core reader. The type who has bibliography files and builds their arguments with facts.
Of course, it’s a superficial and inaccurate view of anyone’s reading life. A lot of productive readers have got digital. So they have their bookshelf in their pocket whenever they have to wait a handful of more minutes. Such hidden readers are successfully invisible until you have to talk to them.