The national lockdowns brought in in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 forced many people to work from home, including journalists, politicians, cultural commentators and celebrities. The familiar faces we would normally expect to see in television studios and sets, were now being beamed into our homes from their homes and we saw their kitchens, offices, and bedrooms. What at first seemed surreal and incongruous, soon became the norm. Viewers could not help but notice the most common: an individual sitting in the foreground with their background displaying shelves or stacks of books. As a result, books and bookshelves became an object du jour, representative of the owner's prestige and cultural cachet. This article argues that far from being a ubiquitous domestic item, such notions are socially constructed and perpetuate books as symbols of classed notions of cultural prestige and intellect.


© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

Cite as

Marsden, S. 2022, '“I take it you’ve read every book on the shelves?” Demonstrating Taste and Class Through Bookshelves in the Time of COVID', English Studies, 103(5), pp. 660-674. https://doi.org/10.1080/0013838X.2022.2087033

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Last updated: 17 November 2022
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