Shelf Obsession: Eefje Koppers

You’ve been invited to dinner at someone’s home. Your host is busy in the kitchen and you wait in the living room. What do you do to pass the time? Admit it: you snoop around their bookshelves don’t you? We know you love shelf snooping just as much as we do, and now you can check out all sorts of bookshelves via the ABC blog.

Eefje Koppers is a regular contributor to Do You Read Me?, a member, and also a former ABC Den Haag colleague (*wave*).  Now that she has a new house she found it was time to show off all those books.

Those shelves are suspiciously neat. What is your excuse for such appallingly streamlined and tidy bookcases?

My books and I have travelled a lot and this is the first time ever they and I have been under the same roof. Until July, I was living in a shoe box. Okay, it wasn’t literally a shoe box, but figuratively, the name is very appropriate. There was room for just two bookcases, nowhere near enough. Shelves were buckling, the books were two rows deep and I was running out of space. I have just moved into a new apartment and I have gone from two to five bookcases. They’re both already full. Well, there is still a bit of room, but believe me, it will be filled up quickly.

So you’ve had a fresh start! How did you decide to organize your new bookcases?

As an ex-ABC employee I have to admit that the books are organised by genre first: fiction, on-fiction, romance, crime and juvenile fiction. Then they are shelved in alphabetical order by author, and then chronologically by publication date. The books are spread out over two rooms. In the living room are three cases with mostly english stuff. There are just two shelves of Dutch books. In the spare bedroom are my Dutch children’s papaerbacks. In the living room is a complete Encyclopedia Brittannica which my grandparents left me.

You must have been a librarian in a previous life. 🙂 Which is your favorite section in your mini-library?

My favourite two shelves are the narrowest on either side. The one on the left is filled with Everyman Library classics and old editions of classic books. On the right side you will see the limited edition Tales of Beedle the Bard and personal diaries.

How long have been keeping a diary for, and what sort of diarist are you?
I am a hopeless diarist. I love the idea of diaries and I have started a diary at least twenty times throughout my life, but I just can’t keep it up. I have one diary which I treasure. It is half diary and half scrapbook/photoalbum. I started it when I studied in Edinburgh for a year and it lists all my adventures there. The last page of the diary coincides with my last day in Edinburgh. It is my one successful attempt at keeping track of my life. I will keep trying though!

You have some classic children’s books in your collection and some well-chosen modern classics from adult fiction. Along with the chick-lit and popular fiction, these shelves could be mine: we have a very similar taste! And that makes me wonder: what was the first book you really, really loved, that you perhaps still have a fondness for today?

Wow, I have been reading as long as I can remember. I didn’t just read books, I devoured them. My mum had this big book of fairytales, which I loved. Not just because of the quality of the stories, but mostly because there were so many of them. And I was completely blown away by The Diary of Anne Frank. I didn’t know why at the time, but later I realised that the way she described her desire to write and her wish to leave a legacy, completely matched my own.

What’s the big old-looking book that’s on top of your gorgeous edition of Beedle the Bard?

That is actually an old fashioned photo album, you know with the cardboard photos. I picked it up at a fancy car boot sale and I love it. It came complete with lots pictures and I love wondering about these people and the lives they were living when their picture was taken. Also, the clothes are fabulous and hilarious.

This collection has the air one one that has been weeded out so that the re-readable and treasured books are left behind. What’s your stance on getting rid of books?

I hate getting rid of books, so I try to avoid it. But (most of) these books have travelled with me to New Zealand and back and in order to limit the number of boxes that had to be shipped (31 on the way, 35 on the way back – I didn’t really do a good job of limiting the number of boxes), I had to do a bit of pruning. But I only weeded out the books that I didn’t like or had no intention of reading again. I did make sure the books had a chance of finding another good home by taking them to a secondhand bookstore.

Dotted around your shelves are little personal items. Why did you choose those particular things to display alongside your books?

Mostly because they somehow relate to the books or were given to me by special people in my life and it makes sense to display them here, the favourite part of my home. There is:

  • a small collection of bookmarks from around the world,
  • a boomerang my sister brought back from Australia,
  • a beanie baby owl with a graduate cap that has “Class of  ’00” on it,  which my parents gave me upon graduating in 2000,
  • hand-carved wooden boxes that were gifts from friends,
  • and four little guardian angels: one I made myself, one from my mum and two by two of my dearest friends.

I got the little baby slippers with newspaper print as a freebie and since I don’t have any children, I gave them to my sister for her gorgeous kids. Once they outgrew them, she gave them back to me.

What do you think your collection says about you? Would it be telling the truth?

It says that I am a hopeless romantic (the large romance section), who hasn’t quite finished growing up yet (stacks of juvenile fiction) who loves a little excitement in life (smallish but growing number of crime books) but who also craves knowledge and enjoys broadening her mind (the encyclopedia as well as a growing collection of non-fiction) who would LOVE to travel to Egypt. At least that’s is what I imagine my collection should say about me, because it is who I am.

If you could give one author eternal life so that they could write forever and ever, who would it be and why? (You can resurrect a dead author too if you like.)

I would probably go with Isabel Allende. She weaves the most evocative tales and I like that her books are all quite different. They all share her trademark style, but her subjects vary immensely: from Zorro to a journalist threatenend by a corrupt regime. She places her stories as easily in the 18th or 19th centure as she does in modern day.

Which book would you save from a fire?

Don’t make me choose! I suppose the one I was reading at the time the fire broke out, just so I would have something to do while the firemen put out the fire. Nah, that’s the flippant answer. I would be distraught if I lost my books. If I could save only one, it would be a toss up between my Everyman Library copy of Pride & Prejudice (I love these little hardbacks with the gold edged pages) and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire because of the personal message writen by the giver in the front of it.

Which books are at the top of your wishlist?

I am terrible, if I want a book, I’ll buy it right away. So I don’t really have a wishlist, although I will run to the store everytime Isabel Allende, Joanne Harris, Kathy Reichs, Janet Evanovich, Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell or Tracey Chevalier have a book out.

If you could recommend one book that everyone should read, what would it be?

Ouch, that is a hard one. I suppose I’ll keep the answer abstract. I think everyone should read a book that completely blows their mind and makes them take a closer look at their life. It might make you change your life, it might make you appreciate your life or it might just make you realise how beautiful and fragile life is. For me, that book that did all three was The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I could not get the book out of my head for days after I finished it and the story has stayed with me to this day, seven years after I first read it. It taught me to appreciate and enjoy life and show my family how much I love them.

If you’d like to show off your shelves, e-mail If we use your bookcase, we’ll give you a €10 American Book Center gift voucher to say thank you!