Bookshelf Book

Alex Johnson, of Shedworking fame has a great looking new book out this week, called Bookshelf, based on his popular blog of the same name. The blog is always worth a quiet browse, and the book promises a similarly pleasurable experience. Alex kindly came out of his hut at the bottom of the garden to answer a few questions and tell me about it. Don’t miss the video at the bottom of this post, where Alex shows off the book, and the wonderful book-related domestic architecture inside.

What’s in the book?

A huge variety of bookshelves, bookcases and things that look like them from designers around the globe. So there are bookcases shaped like animals (including porcupines, dogs, elephants, humpbacked whales, cows and polar bears), ones made out of elastic, some built into armchairs, and others which are circular. And there are single shelves, some which only hold one volume, others in the shape of cartoon bubbles. It’s quite amazing how ingenious designers can be using something as simple as a bookcase as their starting point. Oh, and there are two bookends.

Where did the idea come from?

On my Shedworking blog I’ve always covered interior design of garden offices and sheds and about five years ago I started noticing that there were increasing numbers of incredible bookshelf and bookcase designs emerging. Rather than flood Shedworking with these, I felt it would be fun to start a new blog, Bookshelf, really for my own pleasure and this inspired the book. Over the last few years the blog has really snowballed and is now almost as popular as Shedworking.

Why are bookshelves important?

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Penguin Group CEO John Mankinson made the distinction between the ‘book reader’ (who is as happy to read digital books as paper ones) and the ‘book owner’, who wants to ‘give, share and shelve books’. It’s an important distinction – there is still a very strong emotional attachment to the printed word.

Alberto Manguel’s portrayal of reading at home in The Library at Night (2007) is one of the most evocative descriptions of how a collection of books becomes more than a pile of papers, how even the very smell of his wooden shelves relaxes him. This is the library as emotional sanctuary. Of course there are many online bookcase sites but what they cannot provide is that sense of public display, offering visible pointers to guests and clients of who you are (or who you would like to be perceived to be). Your bookcase design says (almost) as much about you as the books on show.

Do they have a future?

Absolutely, though their presence in the home might change a little. With fewer physical volumes to be housed, perhaps readers will look for more exciting ways of storing their home libraries than a mere shelf, with the bookcase becoming closer to a trophy cabinet. The determination to save the book may also see people move towards treasuring their volumes in fitting surroundings (special edition furniture, including bookcases, is now being sold in galleries that were once the domain of the artist). And I take heart from a survey by Legal & General (‘The Changing Face of British Homes’, 2008) which suggests that many people really do value this kind of space.When asked which feature room they would most like to have in their new home, 15 per cent said they wanted a library, compared to 13 per cent who chose a gym, 9 per cent a music studio and 8 per cent a home cinema. I think the bookshelf is in rude health.

Find out more about the book here, and view a slideshow of images from it here.


Alex Johnson, otherwise known as Mr Shedworking, is expanding his blog media empire from sheds and bookshelves to pubs. Now that they have wifi, and offer food and hot drinks during the day, many pubs are just as welcoming to mobile workers as coffee shops, as long as they play by the rules. The advantage over a café, of course, is that in a pub, you don’t have to move very far to get that after work pint. The new site offers links to wifi maps, tips and advice on how to go about being a pubworker, and reviews and comments on specific work friendly pubs. Perfect for when you want to step out of the garden office for a change. It is also a place where you can post recommendations of pubs on an interactive map. Here’s what Alex has to say:


More and more people are working from home in garden offices, spare bedrooms, kitchen tables, lofts and cellars. Some are also working in other ‘third places’ such as coffee houses and coworking facilities. But we believe there is a huge untapped resource for homeworkers – and homeworkers on the move – which is being overlooked: our pubs.

Pubs are the ideal place to inspire creativity and business activities. They’re a cornerstone of our culture, they’re plentiful and they’re underused during exactly the hours many homeworkers need somewhere comfortable and relaxing in which to run their business.

Important players in the pub industry are certainly keen to attract this section of the working population as witnessed by the massive roll-outs of wifi spots in pubs throughout the country. Yet the potential for providing dedicated facilities is still largely unmet. This site aims to convince both potential customers and landlords that there is mutual benefit for everybody in pubworking. [Pubworking]


Shedworking: The Alternative Workplace Revolution

In 2005 Alex Johnson began publishing a magazine called The Shed for those of us who, like him, work from home in outbuildings and sheds. The magazine was soon joined by a blog called Shedworking, and the blog became this beautifully made, smartly written book, which landed here yesterday. What a lovely, passionate, well informed book this is. It is difficult to read it and not want to build a shed and get to work.

Like the blog that inspired it this book is essential reading for anyone considering setting up to become a shedworker; if you are already a shedworker you’ll want it on the shelf too. It contains a history of shedworking and famous shedworkers, from Pliny, to Gustav Mahler and Roald Dahl, musician Peter Gabriel, human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, and journalist Andrew Marr. There are many, many marvellous pictures of sheds and garden offices, shedworkers’ stories (a lovely surprise was finding my own shed on page 56), advice on building your own, what you might do there, on green shedworking and possibilities beyond the shed: canal boats, railway carriages, airstream caravans and treehouses. What comes across most of all is the happiness shedworking brings to the lives of those who have arranged to be able to do it.

A preview of the first chapter is here. More on sheds and shedworking on Alex’s Shedworking blog, and at Uncle Wilco’s Readersheds where you can vote for Shed of the Year 2010 and follow the build up to National Shed Week 2010, which begins on July 5th.

In the mean time, why not buy Shedworking: The Alternative Workplace Revolution