The Handbook
The Handbook

A room without books is a body without a soul, or so thought Cicero. Joe Wicks would disagree; once again the two titans of philosophy grapple, and while they do we’re going to take a look at the bookcases of our favourite ‘slebs.

Because what else is there to do right now? Lockdown has given us an insight into the lives of celebrities and politicians like never before, we’re transported right into their sitting rooms and so we’re mesmerised by all the bookcases, and all the new ways we can interpret (and judge) them…

Camilla

You can quickly work out when someone got onto the Harry Potter bandwagon by when their book collection turns from paperback into hardback. Camilla was a late convert, her hardbacks start with the final two Potters, Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows. The only question is, did she queue outside Waterstone’s overnight?

When Camilla’s not doing whatever the wife of the person who isn’t king yet does, she also likes to relax with some crime fiction courtesy of Peter James.

Presumably our future queen has hidden her most incriminating reading material behind pictures, which are weirdly placed over the spines. Probably Jilly Cooper, which is notably missing from the royal shelf.

Dominic Raab

It seems unlikely that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab doesn’t own a book case. Instead the defacto deputy Prime Minister has rifled through his book collection and selected nine that he thinks will create the best impression.

A biography of Nixon probably wasn’t the best start. Alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography and what appears to be an Economics for Dummies type book, it’s a truly odd display.

Kate Middleton

Another future queen, pant-suited up and ready to read her collection of Penguin Clothbound Classics.

Pantsuited and ready to read

The beautiful books (and I’ll bet my car that they’ve have never been read) are designed by Corlie Bickford-Smith and the we can see Sense & Sensibility, Picture of Dorian Grey and The Hound of the Baskervilles on display here.

Martin Lewis (Moneysaving Expert)

Sat behind his reasonably priced computer monitor and Android phone (no expensive Apple tech here) Moneysaving Expert Martin Lewis poses in front of a copy of textbook Your Money Matters, A Teacher’s Guide, a which the generous money saver pledged £325,000 to ensure it was available in all schools.

Clearly he spends what he saves on trips to Florida, Japan, Turkey and Jamaica judging from the row of travel guides. He’s also got a well thumbed copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and he’s got the grown up versions of Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows Perhaps he’s the one that put Camilla onto them?

On this otherwise everyman bookcase, he’s proudly displaying his OBE and a slew of glass awards.

Jacob Rees-Mogg

I don’t know which exact copies Jacob Rees-Mogg keeps on his bookcase, but they are very much in keeping with the Tory MP’s vibe. The Leader of the Commons flaunted them during the famous Zoom Cabinet call.

I suspect his nanny reads them aloud to him to get him off to sleep.

Nicola Sturgeon

English books don’t darken the shelves of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. While others arrange their books by colour or alphabet, Sturgeon appears to arrange hers by race…

The Scots represented include a lot of Val McDermid and Ian Rankin not to mention Irvine Welsh. If you thought you’d caught her out with Ian McEwan, think again, McEwan may have been born in Aldershot and consider himself an English writer, but his blood is suitably tartan for inclusion because of his Scottish father.

Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett is pure class. Broadcasting from the ground floor library of her East Sussex manor house, the actor appeared on US talk-show host Stephen Colbert’s programme in front of a wall of books with not a Potter in sight.

Instead Blanchett prefers the likes of Postcapitalism, a modern-day socialist manifesto by Paul Mason, George Steiner’s thoughtful essay The Death of Tragedy. plus all 21 copies of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Topped off with a a large lockdown drawing, presumably by her daughter, and a Diptyque candle, this is bookshelving done properly.

JK Rowling

It’s lucky that there are no Harry Potters in JK Rowling’s bookcase, their multicoloured spines would be very tricky to colour code. Lockdown has a way of making us all go a little stir crazy, and the Harry Potter creator is clearly no exception. She’s colour-coded her books on on spectrum from black to white, and it’s clear she’s something of a wizard at it, the result is rather pretty.

Her collection includes a varied selection of books, including Homer’s Iliad, former PM Gordon Brown’s wife Sarah Brown on life at Downing Street in Life Behind the Black Door (dust cover off), a rather special edition of Lord of the Rings and Jenny Uglow’s Mr Lear.

Here it is in full and, obviously, it’s a beautiful room. The quote stencilled onto the wall above is from Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, “‘It is the mind that maketh good of ill, that maketh wretch or happy, rich or poor”.

Prince Charles

The Prince of Wales peers into the lens in front of shelves containing a Dick Francis novel. The equine thrillers are probably ideal reading material when you’re self-isolating with coronavirus at Balmoral, as the heir to the throne was.

HIs helpves also include over-wized photos blocking entire sections, as with Camilla’s, particularly a shot of the Queen, Prince Philip and the Queen Mother.

In front there’s a cheap looking gift shop style teddy bear. No explanation.

Given this isn’t Charle’s regular study or even home, there’s perhaps less to be gleaned from reading into his books and bits and bobs. Fun though it is…

Joe Wicks

Joe Wicks has lifted the nation’s spirits, not to mention his own brand, exponentially throughout the period of lockdown. “The Body Coach” has dedicated his immaculately pristine sitting room to the nation’s service, offering daily workout sessions.

Despite being the author of eight best selling books he’s not got them on his bookcases. Indeed, he’s not got any books on his book cases, opting instead for an IKEA catalogue effect with potted plants, empty vases and a couple pictures. For good measure he’s dangled a guitar from a nearby wall.

Michael Gove

There aren’t many rules in politics that are universally accepted, but don’t sleep with the intern and don’t be photographed with Hitler are pretty much the only two you can safely carve into stone. While Gove might struggle to break the first, his wife has unhelpfully ensured he passes the second, posting a photo of the Cabinet Secretary alongside his bookcase.

For a man who doesn’t trust experts, the number of non-fiction titles is perhaps surprising. Even more so because they’re mainly about dictators. Alongside copious numbers of titles on Hitler, Napoleon and Mussolini, Margaret Thatcher and Peter Mandleson look positively palatable.

The Hitler biography by Holocaust denier David Irvine was probably a mistake. But as per the title of Mitt Romney’s autobiography, perkily sandwiched between a Mussonlini biography and a book about proto-fascist Gabrielle D’Annunzio, so to the Goves: ‘No Apology’.