Cambridge's best bookshelves

So in a surprising turn of events, this week I am actually going to pay attention to the Pembroke Street theme, and not just go off and write about something random and ridiculous like, oh I don’t know, doors.* No, instead I’m going to be reviewing Cambridge’s best bookshelves...

“And how exactly do bookshelves relate to this edition of Pembroke Street’s theme which is Inside?”, you may be asking. Well, bookshelves are inside buildings (generally) and, yes, that’s it. I didn’t say it was closely linked to the theme – but better than nothing, right? Anyway now that we’ve established this, let’s get started.

(* That was a fun, little reference to an article I wrote last year about Cambridge’s best doors. You can find it in the Pembroke Street archives)

First on the list is this bookshelf from that charming, non-prison-like building we all know and love: the University Library. I’m not sure whose idea it was to attach an egg-timer to the wall and call it a light switch but strangely I quite like it. The incongruity of a small retro timer amidst the rows of books is pleasing. Plus it adds the slight tension of whether you’ll find that relevant book before being plunged into darkness – it’s about as much tension as I can take nowadays.

8.9 / Kitchenware meets book shelving

Next up we have the spinny, slidey bookshelves in the basement of the English Faculty. I admit that they may not be the most beautiful bookshelves in the world but they are functional. And the function they provide is a very cool function. Moving bookshelves, need I say more? (I don’t have more to say anyway).

7.27 / Paperbacks on tracks – or runners, or wheels, I don’t really know how it works

Finally, here’s a shelf from Heffers which you may notice as being part shelf and part window-gap-space (that’s the technical term). Now you may be thinking that that is a waste of perfectly good bookshelf space and, indeed, there was a time that I would have probably agreed. But more and more I feel that only by seeing no bookshelves do we truly appreciate the bookshelves we do see. And for that reason I quite like these bookshelves/window-gap-spaces.

8.12 / Some say non-existent, I say minimalist

As I bring this article to a close, I notice that all the reviews have been pretty kind this time round – maybe I’m mellowing in my old reviewer age.

So, dear reader, I hope you have enjoyed this whimsical – but yet still massively important – adventure into the ranking of Cambridge’s bookshelves. I apologise if I have missed off your favourite bookshelf from the review but, let’s be honest, no one (including me) wants an exhaustive list of all the bookshelves in Cambridge.

If you’ve seen anything that you would like me to review then send me a message ( If you’re thinking that I’m the writer here and I should be the one coming up with the ideas then you’d have a point. But still, as you can tell ideas are definitely needed.

Join me next time to see whether the kind editors of Pembroke Street humour me with another article and, if they do, what frankly life-changing reviews will be written.