Can a video-call background reveal a bit too much about you?
It's been interesting in recent weeks to see so many bookcases of the rich and famous - or the not rich and vaguely famous - finally getting some airtime. Let's face it, a lot of us buy books that, deep down, we know we will never read. Or at best, never finish. We'll reread that same passage over and over again, thinking about something totally different each time, before nodding off altogether. Eventually that book finds itself back on the shelf, in the 'return to it one day' section.
But now those books are finally getting some exposure, or the spines are anyway. Comedians in particular have taken to various online platforms to either perform gigs from home, or pop up on the slew of new or established chat shows, that are now dependent on guests appearing via video call. The bookcase seems to be a popular backdrop for many video-call broadcasters, perhaps wanting to show off how well-read they are.
But look closely: if their wifi and webcam is good enough, can you see the bookmarks protruding from the top of those novels, just a few pages in? And you can't blame them - there are so many more exciting things to do than betting on a boring book hopefully getting better. You could play Netflix roulette by flicking through the menus with your eyes closed before settling on a random show, or do it properly by perusing the selection of games at Nektan casino, or take a chance on a whole different book, on one of the many digital reading devices.
A lot of the proper books we buy end up pretty much just as decorations then, although perhaps you could call them props now that they're popping up on our screens too. Showing off your books can be a dangerous game, though, as certain politicians have recently discovered: people will make assumptions about your how your brain works, based on what's on your bookcase.
If you're a comedian hoping to get onto topical shows like Have I Got News For You or The Mash Report, or something regular on Radio 4, it probably won't do your chances any good if your shelves are full of lowbrow novels or trashy celebrity autobiographies. Unless you end up as their trashy celebrity correspondent, of course.
Or it could help. If there are loads of football autobiographies up there, or books about huge historical events, then an eagle-eyed producer might clock it and offer some lucrative talking-head action. Lots of travel books and city guides on the shelves and you could end up as the next Michael Palin, or at least it'll be obvious that you don't mind going on location.
The downside, of course, is that if your bookcase in the background is a bit too fascinating, it might distract from what you're actually saying. There's no point telling the best joke in the world if everyone watching completely misses it, because they're all trying to work out the title of that big hardback you're showing off. Especially if it turns out to be one of Jordan's novels.