a picture of the bookshelves in my living room

Last night, in lieu of watching television, getting caught up on my work, or doing any number of other, more productive things around the house, I let myself get sucked into rearranging some of my bookshelves. As I mentioned on Facebook afterwards, one of the things I started thinking about was how I would arrange them if I were going to play Bookshelf Bingo, a game I invented while I was shelving.

Bookshelf Bingo is not all that different from Hipster Bingo or SXSW Bingo. My first idea was that you could play it during a keynote address at a conference, although I would think a Twitter feed might work as well (although it’d be more difficult, as I explain below). Here are the rules:

1. Each player needs to start with roughly similar shelving units. I’m a huge fan of the cube shelves myself, which have the added advantage of providing the bingo grid. Each cube holds around 15 books, give or take. The grids should be the same for each player, and the grid sizes as well, to keep it fair.

2. Each player can arrange books on and among the shelves in any way he or she sees fit.

3. Each player then takes a high resolution photo of their shelves and prints it out. This is the Bingo card.

4. Then, at a keynote address (or panel), a player gets to cross off a square each time a book in that square is cited by the speaker(s).

5. First player to complete a row, column, or diagonal wins! And is crowned the biggest Nerd in the audience! (Jumping up and yelling “Bingo!” during the talk itself is not recommended.)

Variations: It occurred to me at first that you could do this with a Twitter feed in lieu of a keynote address, probably because A1 contains a bunch of books that I’ve purchased as they’ve come across my feed in the past month (Jockers, Golbeck, Hofstadter, Morozov, et al.). That would require folks to subscribe to roughly the same feeds, although you could create a Bingo list in Twitter and share it with the other players.

Since doing the shelf version requires that the players own all these books, I thought too about just putting 1 book per square–it’d be easy to pull covers from Amazon, arrange them in a 5×5 table on a page, and do it that way. That would be the much less expensive version, and might make an interesting pedagogical exercise for a graduate course. If they’d read some of a speaker’s work, and then created a book-per-square (or even 1 author per square) grid, it’d be a fun way to watch a streaming keynote, perhaps. It’d be a novel way of thinking about which thinkers and sources a particular speaker was most likely to rely upon for his or her work.

So that’s Bookshelf Bingo, coming soon to an academic conference near you! šŸ™‚