Having recently stumbled across the bookshelf book and blog by Alan Johnson and been awe-inspired by some of the bookshelves out there we at book exchange towers started pondering the vital question – how should we really order our books? It’s one of those topics that never fails to raise the blood of any regular reader, bibliophile (or book hoarder for that matter) and it would seem that whenever you think you have found the answer another system presents itself.
My personal book collection has gone through many guises over the years, having attempted:
* Alphabetical - ultimately I find this far too time consuming to keep up as I am always torn between alphabetical by author first-name, surname or book title – and that in-itself is a whole different topic! My biggest reason for giving this up (and I shouldn’t really admit it) but I just don’t retain ‘proper’ information very well, and as a result I would constantly be foxed by the very nature of an alphabetical system, unable to remember an author’s surname or the first part of a title I would spend eons scanning shelves to locate the very book I wanted - far from ideal!
* Genre – I started off as high as a kite when I decided genre was the way forward thinking my shelves would take on a professional independent bookseller air (and yes I did make labels!) but this quickly unravelled as I could never positively decide where things went. My genres grew and grew and grew until I had a dedicated category for pretty much every book I owned – take for instance Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, it’s a true Classic, it’s a masterful work of contemporary American fiction, it’s a satire, it’s a war novel, it’s truly post-modern, it’s semi-autobiographical and has hints of science-fiction – where, oh where do you put that in your genre shelf?!?
* Size specific – Again, brimming with excitement and thinking what a lovely appealing gradient this would lend my bookshelves I set off sorting and stacking according to height. Starting with big books on big shelves I logically worked towards small books on small shelves - this started well but then I faltered over the anomalies, those pesky and irritating (normally non-fiction) books that are as deep as they are tall, jutting out of line like some sort of demonic, teasing barrier to my shelves beautiful smooth lines. Grrr how I hated them….
These irritants aside the most annoying facet of any kind of ordering system is the inevitable and time consuming shuffle that takes place whenever you buy a new book. There you are happy as a lamb returning home with your new literary spoils when you discover it won’t sit comfortably next to its alphabetical counterpart or its fictional family, it’s clear the shelf is too full and there is just no way you can wedge it in without risking a fold in the pristine cover – what do you do? Lay it above or before the space where it should be, putting the whole of your ordered structure out of line; start a whole new section for soon-to-read books (also alphabetised if you are truly inclined) or spend an age moving every single one of your books an inch to the right to accommodate the latest purchase!
So for the sake of my sanity I’ve now settled on just plain random and, liberated from order and structure of any sort I have shelves that feature stacks of books that have absolutely no association what-so-ever, they simply sit where they fit (or more honestly where I lazily leave them) there are books in piles on the floor, next to the bed, leaning against the sofa, in the bathroom cabinet, under the coffee table, propped against the telly, you name the spot and it is probably used as a book storage facility at our house. And amazingly I know where everything is; I can buy, find, read and lend my books at leisure, I can remember what I was doing when I put each book down and I can return to it whenever the time is right. I LOVE it!
Disorder has become my new preferred order – although I could be persuaded otherwise (especially for some of these beautiful bookshelves, the UnWaste bookcase is a particular favourite)…