Non-poetry post

As a brief break between poetry posts, I wanted to say something about book organization.  Right now, all 600 or so books that I own are in boxes and bins and waiting ever so patiently for the moving truck to arrive tomorrow (and the very nice grad students who have agreed to help us move in return for pizza and beer).  I feel bereft looking at the empty shelves, and I found myself feeling a wee bit panicky at the thought that I would not be able to immediately access the books that I haven’t tried to read in 3 years (or more).  If anyone had walked into the office over the weekend they would have seen this:

Panicky-book-lusting-me: “Ooooh, I forgot I had David Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity!  I should read this.”

Rational me: “Right now?  Seriously?  How about putting it in that nice box over there instead?”

Panicky-book-lusting-me: “But what if I need it in the next, oh, five days?”

Rational me (rolling eyeballs): “When did you buy it?”

Panicky-book-lusting-me (with much indignation): “Only a year ago!”

Rational me: “Right, a year on your shelf and you haven’t read it.  I think you can go without it for another week.”

Panicky-book-lusting-me: “But, but…. (drops book in hand for another dusty tome) what about this one?”

And so on, and so on….

I don’t know what I should be more concerned about: my apparent inability to read the books I buy, or the fact that I have full conversations with myself while packing.

I am excited about the new apartment, but is it wrong that I am primarily excited because I will be re-organizing my books?  Moreover, Apparent Dip has to leave town for a few days and I’m relishing the fact that I get to reorganize in solitude (well, except for the menagerie of animals who are soooo not helpful when it comes to packing/unpacking).  As a former bookstore employee, one of my favorite activities was shelving–there’s something so rewarding and soothing in a well-organized shelf (particularly for someone who’s perhaps a tad bit OCD).  As far as fiction is concerned, I’m going to be organizing it chronologically (and then by author, title, etc).  My reasons for doing so are: a) I have everything catalogued in Library Thing and Bookpedia so I can find it there, b) books that I use for school/work are also cataloged in Bookends with original publication date, and c) it really helps solidify the context in which these books were written.  For instance, Jane Eyre will now be placed near Vanity Fair because they were written in the late 1840s (a piece of information that never really sank in before).  It feels like I can see the different conversations that books/authors were having with each other right on my very own bookshelves.

There will be some tough choices to make though (note: tongue is firmly in cheek at this point).  I have a very nice bookcase with glass doors: what gets pride of place?  Where should biographies be shelved?  I am generally undecided about my non-fiction books.  Do I try and arrange by subject matter, then alphabetically?  Do I just arrange alphabetically?  You can bet that I will be thinking about this all afternoon instead of finishing the rest of my packing….

9 responses to this post.

  1. I reorganised my bookshelves yesterday! I probably have 300-400 books, so it’s a little less work than for you. 🙂 I enjoyed it!

    I organise my books by genre, and then either alphabetically, or by size (trying to fit them all in). I should have pics up some point soon.


  2. Hmmm, it never occurred to me to sort novels chronologically. Brilliant idea!


  3. Eva: I think I will probably organize my non-fiction by subject/genre, but I like the idea of organizing by size. I’ve been doing it while packing and it made a world of difference! 🙂

    Sylvia: I wish I could take credit for the idea to organize novels chronologically, but it was the brain-child of a fellow grad student. I thought it sounded intriguing, so I’m going to give it a shot!


  4. For me it’s subject/genre, size, author – unless the author has books in all sizes, in which case it’s genre, author, size. By the time I’m through obsessing over the books and moving them from place to place, I can tell at a glance what the spine looks like and where the book is. It’s a pathetic life, but it’s all mine. (And while I admire the idea of organizing fiction chronologically, I know I’d never put it back that way – and my whole plan would be defeated – and the first time I couldn’t find what I wanted without having to resort to lists or reference works, I’d require a large scotch and a cold compress.)


  5. Woah, how organized. I really need to to take care of the stalagmites of books growing in corners. My system is pretty loose. Finish a book (or don’t finish it) and put it in a stack somewhere. I just recieved three boxes of books from a clearinghouse (my parents) and two new mountains sprung up over night, one in the dining room, and one next to the living room couch. Most of them are thousand page doctrines about WWII era Europe which I have every intention of reading (yea, right, but it’s fun to dream).


  6. If you would like, you are more than welcome to come and organize my books when we bring our bookcases home in a month. Hundreds of books rest in our garage, not even KNOWING they have been replaced by hundreds of OTHER books that I bought thinking I would read and are now taking over our living room…happy moving!


  7. Gracie: I think a large scotch might be in order for me anyway–at the moment we have a narrow path cut out from our front door to the back of the apartment. Organizing books is a future dream at this point… 🙂

    Ian: I’m with you on the dreaming. I still have a lot of my history books and I use my previous life as a historian as an excuse to buy more! I do think I should figure out a way to make piles of books useful as furniture…

    Everythinginbetween: Don’t you love the devious nature of books? They worm their way in and take over every room in the house. While packing, I would think that I had found them all, but then lo, there were three piles I hadn’t seen! Have fun organizing!


  8. Uh-oh. I can see exactly what I have in store for me a month from now, especially since I’ve already begun to think about what to do with that shelf of books that are all supposed to be read by the end of this year. All the more reason to have the movers pack up the books.


  9. Emily: after this move, I have decided that we need to have other people pack things for us as well. I tried my darndest to keep the current reads and library books in an open box so that I would “know” that it was important, but, well…near the end, half of the boxes were all open. Egads. But the end is in sight!


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