The problem of organising your books is owning them. If you love books you own lots of them. You acquire them, read them, and then put them – where? On a shelf, in a pile, and immediately you are confronted with the persistent problem of how to organise your collection. Even the most evangelical of kindlers surely has some books to organise, unless they have been completely ruthless. Kindles may be the answer to the problem in the future, but I am not a convert to Kindle yet. That’s a topic to come back to.
It’s the rule, in organising books. There is never enough shelf space, however many books you own.
If you have ever cohabited with another reader, the rule means you have had to take urgent action and someone disposed of their copies of Women in Love, To Kill a Mocking Bird and The Collected Works of William Shakespeare. It can be a fraught time as you argue over the emotional value of your GCSE copy of Julius Caesar, or don’t want to part with the precise copy in which you encountered Atticus Finch. And remember, some people can’t bear to part with books under any circumstances. That’s another topic to come back to – recycling books.
When you move house books get put in boxes, and often left in boxes for weeks, months, even years. Two years ago I came across several boxes of books in my cellar that had been put there when I moved in 30 years before. I figured that if I hadn’t missed those books in 30 years I could send them on their way now. Anyway, see the rule. Not all of them have been recycled of course. Some of them snuck on the shelves (see method 2 below).
Here are some methods for organising your book collection. I’ve already given you a clue about mine. Which is yours?
- The Librarian. Categories of books are grouped together: gardening, cookery, reference, poetry, travel books, biography, gifts from Aunty Doreen, fiction. Within the groups they are organised alphabetically by author.
- Willynilly. Wherever they fit (see the rule).
- Half and half. Some organisation for half of them, so that cookery books are in the kitchen, reference books by your computer and books by the same author pushed in together. Other half, as in Willynilly.
- Surprise. After some discussion about organising sheet music at choir I asked Yvonne, the alto sitting beside me, how she organised her books. ‘They’re art books,’ she told me, ‘and I keep them in the cupboard.’ Well there you are.
- Aesthetic. By colour. Very tasteful, but this method takes ages to arrange and books take even longer to be found. But that’s not the point (see method name). My nephew did actually arrange his collection by colour and it was enchanting (see photo for one I tried earlier; not exactly enchanting). But this method doesn’t solve the question – where would you put that gold covered copy of The Mirror Within by Anne Dickson?
- Other wild ways. Order of purchase. Height. Alphabetically by title. Stacked on their sides. Order of publication. Order of reading. On the stairs.
Go on. What do you do with yours?