Organizing my library


Short summary: On how I spent a day rearranging my library in a new, less practical, way.

I do rearrange my bookshelves once in a while, mostly for practical reasons, but I never thought videoconferencing would be what prompted me. However, recently it started to bother me that the only shelves that were visible during conference calls were the ones with my unread books. In the unlikely case that someone asks me about one of them I would prefer it to be about a book I have read. Fortunately I found that my nature related books used approximately the same amount of space as my To Be Read -shelves, so I could have just let them change place. However, I had a bit too much time on my hands, and as I have written about before I enjoy combining my books in new ways, so I went for a less straightforward option.

In a large library a logical organization by e.g. genre and/our author name is of course necessary, but mine is not yet of a size where finding things is a problem, and thus I have more options. In this case I decided that rather than keeping my nature and science non-fiction together, as any sensible library owner would, I would mix them with memoirs, essays and even fiction of tangential relevance, hopefully finding new and unexpected links between them. I thus placed my ornithology field guides together with Bannerhed’s novel Korparna (the Ravens) and Durrell’s memoir Birds, beasts and relatives, all featuring birds in prominent roles, and placed my nature centred poetry among my Floras. Objectively the result is less practical than it was before, but it does make me happy to see weird collections like this one on my shelf:

  • The hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy by Douglas Adams (fiction)
  • A fieldguide to getting lost by Rebecca Solnit (essay collection/memoir)
  • The gentle art of tramping by Stephen Graham (a guide to “tramping” from 1926)
  • Skating to Antarctica by Jenny Diski (travelogue/memoir) and
  • Trekking in Greenland (actual guidebook)
  • Strövtåg by Sven Rosendahl (“Ramblings”, nature essays)

I find these titles much more intriguing when placed together like this than any of them would be if placed alone or with more expected company.

I do have a sneaking suspicion that my urge to rearrange, and indeed this whole blog post, is a sure sign of me having spend a bit too much time at home lately, but at least I have a good excuse…

How do the rest of you organize your books? Anyone else favouring weird systems that are impenetrable to anyone but yourself?

9 thoughts on “Organizing my library

  1. Mine are sort of organised by genre or publisher or in the case of favourite authors (e.g. Orwell, Atwood) they’re by themselves. That sort of system tends to go out of the window, however, as new books arrive and spread all over the house…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That sounds like the system I used to have but in my latest move I reduced the number of books I owned and increased the number of shelves, so for now I actually have a tiny bit of free space. It definitely won’t last though…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed the Jenny Diski, so it was good to see it in your collection of titles related through a sort of stream of consciousness! I’m almost tempted myself — if I wasn’t already feverishly reading and writing blog posts.

    Anyway, my books are constrained by so many unrelated (and often irreconcilable) factors: size, author, subject matter, genre, newly acquired, nearly-ready-to-be-read etc. On one set of shelves is a load of Arthurian texts, accumulated over decades and sadly never looked at now, on another oversize coffee table books and reference, further along children’s authors mixed in with fantasy and SF.

    It may all sound a bit organised but frankly it’s a mess. Mostly I have a visual memory where a book was last lodged but it’s not infallible, and often the spine is little indication of what the cover looks like so that I find what I’m looking for where it was all the time, except I didn’t recognise it. Incipient senility I suspect.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Stream of consciousness-sorting is probably the best description of how I organized it. I also agree on the Diski memoir, it was great, I really enjoyed having an excuse to add it among the others.

      I suspect my system only works because my collection is not (yet) that large, I have a tiny bit of extra shelf space, which gives me flexibility, and I spend way too much time staring at my bookshelf, so I know it very well…

      Earlier, when I had less shelf space, my system was to cram books in wherever they would fit, this system works much better.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s lovely playing with books isn’t it?! I think the most important thing is that I can find the book I’m looking for, so sometimes they might be grouped as a project, like Paradise Lost and Frankenstien etc. but if I collect a series then I do love seeing them together. I think your idiosyncratic groupings are brilliant, reading is so personal

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I love this! What a creative way to make new connections with your texts. I hope that you find MANY interesting connections in the future and as you discuss with others.

    What books are on the shelf behind you now while you’re video conferencing?

    I don’t take a lot of pleasure in organizing my books, honestly. I think I probably just own too many to get to that point. I definitely need to cut back on them. I have a shelf for all my Harry Potter editions (okay, 3 decorative shelves with bookish accessories as well), a “borrowed from friends must read soon” shelf, a library books shelf, and a hardcover shelf all visible. The rest of my books are hidden in closed doors. I get overwhelmed with too many visible things. It comes across as cluttered and overwhelms me with their might.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! The ones I video conference with now see the books in the photo, although their angle is much worse, so I doubt if they can identify any titles.

      For me it is the opposite, my bookshelves are the best organized part of my home, I sometimes stare at them to relax when the rest of my home gets too messy… It was different in my previous apartment, there I had less shelf space, so it was crammed and chaotic, and lots of books I hardly remembered why I owned. Now I have more shelf space and all the books I didn’t care for are gone (although I probably have more books in total now), so now I really love it. If only the rest of my home could be as organized…

      Liked by 1 person

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