Couchblogging and Rearranging the Library

Friends, here is my first blog post written on my couch… because I finally got a new computer with actual functioning wireless!  Hooray!  Plus, now the world can Skype with my cat.  Ah, the internet.

I’ve been thinking lately about rearranging my books, a perennial joy of the bibliophile.  Right now they are arranged somewhat randomly, but there is some meaning.  All the books by each author are, of course, together.  I mostly own fiction, but also some nonfiction.  The nonfiction is growing, but not as fast as the fiction.  Nothing is alphabetized.  (#2:  GASP!  There may be dust over everything and clutter on the floor but my books and spices are alphabetized!)  All the cartoon books are together; these and other works that cheer or comfort me are kept near my bed for easy access in times of stress, books being excellent for mood regulation.  Other books are distributed across shelves and rooms with little rhyme or reason, other than a few outposts of nonfiction on the edges of the fiction shelves.

I would like to have a few “subject” areas, such as keeping all my books about writing together.  But shouldn’t the how-to writing manuals stay shelved with the fiction that author wrote and for whom I originally loved her or him?  Hmmm.  I would have a section for animal books (such as Tell Me Where It Hurts and All Creatures Great and Small) and a section for books about books and reading.  I would like to keep all my graphic novels together, perhaps, but what of authors who have both graphic and regular text novels?  Perhaps the graphic novels will remain spread out.

A lot of memoirs and other non-fiction is stuff I keep because it reads as quickly and easily as fiction (they call it “narrative nonfiction” these days, or “creative nonfiction”).  Those things I wouldn’t want to separate from the fiction; in my mind they serve the same purpose as fiction, which is amusement.  They beguile me to pass the time.  These types of books that I read purely for pleasure are distinguished from what I think of as “work” books, which may or may not also be interesting and enjoyable but which I read mainly for work purposes.  Lately I’ve been thinking I want to segregate these from the rest of my books, on a separate shelf perhaps, and integrate the rest of the narrative nonfiction with the fiction (which is partially the case now).  It would be cool to be able to browse all the “fun” books at once, whether fiction or non-, and to keep the books that remind me of my job off to the side where I won’t accidentally stumble on them and think about my job when I am trying to relax.

Any organizational scheme must allow for uneven expansion, which is why alphabetization has failed me so far.  I refuse to put books in an order such that it’s hard to add one new one without having to move all the others (and I don’t have that much expansion room to spare).  Right now I just know where each book is, but as the collection grows that becomes probably less possible — I haven’t found the limit yet, though.  (#2 doesn’t mind moving books for expansion, her OCD actually enjoys it, but also has temporary solutions by having very tall spaces between shelves, so as things get added they can lay flat on top of the other books.  When there’s no more room, she buys another bookcase.)

If you have time, you can read the classic On Books and the Housing of Them, by former Prime Minister and noted bibliophile William Gladstone. Realistically, I probably won’t do anything except look at pictures of other people’s bookshelves and drool.

#2 says,  *DROOL*  So not all of the books in my house are alphabetized.  The children’s books are sorted by reading level and only partially alphabetized starting with the chapter books.  The non-fiction (except cookbooks) is mixed in with fiction hardbacks and only partially alphabetized because they’re in the living room and sorted first by hardback/large paperback and then by subject so that they look pretty.  One day I may re-tackle that.

What’s your organizational schema?

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36 Responses to “Couchblogging and Rearranging the Library”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    We have 6 bookcases, plus a secret book storage area under our window seat. My dream would be to whittle down to 3 bookcases. One for us and one for each of the kids, oh and did I mention the closet full of 32 boxes of comics? We have a problem with pulp.

    My wireless card is junk. I haven’t been able to use it in 2weeks and come to find out it’s a known issue on my type of laptop. Still haven’t made the time to try to get it fixed, so this is the first week I’m not couch blogging. Be careful of your hands. Couch blogging is very cozy but not very ergonomic.

  2. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    My library of several thousand bookes is organized by size. Recently I have been thinking about giving them all away.

  3. Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom Says:

    I’m organized by subject area and wouldn’t alphabetize everything. Over the last few years, I’ve given a TON of books away – about 90% of the fiction, which is almost all mystery. A couple of months ago, I gave away about 50 cookbooks since I’d rather go look recipes up on the net. That freed up a nice bit of room in the kitchen cupboards.
    I only buy about 10 or so books a year now and that’s about how many I read a week, but my library system is pretty awesome for both e-books and regular.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My mom gives her mysteries to me when she visits and after I’ve read them I pass them along to DH’s relative (the reader). We did recently clear out two large boxes of Cooking Light magazines and some cookbooks we don’t use and gave them to the reader’s mom (who enjoys cooking).

  4. Rumpus Says:

    I think graphic novels should go together; excepting the few greatest examples of the genre (e.g., Watchmen, Kingdom Come, V for Vendetta), I find that they fill a niche that does not overlap with non-graphic novels.

    I remember reading a story about bibliophiles in which a library was organized geographically by where the author lived.

  5. imawindycitygal Says:

    Hooray for couch blogging! I have a little laptop desk that I use when reading/writing from my MacBook on the couch. Never had a problem with the wireless on the MacBook, unless the Internet connection is down. On my previous Windows machine I frequently had to tweak settings for the wireless. (Grrrr!) That’s one reason I switched to Mac and am selling the Windows machine.

    My books are separated by subject/topic. Cookbooks are in the dining room near the kitchen (only because there’s no room for them *in* the kitchen). I have one bookcase just for knitting books, and those books are further organized by topic: reference (technique and stitch dictionaries), socks, lace, pattern collections, etc. The knitting bookcase is in the living room, where I do most of my knitting when at home.

    Also in the living room is a bookcase of mostly fiction books (organized by author and size) that I look to as “conversation starters.” These are books I’d love to talk with guests about (“I see you have Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible. What did you think of it?”) I’m thinking of selling most of those books, though, since they rarely work as conversation points, and I’m starting to see them as indicative of my desire to show off all my fancy book readin’ (“I am better than you because I read!”) to my non-reading family. (Not that they visit much, anyway.)

    Does the hardcover/paperback issue ever influence your organization? One of my way past boyfriends that I lived with insisted that I keep all my paperback books on shelves inside a closet because paperbacks looked “tacky.” Yeah, he was soooo not a keeper!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      #2 here: My fiction paperbacks are in a separate room… they’re not as pretty both because they’re not as pretty on an individual level as the hardbacks (a 40 year old paperback isn’t as pretty as the corresponding hardback) and oversized paperbacks and because they’re shelved both vertically and have horizontal overflow. I am interested to hear what #1 does.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I keep HC and PB mixed together because some authors I have some books in each format and I refuse to separate authors or series based on something as trivial (to me) as format. The format or cover is not as important to me as the content, and I keep content things together.

  6. bogart Says:

    My basic goal is not to own any books, though I make a few exceptions. On any given day there is a better than 75% chance that without even intending to be, I’m within 2 miles of 2 different research I university libraries (both of which I can check out from), I live within walking distance of a small (and not very good) branch of our public library, and within 5 miles of the better than decent though less than fabulous main branch of the same. So why should I pay money to own (or rent) space to store books?

    We do own books for our preschooler, though they’re in such constant use that it’s hard to worry about organizing them. And I’ve made exceptions for a few books I’ve received as gifts, plus a few others on substantive grounds — Hrdy’s Mother Nature for fun reading, Warren’s All Your Worth for PF (the latter only available in electronic format through our library).

    Our town also has a leave one/pick one up drop off spot, so I use that; basically, any NYT bestseller shows up there within a year or two. And anything I can’t procure through the above sources, I buy on half.com or similar. But really, there are very, very, very few books that I reread frequently, so why keep them?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Because a room without books is like a body without a soul?

      Though if we had a better library system, we probably wouldn’t keep quite so much. We wouldn’t buy so much to begin with.

      • bogart Says:

        Right, right, OK, so I suppose I have books. But they are organized in this fashion:

        Preschooler books — in his room (maybe even on the bookshelf) or scattered through the house

        My books (DH uses basically the same system) stacked as (a) library books or (b) books in my to-read-soon list (some overlap with (a), obviously, but less time pressure) or (c) one of a very few books I am actually keeping. There’s also (d) books I have listed on half.com.

        Because, really, I think many of us (again, proximity to good libraries matters) are taking an approach to books that is very two-centuries-ago. Are we really honoring a book, or books in general, or anything at all, if we keep it but don’t use it? Maybe in an era when books were hard to procure that made sense, but today? I’ve decided the conventional bibliophile approach is not for me.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        My trouble with relying on the library is that I like to browse for mood-regulators at 10pm and I don’t always know what I’m going to want to read later.

  7. SS4BC Says:

    I totally organize my books by theme. A section for biographies, philosophy, chick lit, good fiction, etc. It is way easier than alphabatizing.

    The picture is a total drool fest. I wonder how likely something like that will be in the future with ereaders and ebooks.

  8. darchole Says:

    There are actually 2 different schemes in my house, the result of 2 different collections coming together. I tend to read more paranormal/urban fantasy, with some sci-fi, and SO reads nearly all epic fantasy including Forgotten Realms series, so there is very little overlap between us, which meant that mixing the books didn’t make a lot of sense. Nearly all of my books are organized by size/book type then alphabetized. So all the mass market paperback are together, all hardcovers, and all trade paperbacks. The mass markets are double stacked to fit into the number of bookcases we have. The hardcovers and trade paperbacks are standing up on the shelves (like ‘normal’) but the paperbacks fit better when they are on their sides. SO’s are alphabetized with all the different sizes/types are together, with a mix of books standing upright and some on their sides to fit those bookcases. This equals 7 5-shelf bookscases, and 2 7-shelf bookcases. There are a couple 3-shelf bookcases that will house all the ‘other’ books, but I still need to unpack those (more than a year later after we moved.) Currently this is about 2500-3000 books.

    If I had to fit all of my the books I had when I was a child, we would probably need another bookshelf (and there is no where to put another one). However currently my parents still have those books.

  9. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    My parents donated a lot of my kids books to a new school library a few years back, but every Christmas they’ll drive a box of my fantasy novels, so I can be joyfully reunited with my early Terry Pratchetts and so on.

  10. Molly On Money Says:

    Things I touch everyday within arms reach…..things I don’t touch that often get further away until they reach the most farthest depth, which is my storage shed. Things I want to look at everyday (books, art collection, my husband) in the main room of our house.

  11. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I used to have a nice system in place for my books. Then, I gave away a bunch. Of the ones I kept, I took the prettiest ones (almost all hardcover) and put them on shelves in my entertianment center. No real organization except maybe size. In that same entertainment center, I have all of my favorite paperbacks stashed behind a cabinet. My all-time favorite organization for books is by color like this guy. http://www.flickr.com/photos/santos/27538777/in/set-72157594545602320/

  12. Debbie M Says:

    I organize my books by genre on four bookshelves. The one in the kitchen has cookbooks organized by size and then from most generic to most specialized.

    The bookcase in the living room has the best books which I want people asking me about and borrowing. They are organized by genre. Within fiction genres I sort my books alphabetically by author. And I totally split up author by genre. But then I put my graphic novels with my other action adventure books, so not many authors get split (and I think it’s cool when they do). (Douglas Adams belongs in both sci fi/fantasy for the Hitchhiker’s Guide “Trilogy” and thriller/mystery for the Dirk Gently books, for example.) The nonfiction are by topic in some order that makes sense to me, like history, then anthropology, then biology, etc.

    The shelf near my desk has mostly computer manuals and other references I use at my desk. The office bookcase has books that are not awesome but still good references such as car manuals, knitting books with one or two patterns I might want to try, and texts I used where the main ideas are already underlined. I am considering completely getting rid of this bookcase (actually using it for something else). Maybe all my manuals can fit on my desk shelf if I get rid of the ones I never use. Maybe I can photocopy the few good parts of my knitting books and file those copies. Maybe I can realize that if I ever want to know anything from my old texts, I’d rather google it.

    I do think that sorting by color is gorgeous, but I could never do it. It’s more important to me to be able to find my books, and I’m not good at remembering which color my version is (which maybe different from the version I first read from the library). I do quite enjoy adding my knickknacks by theme, though. So my glass dinosaur is with my biology books, my stuffed unicorn is with my sci fi fantasy books, my poodle-head mug with the rubber brain-shaped stress reliever sticking out is with my social science books, and my mom’s graduation picture is with my biographies.

  13. Grace Says:

    OMIGOD!! Who ARE these people who can throw out BOOKS! First of all, they keep decorating decisions down–is there a shelf that will fit that wall? then in goes the bookcase! Second of all, they are more loyal than kids, spouses or cats. Third, come the downfall of civilization, they can be used for fuel (remember those library scenes from “The Day After Tomorrow?”)

    I think almost any organizational scheme if fine except the one recommended in a recent issue of “Real Simple” where they suggested doing it by color.

    Say what?

  14. TheGrinch Says:

    I have a large shelf divided in 4×3 compartments. The books are already starting to fall out though. Yesterday I noticed a neighbor was throwing away a kind of okay medium sized bookcase, so Yay!

  15. Aloysa Says:

    Aahhh… that picture looks like my dream library. I love having book shelves, tall and full of books, going up to the ceiling. Our place is too small for that… but one day! :-)

  16. Money Reasons Says:

    My wife has the library in our house, but only about 100 books and mostly fictional authors. They are organized by alphabetically by author, then alphabetically within the author sort.

    That library picture… If you are afraid of heights, that library wouldn’t be for you (my wife is afraid of heights) :)


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