How do you organize your books? :-)

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How do you organize your books? :-)

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Fev 28, 2009, 6:26 pm

Just curious how you guys order your tomes... I'm really weird about this (well, according to others anyway) so I was just wondering how you guys do yours!

I do mine ROUGHLY chronologically, and try to separate them based on "subject" in a vague sense... history/anthropology, science, language, humour, mythology/folklore, geography, travel, and non-fiction/literature.

The part that really gets on my nerves though (and what makes people think I'm nuts haha) is how many of them sort of belong in more than one category, and I'm constantly re-arranging everything :-) Like, take something like Virgil's Aeneid... should it go under Romans? Or mythology? because it's kind of both! That is, it was written as "history" for propagandistic purposes during Augustus' reign, but nothing in it is historical really, and it's got mythological stuff in it!

This is the kind of stuff I think about when I'm lying awake at night :-D

Fev 28, 2009, 8:59 pm


I'm sorry. You mentioned 'organized' and 'books' in the same paragraph. (Oh@! My aching sides)

Editado: Fev 28, 2009, 9:19 pm

Three stages:

Topic - Fiction/reference/language/history and so on. For fiction I use alpha by author. References by topic (home improvement vs dictionary) and language is by language.

History's where it gets complicated. I start off chronologically, then by either geography or topic. Frex, I have sections for daily life, warfare, crusades, heresy, religon, etc. For more narrative types of works I have, for example, Anglo-Saxon and Merovingian subdivided within Late Antiquity.

There are some tough decisions. Should Dhuoda's Handbook for William be filed under daily life or Carolingian? (I went with Carolingian) Should Bede's Ecclesiastical History be Anglo-Saxon or religion? (religion on this one)

So far my library isn't so large that I have trouble finding anything but I expect that to change soon - once I fill two more shelves I'll have to put books in another room in the house. My study will be tapped.

This organization is on my shelves BTW - my tags on LT are very brief though at some point I plan on adding to them.

Editado: Fev 28, 2009, 9:12 pm

I am truly amazed by you guys. My structure consists of basically keeping the primary sources separate from the secondary. Greek Loebs, of course, separate from their red cousins. Bede sits next to Snorre next to Caesar. Please don't ban me.

Fev 28, 2009, 11:09 pm

Haha wow... well different strokes for different folks, eh? :-D

My professor's books are like that... he just has them in piles all over the place and on the shelves they're not even standing up, they're still in piles haha

But I like organization :-) cemanuel, I totally get what you're saying! I try to divide my history by time period, but it gets really foggy, especially when sections where I have a lot butt up to ones where I don't. WWI and WWII are distinct enough, but then I have books about Eugene Debs and socialism... where do those go? Between the two? Then where does the Communist Manifesto go? It was written way before WWI, afterall. :::head explodes::::::

Fev 28, 2009, 11:41 pm

Real organization would require sufficient shelving. Anyone wanna donate some?

Editado: Mar 1, 2009, 12:44 am

>6 infiniteletters:

I'll let you store some books on my shelves. I'll just go through your library and let you know which ones will fit best on them.

Mar 1, 2009, 8:05 am

deslni01 -- ROTFL!! If you are unlucky, your volunteer will have romance novels & Reader's Digest Condensed Books ...

Editado: Mar 1, 2009, 8:50 am

As for me -- my friends and family have long poked fun at me for organizing my shelves, which I think I first did at around 11 years old. Sometimes, I do a major re-vamp, which my wife affectionately dubs "playing with my books."

I organize by banks of shelving and then within those shelves by topic. If I have a critical mass on a specific topic, then my shelving is particularly detailed within subject matter.
I have four large bookcases in my office and a few smaller ones.

My ancient history bookcase in my office starts with anthropology and archaeology titles, then progresses in order through pre-history, first civilizations, then Bronze Age Greece through Rome. I have one shelf set for tall books and another for small and Loeb size volumes. I also shelve classical mythology, literature, philosophy, language, anthologies, etc. with the ancient history books, although because of some literature sets I own that are shelved in the living room, there are volumes of Plato and Homer and the like that live in there instead of where they more properly belong.

I have basically two and a half American history bookcases in my office, one which is exclusively American Presidents and biographies of other major players (Franklin, Hamilton, Clay, etc.) in American history. The other one and a half are arranged chronologically, except for sets, starting with "The Eternal Frontier" and "1491" and working forward in time. I try to place books that don't have a specific time and are more theme-based either as placeholders at the end of a section, with the sets, or I try to fit them chronologically based upon the thematic importance of the subject matter.

I have a small section of World History, a rather large section on China (ancient & modern) and a small section on the twentieth century. Also in my office are reference books, Teaching Company Courses, some miscellaneous fiction (including contemporary signed first editions in Mylar I buy monthly from the Odyssey Book Club's Signed First Edition Club and I believe a complete set of Barnes & Noble "Little Classics,” although I can't seem to get a definitive list anywhere.) Fiction is not arranged in any specific way on a macro level; on a micro level it is organized by set or author.

I would have more books in my office if I didn’t also have on display a collection of 118 nine inch “Lord of the Rings” action figures and a smaller array of Quentin Tarantino “Kill Bill” collectibles, prompting my wife, also affectionately, to dub me “the 50 year old virgin.”

In various rooms, I have a small bookcase that contains a near complete collection of Stephen King (my guilty pleasure) along with a smattering of other works in the horror genre. There’s another small bookcase with science and science fiction, as well as cookbooks and miscellaneous stuff. And still another that is packed end to end with mass market paperbacks. In the living room (the nice room no one ever uses because it doesn’t have a TV), I have two large bookcases that contain my collection of hardback fiction and literature. Mostly sets, but some random authors, as well. There are also art, nature and photography books in there.

As I have run out of shelf space and I keep buying new books, random fiction works from my office are (alas!) being boxed up. I have almost 1600 books now (not all catalogued at LibraryThing) and no more cubic feet for new shelves, although I am thinking about converting my office closet to shelves next.

The horror: no more room for new books!!

Mar 1, 2009, 8:49 am

For shelving I plan to hollow out interior walls in my living and dining rooms. The problem is the walls are plaster-and-lathe, not drywall. Haven't worked with that before but I guess I'll figure it out. The bookcase-in-a-box is fine for the study but not where everyone will see.

One other detail. I have two wall shelves for books I haven't read yet. You know how it is - until you've read 'em how do you know they won't contaminate another book by putting them next to an old favorite? How full those shelves are gives a pretty good indication of whether I should buy books or not - of course it never makes any difference when I'm in a used bookstore.

Mar 1, 2009, 8:51 am

First division is fiction / non-fiction. Fiction simply goes alphabetically by author, wherever possible, otherwise by editor. Unless we're talking about ancient / medieval works that have no known author - Poetic Edda & Mabinogion are on title.

Non fiction - except for very general works like dictionaries - goes on broad periods : Bronze Age (& earlier), Greco-Roman (+ contemporaries), Late Antiquity & Early Medieval (roughly anything between 300-800 CE), Medieval (roughly anything 800-1400 CE), etc.

I've often tried to make these periods narrower, but end up with too many books that are hard to place. And even now I often have to shelve books in categories that don't really fit.

Within these categories I simply put the books (primary sources included - sorry ThePam) alphabetized on author - except for monographs on people living in those periods which are alphabetized on their protagonist instead.

What really really complicates things is that I was forced - by space considerations - to subdivide everything again according to size. And all this is not counting the books that are still in piles all over. Aaargh... But I try to organize, oh yes, I do try...

Mar 1, 2009, 8:55 am

I don't organise my books.

Editado: Mar 1, 2009, 12:06 pm

This is a topic near to my heart. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking and talking about tagging and shelving. I rely on an intuitive and hopefully satisfying system of shelving to find my books (eg. "History", "Anthropology" "fiction by author's last name", etc.), and I have to rework it occasionally. And add more bookcases

There is a quote from Borges that I liked on this. It said something to the effect of "The act of putting a book on a shelf involves a categorization and classification decision". But he said it more nicely. I wish I could find it again.

Tagging is crucial to me in organizing my books and my thinking about the books, so I tagged thoroughly with each book entered on LT, rather than waiting until later. I am regularly looking for books in my library that might fall into one category or another. I can't tell you how useful it has been to be able to search under a tag for all the books I have under that designation.

Example: Discussing cross-cultural contacts recently, I could recommend books using that tag, but also pull up all that show up under "migrations" or "prehistory" or "pre-Columbian Americas", etc.

So there is organization by shelving and organization by tagging.

When I look at my tag cloud, I feel like I am looking at a new 21st century way of seeing myself and my interests -- one that complements traditional means of self-definition.

My overall conception of my shelving is something like this:

General fiction alphabetically by author
Science fiction separately by author, except for collections which are grouped by themselves.
Poetry shelved as a group alphabetically by author, also collections excepted.

History is shelved chronologically beginning with hominid evolution and human prehistory, until some rough medieval time when organizing breaks down and becomes more subjective, veering off geographically, culturally and by topic. For example, my books relating to China are shelved by themselves, though with an eye to chronology if it makes sense.

Other books that might fall broadly into the history category may be shelved separately if they fit into another category, such as biography, anthropology (except for human prehistory), religion, etc.

Other nonfiction is shelved by category, including a diverse range from psychology and philosophy to exploration and adventure to essay and biography.

Biographies are shelved alphabetically by name of the subject, except for scientist biographies, which are shelved separately in connection with books on science topics.

Within science, I have separate sections on physics, biology, history of science, geology, natural history, and I forget what else.

I also have several specialty shelves: a nice prominent set of bookcase in my family room for my art books; shelves for newer, unread books; and a special bookcase facing my front door, designed to have particularly beguiling books, with the intention that every visitor will find something of interest as (s)he enters the house...

Mar 1, 2009, 12:16 pm

I generally follow the Library of Congress system...but then, as a graduate student who essentially lives in the library (seriously, my department is housed in the library), I've gotten so used to using it that it only makes sense for me organize my personal library that way.

And yes, infiniteletters is right -- proper organization would require sufficient bookshelf space, which is severely lacking for those of us living in a graduate-student apartment run by the university.

Oh, and Garp83, I can completely sympathize -- when I was growing up, "cleaning my room" to me meant taking all the books off my shelves, piling them around the room, and going through them one by one to reorganize them. I did this several times a year, most often in the summer when I was home from school, it was too hot outside in the early afternoon to play, and I was starting to get a back ache from lounging around reading too much.

Editado: Mar 1, 2009, 2:56 pm

my books are roughly organized by topic, with each major category having it's own bookcase (Sherlock Holmes, Greek, Art and Music, etc).
and there lies the rub, as i haven't enough bookcases, nor enough remaining wall space even if i could afford them. oy!

within that my 'system' is such that only a fellow Libra might understand.

Mar 1, 2009, 8:40 pm

Leuntje... Thank God. I thought it was just me.

Mar 1, 2009, 8:53 pm

I reorganize based on a new scheme about once a year. That way everything gets dusted and I handle them enough to remember what I have. At various times they have been arranged by subject, by color, by size, alphabetical by title and at the moment alphabetical by author. Time for a good dusting. I need to cook up a new scheme, but haven't alighted upon one yet.

Mar 1, 2009, 11:13 pm

My current library is quite small (I haven't put a lot of stuff on LT yet), but it allows me to have a very simple system. All Classics/Ancient history primary sources alphabetical by author. And then subject groups (for secondary sources) such as 'Literary Criticism', 'Classical Literary Criticism', 'Ancient History'. Philosophy is the growing pain at the moment. I put my secondary sources on Ancient Philosophy with the other Philosophy books, but I am waiting to get enough for it to constitute its own section.

Fiction has it's own shelf, but even then I find things I want to put on to my 'professional' shelf like 'The Outsider' should go in the philosophy section... (as a person who works on philosophical literature, I find separation so hard, but I'm also a person who needs her book cases organised... it's a tough life!)

I once had a friend who thought that de-alphabetising my bookshelves was a real hoot, until I gave him a nipple cripple he hasn't forgotten!

Mar 2, 2009, 12:12 am

I use the Library of Congress system.

Mar 2, 2009, 6:34 am

Stevie -- I have to admit I had to look up "nipple cripple"!! You guys down under have all the fun!

Mar 2, 2009, 9:15 am

Organized?? I've got to laugh. I do try but it doesn't last very long before the books are in piles everywhere again.

Every now and again though I do a major re-sort. When that's done, the fiction is sorted into hardcover/trade and paperback then into author by last name. Within that I get them in series order. Tolkien has his own shelf unit (and is growing beyond the limits of that).

History is sorted by primary/secondary source (most of the primary ones are Penguin sized so they have the unit with the smaller shelves) and then by size. I've tried doing it by time period, but the book sizes make that nearly impossible.

Mar 2, 2009, 10:18 am

I have a vague sorting by subject, and only fiction has a strict alphabetisation policy. Many of my history books are in a vague "nonfiction" collection, which puts everything in cheek by jowel. The exception is ancient Egypt, which gets its own shelf-and-a-half, a relic from the days when I was hoping to go professional and was trying to build a reference collection.

Mar 2, 2009, 11:28 am

I employ a somewhat bizarre method of organizing all my books BY PUBLISHER. So all those from University of California Press are together, than all those by Cambridge, etc. I separate University presses from non-university publishers - they are in different bookcases, but still by publisher in alpha order.

I suppose someone could organize books by their color - wouldn't that look weird? all the red books in one place, the blue somewhere else...

Mar 2, 2009, 11:29 am

I've actually come across both methods before - yes, the organizing by colour as well.

Mar 2, 2009, 11:32 am

Mar 2, 2009, 11:48 am

I had actually tried it because I met a decorator in a book store in Atlanta who was buying books by the yard. Content was immaterial as long as it looked good on the shelf. She even had a color wheel to place books with complementary colors in an appropriate arrangement. I was aghast at the time because the thought not caring whether one was buying pot boilers or classics was something I just couldn't get my head around. After considering a while I decided that as long as the content was good, there's no reason not to show it off to its best advantage.

Mar 2, 2009, 12:55 pm

I'm very afraid that when I expand to have books in my living room I'll transition to "organizing by binding."

Fortunately, most of my books that have really cool bindings and look "weighty" come from used bookstores and are relatively old so they aren't what I need to refer to anyway.

BTW - looks like a nipple cripple's what we always called a "purple nurple."

Editado: Mar 2, 2009, 7:55 pm

Apparently I'm more normal than I thought. LoC for the nonfiction (once it grew), and alphabetical by author for the fiction and poetry. I don't always like how LoC classifies some books (e.g., I'd rather have some sociology or polisci books mixed with history), but at least it's familiar. I really don't like how it divides literature though.

Depending on shelving at the time, comics, journals, and oddly shaped books may be set aside.

I constantly struggle with where to put mythology and folklore. Usually it comes down to where there's room, whether the author/editor is anonymous or a writer in their own right, and/or how scholarly the book is.

Mar 2, 2009, 8:55 pm

>27 cemanuel:, >18 Stevia:
I made the same connection. The painful if not venerable purple nurple.

I also had never before known of The Outsider, Stevia's alternate rendering of Camus' The Stranger. Is that the Canonical Australian title, Stevia?

Mar 4, 2009, 1:22 pm

For shelving I plan to hollow out interior walls in my living and dining rooms.

Words can't convey how much this delighted me. It sounds like an entry in some sort of "You Know You Are a Serious Bibliophile when ... " list. Left to my own devices, I'd probably keep hollowing out walls for shelving indefinitely, until at the end, I'd live not in a house, but in a stack of books with a roof on top. :D

Fortunately, however, I live in a rental condomoninium so I am not allowed to alter the architecture, and must simply buy new shelves if I need them.

Mar 4, 2009, 1:47 pm

I once had all my books organized by original publication date. The best part of this was that you could get a great sense of chronology: Homer - Hesiod - Herodotus - Thucydides – Xenophon ... Caesar - Livy - Virgil - Lucan ... Dante - Chaucer – Shakespeare - Milton ... etc. There were a few issues:

1. For very early works, dates are disputed, so it can take a lot research and soul searching to decide where to put, say, the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic.
2. As you get into the modern era, the works of individual authors start to become intertwined. For example, Don Quixote gets plunked down right in the middle of a bunch of Shakespeare plays, and Dickens first and last novels had 34 books by other authors in between them. This is good from a chronology perspective, but a PITA if you know what you want but not when it was written!
3. All my nice series were broken up - Loeb were made to be shelved together!
4. Modern histories are sorted by when they were printed instead of the time period they are about.

I now group my Loebs together, but still sorted by original publication date (so green and red intermixed!). Fiction is alphabetized by author, so all the works by a single author live together, and secondary histories are sorted by the time period they cover. I also segregate Shakespeare, who just doesn't deserve to be forced to mingle with lesser writers.

Mar 6, 2009, 9:21 am

I, too, find the idea of hollowing out walls for books bewitching. Why waste all that good book-space? Why make all the rooms in my home a foot smaller in every direction?

Shelving by publication date is a lovely idea, though I'd find it difficult to maintain.

Mar 6, 2009, 1:01 pm

You guys have given me some great ideas to feed my ever so slight *cough* OCD. I'll probably sort by publisher next, then maybe publication date as a secondary sort.

Mar 6, 2009, 1:07 pm

When I hollow out my walls I AM planning to put some finished wood in - not just have books be what separates rooms in my house.

I'm not a complete barbarian.

Though there may be some wiring issues to work around.

Mar 6, 2009, 1:12 pm

Although the outer walls of my house are concrete block, the inner wood stud walls are almost completely hollowed out ... not only for books, but for storage of all kinds ... CD's, audio and video tapes, pantry shelving, display ... you name it.

However, I've designed a house for a bibliophile in which the 75' long back wall of the house runs from one end of the living room-study, past the walls of an inner, segregated kitchen space, and into the master bedroom as one continuous bank of book shelves. I figure that these shelves alone will hold upwards of 3,000 books.

Mar 6, 2009, 1:52 pm

To those who have hollowed their walls for books...

Interior walls are made with 2x4 (actually 3-3/4" wide), usually with 1/2"drywall on both sides. So, if you open up one side of a wall (leaving the drywall on the other side for what ever room shares that wall), you only have about 4-1/2" total width, right? And you'll also loose some width if you use some finishing boards. That's not very wide for books, is it? was thinking that you need at least 6" to be practical.

Also, studs are usually 16" on center, so do keep all the shelves about that wide or do you basically reframe the wall so you can go wider?

Editado: Mar 6, 2009, 7:52 pm

I've read only the OP and not the replies, but I wanted to jump in here anyway. If I'm not adding much to what has already been said, I apologize.

I approach this problem from an unusual perspective: namely, that of a classicist. This leads to results like the following (although, of course, this scheme, like any other scheme of book-classification of which I'm aware, breaks down in practice at the margins because any categories into which you try to put a variety of books will overlap).

1) Greek and Latin Historiographical and all other Greek and Latin texts:
1a) Original Language: A historiographer who wrote in Greek (e.g. Herodotus, Polybius) goes into my section of Greek Texts (right along with Aristophanes, Plato, Callimachus, and all the other Greek authors). A historiographer writing in Latin (e.g. Livy, Tacitus) goes right in there with all the other Latin authors (Terence, Lucretius, Cicero, and all the rest). If I had any Medieval Latin texts, those would come next, and Renaissance Latin texts would come next, etc. There are two exceptions to this rule: I keep all my Oxford Classical Texts together in a single row, and my Loeb Classical texts in another single row, all on the same shelf. This is almost exclusively for the purely practical reason that I have one short shelf that all these will fit on. Besides, the red and green Loebs and the green and blue OCTs make for a nice aesthetic effect. This, however, is marred by the fact that two of my OCTs lack dust jackets, which is fine with me because I find dust jackets a nuisance when I'm trying to read the book. Maybe we should start a thread: "Dust Jackets: Good or Evil?" I always--always--take off the dust jacket from any I read (with the exception of library books that have them taped on).

1b) Ancient Literature in Translation: I begin this section with the few books I have (Mesopotamian, etc.) that entirely predate the earliest Greek literature (Homer, 8th century BCE). Then I start with Greek authors in alphabetical order, then one of Latin authors in alphabetical order; and so on with other foreign language texts in translation, much as with my method for untranslated texts explained in 1a.

I know I'm going out of order here, but pay attention. Immediately after my Greek and Latin texts in the original languages come my secondary sources on Greek topics (Greek Art, Greek history, Greek literature, etc.) Each of these subtopics has its own small section (for example, I have about 4 books on various periods of Greek history: they have their own little space on the shelf). After I shelve Roman Religion, I start a section on Biblical Studies, concentrating heavily on New Testament and Early Christianity. (Yes, I know that much of the Hebrew Scriptures was produced before Homer, but the text of the Hebrew Scriptures that I have is attached to the New Testament, and my interest is more in the bizarre ways in which Jesus, his movement, and then Christianity appropriated those scriptures than with those scriptures themselves.) Then come the books on Religion in general.

Next is the category of Philosophy, arranged as follows. Classical Philosophy is first, alphabetical by modern author (the original texts and translated texts, you will recall, are placed in their own respective sections as noted above). Whereas in Classical Studies, I put primary and secondary works in entirely separate sections, I include philosophers who did not write in Greek or Latin (e.g. Hume, Kant, Rawls) in a subsection of the general category of Philosophy, arranged alphabetically by author. Secondary works, if they concentrate on the work of a specific philosopher, are organized alphabetically by the name of the original philosopher who is the topic of the study. All other works on philosophy--e.g. those on post-classical history of philosophy (although I waver on this subcategory and sometimes arrange these chronologically), subfields of philosophy (ethics, epistemology, etc.), particular philosophical problems (existence of God, nature of justice, whether I have a mind, etc.)--are organized alphabetically by the author of the work. Finally, on account of their size and bulk, all reference books go together on the lowest shelf. The Oxford English Dictionary (1972 edition, micrographically printed, with eyeglass, sits in its own case next to the bookcase). My other books--including, primarily, all my English literary texts--sit on the floor in boxes, since I can't even fit all the books I've mentioned above onto my bookcase and I have no room for more shelves. There will be a test on Monday.

Mar 6, 2009, 5:33 pm

#36 scott - I live in an old farmhouse so my walls are 6" thick. Even then I intend to use a fairly nice wood - probably oak with a deep stain and extend it so the shelves are a couple of inches beyond that. Also, the studs will simply serve as dividers. I'll probably biscuit-joint a piece of 2X2 to the studs, bevel & finish for appearance. The bigger issue will be wiring however the wiring's old anyway - no harm in replacing it.

If I had a newer house I might consider removing studs but not in this old beast.

The other neat space-saver is an attached corner bookshelf. Basically it's triangular. What do you need those 90 degree corners for anyway? You end up with several square feet of unusable space. Use it for books and save yourself the trouble of trying to sweep and vacuum in there - the dog hair just seems to collect there anyway. I've put one in and will add another one of these days. The only problem is it looks dorky when you pack books in because you don't have that nice 90 degree angle but that's OK - my friends know I'm dorky so this just fits with everything else.

Mar 6, 2009, 8:04 pm

Once upon a time, a 9' bookshelf was divided into thirds...1/3 fiction, 1/3 science, and 1/3 various reference books. Another 4' unit contain all history books. Three smaller ones held paperbacks and classic literature.

Those book shelves have been full for years. Now they reside in boxes and piles.

Mar 6, 2009, 8:39 pm

I used to try to do things alphabetically. Now I just try to cram everything into a shelf and if they all fit I figure I'm pretty well organized.

Mar 6, 2009, 9:27 pm

valkylee, There's little to be said against your method, unless you have a private library of more than a few thousand volumes. The ultimate objective of shelving one's own books, after all, is to be able to find one's own books; and I can't think of any reason why your approach would fail for that purpose.

Mar 6, 2009, 9:50 pm

I split books by these categories into various bookcases around the house:
History (Ancient, Middle Eastern, Indian subcontinent, Asian, East Asian)
History (Western European chronological, 20th century world)
History (North American, Native American, South American)
Policy (Economics, Environment, Politics, Policy)
Arts (Poetry, Music, Art)
Field guides, Nature writing, Essays, Gardening
Fiction, Social Sciences, Hard Sciences

I can't argue that this would make sense for anyone else's library, and it leaves some big gaps, but it does seem to keep books where I can find them.

Isn't it true that every system of information management must reflect an organizing question; some particularly flexible systems answer several different questions smoothly; but no system (in physical space) can handle all questions well.

Mar 7, 2009, 12:04 am

41 - Unfortunately, with books squished two and three deep into my shelves, I often can't find them without dismantling half the shelf ;D But what can you do? I only have one room in this house to cram my junk in!
I look forward to the day I graduate school, get my own place and my books can sprawl all over!!

Mar 7, 2009, 12:57 am

Hehe same here... in fact I think perhaps I'll make an auxiliary building to my main castle in which to store my awesome library! :-D

Editado: Mar 7, 2009, 2:05 am

I am now, in midlife, finally at a place of which before I had only dreamed.

I live at last in a place that can contain my books. I add shelves. And more shelves. And more. And more books.

I always believed a couple of things at least about books and shelves:

1. Anyone who claims to have read all his books either has very few, or is lying.

2. Books expand to fill the shelves available to accommodate them.

3. (Corollary to #2) Nature abhors an empty space on a book shelf.

I couldn't have known it before, but I am disproved.

And in what would seem libertine -- outright debauchery -- I now have space on my shelves for more books, all my books on shelves, and an plan for expansion when necessary. My life's ambitions are complete. I sleep the deep sleep of contentment. I awaken each morning to an improbable sufficiency. I pinch myself, throw water on my face. I look around, pick up a volume, take a sip of coffee. Life is good.

Mar 7, 2009, 1:26 am

Oh man... point #1 is so true :-) I have only have like 550 books, give or take but I'd be lying if I said I'd read them all cover to cover. I've read a lot of them obviously, but others I use as sources for papers and whatnot, and as such only read like a few chapters at a time here and there.

Mar 7, 2009, 8:24 am

#43: valkylee -- I like your spirit & hopes for the future! You are dealing with the space you have but are not abandoning the books to dark, scary inaccessible boxes! Good work!

#46 Feicht -- Your comment reminds me of the casual visitor who comes over my house and sniffs at my dozen crammed bookcases and kind of rolls their eyes and says "Did you read all these books?" Each passing year it becomes more difficult to delete the expletive that struggles to my lips. The visitor sometimes then attempts to create a commonality with me along the lines of a Vonnegutian "granfaloon" with a comment something along the lines of "You would get along great with my mother/aunt/cousin/etc. because he/she has all these Readers Digest Condensed Books or Danielle Steele paperbacks. I then put my hands behind my back to keep from throttling them (just kidding!)

Anyway, the point is that those of us who collect books don't necessarily read them all or read them all cover to cover. We collect because we love books & what they contain. Sometimes I find a book I have had on the shelves for years and pluck it down and read it thru. Other times, the book is there for reference or just to own it.

I think it is really cool that so many of you are so passionate about the way you organize (or don't organize) your books and I love this thread!

Mar 7, 2009, 12:31 pm

8-) So, so true!

Mar 17, 2009, 4:58 pm

Garp, anyone who says "did you read all these books" should be smiled at, and then politely shown the door (out). I mean, what is the point.**

**an exception may be made for children

Mar 17, 2009, 6:19 pm

As a person who's been swapping out space from trade PB fiction to history, what would you folks think the space ratio is between the two?

Two to one?

Three to one?


I can stack the PB fiction two deep and often on top of each other - that's impossible with almost all history except Penguin Classics - and I don't do that to them.

I suppose I could do that with Loeb too but they're too pretty.

Mar 19, 2009, 1:28 pm

I don't have much of a organization process, on one side i have my Chinese and Japanese histories and on the other my Greco-Roman with all my fiction books in the middle. For some reason Sino-Japanese History and Greco-Roman History are unfriendly in my head.

Mar 21, 2009, 10:54 pm

I used to be rather organized, now I fear there's no hope for me. I've divided my shelf space into what roughly translates into "fiction" and "non-fiction" and MOST of it is alphabetical according to the author's last name, but other than that it's anyone's game.

Plus, I no longer have any shelf space so I've been finding creative ways to stack books...and you don't really need any organization for that.

Mar 21, 2009, 11:03 pm

Just the other night the fiance and I got a free bookcase from her work and put it in our office. The first two shelves are fiction by author's last name, double stacked (two books deep). The remaining two shelves and the other bookshelf in here is all non-fiction by Library of Congress classification - my first time organizing my own library that way and I like it, for the most part.

Editado: Abr 2, 2009, 12:48 pm

I'm still decorating in 'early bookcase' and my divisions tend to be Fiction (mostly by author or series if there are multiple authors), Childrens/YA fiction, and 'everything else'.

Occasionally my 'everything else' gets sorted into historical period, philosophy, etc. I've been lucky enough to isolate the 'current events' material (American History) onto its own few bookcases.

Cookbooks and herbals are on a case by the kitchen.

But the books tender to wander and sometimes they get back to their 'home shelves' and other times not.

To me, it doesn't look like a proper room unless it has a bookcase or two...or many. (Bathrooms excluded due to humiidity concerns.)

I really need to enter more of my books on LT; it just takes away from the reading time though...

Abr 2, 2009, 9:50 am

My books are organized by Genre. However, since I got my kindle, its been easier to keep my physical books in order as I am not adding so many new ones to the shelves.
I try to rotate ones out to make room for the new ones but it is often too difficult to part with old friends.

I have genres like "Classics", "Best fiction of all", "general fiction to save", "History", "anthropology", travel" etc. The big problems are the sets that take up so much room. I confess these problem books are not that literary but are more like artifacts of my past lives. For example: 27 books by Louis L'Amour, and the full Mickey Spillane series. I can 't part with them but know I won't reread them.

Keeping track of Kindle Reads and other e-books has complicated things in my library as there is no pleasure in browsing through them like there is with my paper based books.
Cookbooks of course have a different home.

Abr 2, 2009, 12:47 pm

I mess with the same stuff so, how crazy could it be, right? Various books ARE interdisciplinary and always seem to be in the other category when you want to lay your hands on them.

The Aeneid, though, is in my Literature section. Seems right there.

Abr 2, 2009, 12:57 pm

A follow-up note. As I read through more of these responses, the point of having read/not read all the books you own comes up over and over. I have not.

I would be very nervous and uncomfortable if I went very many days without several "to reads" close at hand. It seems at least as important as having enough food in the house for the next few days.

Abr 2, 2009, 4:29 pm

I know what you mean!

In my mind I tell myself I'm going to eventually read every book I have at least once... but my rate of acquisition vastly outpaces possible rate of reading (for instance, having to buy 10-20 books for school every 4 months). Still, I think there's a strange sort of satisfaction in the knowledge that if I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat with the sudden urge to read up on the Cappadocians, I'll be ahead of the game :-D

Abr 2, 2009, 6:15 pm

Exactly! You said it, Feicht. One not only has to have a couple of books in reserve, but you have have a couple of cheap novels, humor books (like a David Sedaris), some nice mystery choices, history books on various periods, a couple of deep philosophers, something on politics.

Owning plenty of books you have not read isn't nuts! It's prudent.

Abr 2, 2009, 6:19 pm

Totally! In fact just the other day I was reflecting on how I don't have enough fiction to cover what I "might end up" feeling like reading on a whim one day, haha.

Editado: Abr 2, 2009, 8:36 pm

I buy books that I plan to read, books I might to read, books I plan to have on hand for reference and books I have no intention of reading but want to collect. I like books. I like to own books. I like to sit in my office and work or chill or read and be surrounded by books.

As I think I already said back in the thread, I hate when someone comes over who doesn't appreciate books and shakes his head and asks: "Have you read all these books?" Each year it is tougher and tougher not to say the wrong thing to someone who asks that so I usually just bite my tongue (till it bleeds).

Abr 2, 2009, 9:11 pm

Just remember that most people in this country can't even get through one book in a year.

Abr 2, 2009, 9:41 pm

I try not to remember that

Abr 2, 2009, 11:56 pm

I too acquire far more books than I can hope to read. That's OK. Books stand for a vast potential greater than my own existence or experience.

They are also memento mori, reminders that books will survive, though I will die.

I just need to stop the absurd calculations of how many more books I will read in my life, under a range of different assumptions :-D

Abr 3, 2009, 12:31 am

I have an unexplainable subliminal organization to my books.
At least most of them show the binder with the title beginning at the top :)

Upstairs is mostly non-fiction. I organize it in what I believe the time period would have been, at least for really old stuff. Then I have an entire shelf broken out for civil war. I have another couple of shelves for Native American history.

Downstairs is where I keep SF/F organized by author.

Another bookshelf contains all sorts of martial arts and combat type of books, and those get organized alphabetically by the martial arts name.

I just realized, I don't make any sense lol

Abr 6, 2009, 9:50 am

My wife likes to watch Home and Garden TV (HGTV) a lot, and I happened to be watching with her one evening when a designer told a young couple that their books would look a lot nicer on the shelf if all the dustcovers were removed and you just saw the cloth spine of the underlying book.

What do you all think of that idea? Tossing away the glossy paper dustcovers? I don't do that (although many of my books lost their covers along the way for one reason or another.) Does a library collectively "look" nicer (as home furnishing) if the books have no dustcovers?

Abr 6, 2009, 9:56 am

While I don't do it for looks, I do get rid of dust jackets. They're a pain to deal with.

Abr 6, 2009, 12:35 pm

For collectors, dust covers represent 75% of the value of the book, if that matters to you.

Designers, with all due respect, should never be allowed near a book collection! On the other hand, Loeb is probably still in business because silly rich people buy the entire collection to display the alternating red and green spines in properly accented alcoves, although they have no idea what is between the covers nor do they care.

Most of my book collection is not valuable, but to me the dustjacket is part of the identity of the book, so I won't part with it, even if it is ragged.

Naturally, to each his/her own. It's like highlighting -- they're your books so you have a right to do with them as you so choose. For myself, I handle my books with such scrupulous care that my non-reader friends poke fun at me because you cannot tell whether a book I own has ever been read!

Abr 6, 2009, 1:20 pm

I've heard of this "have you read all these books" question (maybe my modest 1,200 doesn't provoke questions like that). I never quite understood why people find it annoying; does anyone want to enlighten me?

Abr 6, 2009, 1:54 pm

I try not to be a "book snob" but probably am. About a month ago I was in some beautiful, new, huge home in a Dallas/Fort Worth suburb. The home belongs to "friends of friends" so I did not know them personally; will probably never be there again. But I happened to notice in their gigantic cathedral height ceiling family room some books along a shelf. Most of them were obviously law books (those appellate reporting series by West Publishing, mostly darker beige with a broad red title stripe on the spine.) Later I inquired as to the professional background of the couple and neither one has anything remotely to do with the practice of law. Now, it's possible one of them may have a beloved parent or grandparent who is a lawyer, but my guess is that the books were acquired for "their looks." But it strikes me as a strange type of thing to buy for design purposes - why not instead of lawbooks get one of those nice leather-bound "great books" collections?

It's actually amazing how many households seem to contain hardly any books. Just a few paperbacks by Vince Flynn or some such thing hanging around. I'd like to think that if I were not a reader or book-lover I'd be honest enough with myself to not have any books at all in the house rather than some ornamental books that I never look at.

Abr 6, 2009, 2:06 pm

I've spouted about this on other threads, but I've had real estate agents tell me that built-in bookcases are frowned upon by home buyers and make a house harder to sell. Then there was the interior decorator in Atlanta buying used books by the yard, regardless of content. Heartbreaking.

On a lighter note, all this talk about organization has me dragging stacks of books around the house in a as yet not quite determined scheme, much to the mystification of my best beloved.

Abr 6, 2009, 3:41 pm

Have hope; maybe they used libraries.

Abr 6, 2009, 4:34 pm

Cynara re #69 -- usually when someone asks "Have you read all these books?" there is a gentle implication that you have got to be out of your tree to clutter up all that wall space with so many books. There is an implied rolling of the eyes, as if this was the silliest thing anybody has ever seen.

Maybe it hasn't happaned to you because your friends are more enlightened. I have a couple of friends with book collections, but most people I know own hardly any books. I also know a lot of very intelligent people who almost never read, or if they do it is a business how-to/dhow-to/self-help/become a millionaire by best practices kind of book.

Abr 6, 2009, 7:46 pm

About the dust jackets... I will say I always thought it was funny that people started putting these on books to protect the cloth binding, but they are much, much less durable than the actual binding is :-D

Abr 6, 2009, 8:10 pm

Maybe I'm the exception but I've read almost all of my books - I'd say 80-90% - and at least thumbed through all of them. I get - not upset but unsettled maybe when I have unread books on my shelves. Right now I have probably 15 sitting there and work's been a beast lately so I haven't read much. No more than a book a week over the last couple of months. And I know I'll come back from Kalamazoo with at least another 30 or so. If I don't read a book I feel almost as if I've treated it like a child I don't have time for.

Now that I've proclaimed my wierdness, I don't worry about book covers one way or another though I am happy to have reached a stage in my life where I can buy more hardcovers rather than almost exclusively go with pb's.

Editado: Abr 6, 2009, 8:50 pm

>69 Cynara:
The question doesn't bother me at all; it makes me laugh. The questioner and I are living in different worlds. I am utterly misunderstood. I don't need to be understood by this person. And it gives me the chance, if I wish, to offer what I said above: Anyone who claims to have read all his books either has very few, or is lying. With the admirable exception of cemanuel, who proves the rule. And he said "almost".

Abr 7, 2009, 9:06 am

Ah. Thank you for the replies, especially yours, Garp. I've heard that Dr. Johnson (?) when faced with the same question would laugh and say "and many more, my friend, and many more."

Abr 7, 2009, 12:31 pm

The majority of my books are unread since once I've read them they generally leave my hands unless they are something I might read again, use for reference, are particularly valuable or signed.

Abr 16, 2009, 7:00 am

Firstly my books are ordered under a handful of major categrories - 1st, on my shelves:
Historical Atlases;
European & World Fiction;
European & World Non-Fiction Historical Handbooks included;
British Fiction;
British Non-Fiction;
American & Canadian Fiction;
American & Canadian Non-Fiction;
Science Fiction;
English Literature;
Australasian Australian & New Zealand;
Horror General;
Horror Vampire;
Small Specialised Collections Georgette Heyer, Ellis Peters, Dick Francis, etc;
Books Awaiting Reading

2nd, Boxed Collections for which I have no shelfspace:
Boxed British Non-Fiction;
Boxed American Non-Fiction;
Boxed British Mystery & Detective Fiction;
Boxed American Mystery & Detective Fiction;
Boxed European & World Books Fiction & Non-Fiction;

My shelved British, American, European/World Fiction and Non-Fiction books are sorted more-or-less in chronological order.

In case all this seems over-organised, I should add *(

Abr 16, 2009, 7:05 am

Firstly my books are ordered under a handful of major categrories - 1st, on my shelves:
Historical Atlases;
European & World Fiction;
European & World Non-Fiction (Historical Handbooks included);
British Fiction;
British Non-Fiction;
American & Canadian Fiction;
American & Canadian Non-Fiction;
Science Fiction;
English Literature;
Australasian (Australian & New Zealand);
Horror (General);
Horror (Vampire);
Small Specialised Collections (Georgette Heyer, Ellis Peters, Dick Francis, etc);
Books Awaiting Reading.

Secondly, Boxed Collections for which I have no shelfspace:
Boxed British Non-Fiction;
Boxed American Non-Fiction;
Boxed British Mystery & Detective Fiction;
Boxed American Mystery & Detective Fiction;
Boxed European & World Books (Fiction & Non-Fiction).

My shelved British, American, European/World Fiction and Non-Fiction books are sorted (more-or-less) in chronological order.

In case all this seems over-organised, I should add that there are exceptions and compromises.....

‘Aurélien Arkadiusz’

Abr 16, 2009, 4:39 pm

</b> Closing bold tag.

Abr 17, 2009, 8:36 pm

I am new to library thing, but I am hoping that I can organize using this site. I just wish that there was a location field so I could search for a book and find which box or pile it is in.

Abr 17, 2009, 8:41 pm

Welcome richardb! Just attach a location tag to each book as you catalog.

Abr 17, 2009, 8:47 pm

stellar explorer, thanks. I was thinking about the comment section, but a location tag is probably much more useful.

Abr 17, 2009, 9:42 pm

I wish I had done it when I was logging my books. I'm in danger of having to reshelve again.

Abr 17, 2009, 11:01 pm

I use Book Collector software also and that has a location field. I bet if we suggested adding that field to abby it could end up on a wish list and one day come to fruition.

I have not actually utilized the location field as much as I would like to, but I plan to go back and enter these later when I do the close check of each book I catalogued.

Abr 18, 2009, 1:09 am

Going back later seems to me a bridge much too far. It took me months to enter everything the first time. But I am losing track of books -- usually because I forget to shelve properly new books I've just read.

Abr 18, 2009, 9:52 am

When I entered my collection the first time in Book Collector (which I later uploaded to LT), I had never catalogued my books before so there were considerations I did not have in mind. I also was anxious to get the project completed, so all of the details for each book (ISBN, edition, etc.) are not necesarily correct. So in my case, I planned on going thru again one day anyway. But I like the "bridge too far" imagery ...

Abr 18, 2009, 10:44 am

I still haven't adequately "catelogued" my books on LT. I started at one point but realized halfway through that I wasn't giving the categories consistent names since I broke it up into chunks, and since then I haven't had the impetus to fix it or organize more :-)

Abr 18, 2009, 12:15 pm

Well I have started with a location tag coding - which location tag coding nomenclature will evolve as the project progresses.

I have also just started applying my tags, which will be kept simple as possible - greece, rome, greek, hebrew, judaism, theology, NT, OT, ancient near east, philosophy, math, physics, business, sales, maybe a couple but (not many) others.

Thanks for the suggestions.


Editado: Abr 18, 2009, 9:21 pm

This thread inspired me - I just tagged the heck out of my books. Not sure if that makes things more or less confusing.

EDIT: I'll mention that I'm a bit surprised nobody's ever used the tag Ostrogoth before - do you have any idea what you get when you search for Goth?

Abr 19, 2009, 9:17 am

Tags are probably the last I will add to my collection, if only because the books are currently physically arranged thematically on my shelves already.

Abr 19, 2009, 10:56 am

Mine are also shelved thematically, but tagging has been incredibly useful. I couldn't get an easy handle on "cross-cultural contacts" or "unexpected visual treasures", for example, from shelving alone. Tags rock!

Abr 19, 2009, 12:21 pm

I know where they are on my shelves - just decided to help anyone who wanted to do a topical search (including myself when the numbers eventually grow). And of course there's always the chance (unlikely but it exists) I might decide to enter the thousand or so fiction books I have.

Tags are pretty useful - I go through similar libraries and use the history tags to add to my wish list. The least I can do is let other people do the same.

Abr 19, 2009, 12:27 pm

OK guys -- I was just trying to talk myself out of any additional work when I edit my catalog again. I guess I lose. Thanks!! (lol)

Abr 23, 2009, 4:21 pm

Tags are fun because they let you see weird cross-currents in your collection. Sometimes I find myself staring blankly at a tag thinking "I have five books set in Paris? Oh, there we go - Perfume, The Innocents Abroad, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1, February House, and A Coffin for Dimitrios. No, that's not right, I have to add the Poe collection for The Murders in the Rue Morgue."

I have favourite ones in my collection - "rampant man-child nostalgia" is for my husband's Transformers books, but "separate school system" or "domestic service" brings up an interesting pot-pourri, as does "pig husbandry". Some tags are wistfully waiting for a second use, like "deep-fry" or "cheese".

Jan 11, 2010, 10:37 am

I have one case for Greek/Latin sources, double stacked in piles on the shelves. In my bedroom, I have three Ikea Billy cases. The middle shelf has dictionaries as it is the strongest. Other shelves tend to be themed - Greek composition/Prosody, Ancient Historiography/Research methods, Hellenistic history, Late Antique Middle Eastern history, Iran, Arabic, Other Semitic languages, Poetry, two shelves of modern and mediaeval languages, a shelf on Greek Theatre/Poetry. Within each shelf there's no order. My other four cases are in the sitting-room; my folios sit on one (Thesaurus Syriacus and Lane) bottom shelf, I have one case devoted to ancient rhetoric and philosophy, another to Late Antiquity. The third is general works and on the fourth - on the fourth I let my flatmate keep a few books on two shelves (above the folios). The rest are either in piles on my bedroom floor, in boxes on the sitting-room floor or (for current projects) they are on a small case on my desk. The rest (most of the Arabic/Persian/Hebrew/Turkish, most of my Greek theatre, and most general literature - 2-3000 volumes) are in storage.

As to order, there's no order within the shelf, but if they are shelved they are shelved thematically. If a shelf contains Greek composition and Prosody, the two areas will be separate.

The boxed books are about to be catalogued as being in a specific box. Then perhaps I can put some in store and get some back out!

Jan 11, 2010, 11:10 am

I've had to expand into my living room, which bothered me - I have 6 bookcases in my office and can roll to any of them in my chair (kudos to whoever invented the wheel!).

But I have a lot of fairly old stuff with really nice bindings or reference material I know I won't have to get to very often, so that went in the LR - stuff like Gibbon, Aquinas' Summa Theologica, Mommsen, Foxe's Book of the Martyrs, Churchill's A History of the English Speaking Peoples, etc.

People will sit in my living room and think I'm smart!

Or pretentious. (:

A lot of the more recent books I have are pb. The living room set is purtier.

Fev 21, 2010, 2:14 pm

I like to think that I keep my shelves organized... Whenever I get a stack of new books at the use bookshop, I find putting them in their new places almost as good as finding them.

Most of my books are fiction, which I keep in its own section. All of my fiction books are organized alphabetically by the author's last name.
For me, fiction also includes poetry and plays. I've debated separating them numerous times, but so far, my copies of Complete Oscar Wilde have stayed right next to The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Next, I have sections for: Philosophy (organized by author), History (organized by time period, earliest to most recent), Language (organized by language), Travel & Geography (organized by country), Art & Architecture (not organized!!), Biographies (organized by subject's last name), Photography (organized by subject of the photos), and Random & Other (organized by author).

I also have a space on my antique bookshelf for all of my vintage books. They aren't organized, except by size, because I think that they look nicest that way.

However, all of that stuff going on amidst the actual shelves isn't really where my REAL obsessive organization lies... It's on my computer.

I have an enormous database on my computer in which I have a detailed list of every book I own, and every book I have read (I've kept a hand-written list of everything I've read since I was 10. Other than that, it's just what I keep remembering...).

Maybe all of that is weird. But I love how it makes me feel like a librarian - of only books that I like. :)

Fev 21, 2010, 6:52 pm

JOn -- In addition to LT I use Book Collector software from for my PC book database. What do you use?

Fev 21, 2010, 8:27 pm

I agree that the shelving and classifying decisions are a big part of the pleasure of having books.

Fev 22, 2010, 4:56 am


You need to get a couple of glass-fronted bookcases in the LR. Nice books look even better behind glass. Mine, though, are going more and more into boxes.


Maio 18, 2010, 11:24 am

Well, with my recent purchases from K'zoo - you can read about that on this thread: - it's on to the next phase of my book storage.

I have two options. One is to re-arrange my living room. The only empty wall space in my house (the rest either has a window, outlet, or is next to a heating duct) is behind my couch. I have a nice painting I'd have to take down (or hide with a bookcase) but ya gotta have priorities.

There's a second choice. My living space goes with the "open system" - kitchen to dining to living room. I have a counter between the kitchen and everything else but the living/dining is delineated by carpet (living room) and hardwood floor (dining). I could separate my living and dining rooms by putting up a row of bookcases, set back-to-back. There may be issues with heating one of the rooms if I walled 'em off from one another too much. I also need to check my basement and possibly put a support under the middle of the floor beam.

Decisions, decisions . . .

Maio 18, 2010, 5:56 pm


Editado: Maio 19, 2010, 7:05 pm

I have just read this entire thread and it is entertaining, enlightening, and inspirational. I will follow the advice of cemanuel and change my Goths tags to Ostrogoths and Visigoths though I may not have any Visigoths any more since I gave away my Spanish History collection when I downsized from a house. I also will strive harder to emulate cemanuel's example of keeping up with reading new acquisitions. To do it, though, I will have to discipline my acquiring habits.

I have at one time or another tried almost all the above methods of organization. I have a very eclectic library and always overclassify, so when I go by category I tend to forget the categories, especially when putting books away, which defeats the purpose. Doing the whole library alphabetically by author regardless of category works well, except a lot of my books have authors whose names don't immediately (or ever) spring to mind, making them hard to find. Alphabetically by title is a little better, but not much, especially as my memory for such things starts to slip. It also seems to amuse guests. I think I am next going to try shelving by physical appearance (shape, size, color, type of binding, etc.) because I find that I remember the look and feel of a book better than other details and can eyeball a bookcase pretty fast.

If I can ever get my books cataloged, the tagging functions of LT will supply the lack of categoried shelving. And be much easier to change at whim. It takes me about an hour per book to catalog since I start looking at the book and one thing leads to another and an hour or two is gone. The main advantage of tags for me is the ability to generate reading lists by ad hoc criteria. Like Cynara's "set in Paris" list @96. A boolean tag search ability would be a help with this, though it can be worked around. The advantage of not reading all my new acquisitions is that when I generate an ad hoc reading list there are always some books on it I haven't read.

I had a home-grown Microsoft Access database I developed and used for years, but gave it up because I am very negligent about backup, and it was getting inflexible and difficult to modify. LT is not perfect but is more feature-rich (jargon, jargon) than what I had.

When people with a cynical attitude ask me whether I have read all my books, I just say yes. The Lord will forgive me.

Maio 19, 2010, 9:34 pm

I am fond of saying that anyone who claims to have read all his books either has very few or is lying.

Maio 19, 2010, 9:42 pm

But then my wife asks the reason I buy more books if I will never read all the books I already have.

Obstinate woman.

Maio 19, 2010, 10:03 pm

Things ok at home?

Maio 19, 2010, 10:11 pm

As long as everyone keeps #107 as our little secret.

Maio 19, 2010, 10:29 pm

Mum's the word. I hope it doesn't stop you from buying.

Maio 21, 2010, 11:17 am

I read somewhere that you cannot die as long as you have books left unread. Hope springs eternal.

Maio 21, 2010, 11:28 am

But I just finished my last bo.......aaaaaaaagh....

Maio 21, 2010, 12:35 pm

Wait he wouldn't go to the trouble to spell out "aaaaaaagh", he'd just say it!

Maio 21, 2010, 12:46 pm

Maio 21, 2010, 1:19 pm

Wait he wouldn't go to the trouble to spell out "aaaaaaagh", he'd just say it!

No, "aaaaaaagh" is the name of the book. Didn't touchstone for some reason.

(I don't recall this dialogue quite as well as the "Strange women tossing swords about is no basis for a system of government" scene)

Maio 21, 2010, 1:27 pm

It reads, "Here may be found..."...the last words of Joseph of Arimathea:"'He who is valiant and pure of spirit..."'...may find the Holy Grail..."' the Castle of Aaargh."'What?"The Castle of Aaargh."What is that?He must have died while carving it.-Come on!-That's what it says.Look, if he was dying,he wouldn't bother to carve "Aaargh."-He'd just say it.-That's what's carved in the rock.-Perhaps he was dictating it.

Maio 21, 2010, 1:52 pm

Maybe stellar will come back. Maybe we should quickly send one of our books that is not catalogued yet.

My wife would volunteer one of my books

Maio 21, 2010, 10:14 pm

In three days, I will rise to read again. Charles Lamb will lie down with The Last Lion.

Maio 22, 2010, 2:03 am

on Broadway?

Maio 22, 2010, 2:37 am

And will Mary Lamb lie down with Mrs. Thatcher?

(Hide the knives!)

Jun 28, 2010, 8:43 pm

I TRY to organize by books by topic.
General Biblical Studies
Old Testament Studies
Old Testament Commentaries by canonical book order
Deutero-canonical/apocryphal books
New Testament Studies
New Testament Commentaries by canonical book order

As for fiction, they are all over the place and I tend to get rid of them after reading them. I offer them to family members first and then they go to the library.

I also try to thin my non-fiction books every five years or so. I ask myself "Am I likely to use this book again?" If the answer is know I offer it to colleagues first and then to the library.

On my ebook readers and calibre I depend on tags, etc.

Fev 14, 2011, 11:44 am

Well, my library was organized, but due to space limitations on the shelves, that is not the case anymore. I had mine organized by cultural region, for example, anatolia, mesopotamia, egypt, mesoamerica, etc.

Fev 15, 2011, 5:33 am

Welcome aboard!

Editado: Fev 17, 2011, 10:02 pm

How do I organize my books? Easy! My books are organized very neatly in boxes in my basement. That is except for one bookcase in the living room which is overflowing. I try to start piles of books on end tables, the coffee table, and the dinner table. I tell my wife I'm showing interest in decorating the house but she's not buying it. The books rest there beautifully on the table for days on end until my she carries out her unscheduled (but not unexpected) search and seizure mission. She ruthlessly sweeps them up and piles them on the one space I need to keep organized for wallet, car keys, etc, and thus I'm forced to purchase yet another box -- because the boxes must match -- to pack them away. See, I told you my books were organized!

Fev 17, 2011, 10:45 pm

Oh, Dear God!

"the boxes must match"

Editado: Fev 17, 2011, 10:56 pm

Why, yes, I do have a touch of OCD. Why do you ask?

Okay, let me explain. I get the heavy-duty bankers boxes from the office supply store because (1), the cardboard is heavy duty, (2), the boxes have handles making them easier to move, and, (3) even when the boxes are full they aren't too heavy.

Fev 18, 2011, 3:14 pm

125 >

Boxes of uniform size stack ever so much better than ones of random size. What's your point?

(Looking at the 50 boxes in the storage unit ... )

Fev 18, 2011, 5:25 pm


Fev 27, 2011, 8:42 pm

#124 - Be careful putting books in the basement, I ad an unfortunate experience involving a basement, boxes of books, and water. I use Rubbermaid containers for the bottom level of the pile now.

Fev 27, 2011, 9:41 pm

I don't know what possessed me to have shelved my archeology section on the second floor of my house, and history on the first. Maybe it was intended to be part of an exercise program?

Fev 28, 2011, 1:47 am

Haha good thinking

Fev 28, 2011, 9:43 am

The books are getting restless and out of control; the lines between fiction, fantasy, and genre fiction are getting blurred, memoir and non-fic are turning up everywhere, and I'm getting concerned about shelf space again. It will soon be time for a reassessment - maybe even a major reshuffling. Wish me luck. And dustcloths.

Editado: Fev 28, 2011, 10:00 am

Wishing you dustcloths (oh, and luck). ;-)

Fev 28, 2011, 10:18 am

>132 Cynara: That's what's the matter! My books are restless!

Fev 28, 2011, 3:51 pm

I know things about my bookshelves: they hold exactly the number of books that go into a beer box or a whisky box or a wine box depending on the shelf.

I organize by move. It is a thing I have done at least once a year for longer than I think is a good idea, but it's got my books organized into shelves of poetry (with a few crossover titles - Classics, mythology, etc), readable fiction (I don't know why I bother with this one as I do not own unreadable fiction anymore, but old habits die hard) and then all of the non-fiction that seems to be organized by usefulness and than alpha by author's last name. I have no idea how to explain 'usefulness' though.

I've got these subcategories going of late: urban studies, Native American studies, graphic novels (because I buy trades which are all the same size ;-) ), etc.

Also, there is always a totally uncataloged shelf - one that holds books just because I put them there because they are new to my collection, or I was reading one during breakfast last Sunday afternoon, or it looked more interesting than waiting (again) for Netflix to want to play Carl Sagan for me. It is my favorite shelf.

I find shelf space where none means to exist, and yet - horizontal surface, you are mine!!!

(this thread makes me very happy)

Fev 28, 2011, 7:37 pm

>135 WaxPoetic: horizontal surface, you are mine!!!

Yea, I tried that but my wife disagreed. Somehow they end up on my side of the bed so I have to do something with them if I want to sleep -- which is one of my favorite things to do.

Fev 28, 2011, 10:16 pm

#135 -- I also have an uncategorized shelf! It contains what I'm currently reading and a revolving collection of new add's and current interests.

Mar 1, 2011, 6:33 am

#136 - Somehow they end up on my side of the bed so I have to do something with them ...

Hah! That's absolutely brilliant thinking - your wife should have been a general (er ... I'm assuming she isn't?).

Mar 1, 2011, 11:04 am

>138 alaudacorax: No, my wife is REALLY in charge so more like a Sergeant Major. Sigh... excuse me while I get back to peeling potatoes. ;-)

Mar 2, 2011, 1:51 pm

#136 - I find that I move books from the endtable to the other side of the bed and back again every morning and every night. The cats don't seem to notice as they sleep on my feet, but that might be an issue if I ever share the sleeping again.

My desk seems to be the space that experiences the most, um, disorganization? Yeah.

Jan 9, 2012, 10:55 pm

About 4-5 years ago when my library was in the 100 books or so range I wrote down every type of book I had, cut it out like labels, and played with moving them around in different orders until I found an order that worked with the inevitable lover-lap as much as possible. It's not perfect but it's worked for me quite well ever since. The first half is fiction and the second half is non-fiction, though I find it strange that 90% of it isn't non-fiction as that's almost all I read. Anne Rice (I collected these when I was 16, don't make fun of me) goes into chick lit (free is free), then sort of "guy lit" like Chuck Pahlaniuk, and Hunter S. Thompson, then children's books, then French books, classics, horror, ghost stories where it very gradually goes into non-fiction - paranormal studies and cryptozoology, myths and legends, religion and spirituality, death, and here's where I have an issue as history comes next and is driving me crazy. Right now it's by geography, starting with European History. The Great Mortality is the book that segues death into history so this is why I started with European history. Then British history, French history, American history, and world history by subject which goes into general non-fiction. Then my biographies are chronological by birth, followed by lifestyles, fashion, sex, humor with a sub-category in modern politics, and finally reference.
I'm sure my library is kind of a joke compared to all of yours lol.

Jan 9, 2012, 11:05 pm

The fact that you have an organizational schema with a considered rationale speaks well of you, PennyDreadful4.

Editado: Jan 10, 2012, 4:25 am

#76- Thank you for mentioning this, really. I know very few people who collect books like I do, so I didn't know how normal this was, though I suspected as much. It always did bother me that I've only read about 75% of my collection, but with so many to choose from, some just keep getting pushed down on the list.

Editado: Jan 10, 2012, 2:01 am

I've given a lot of thought to my shelving organization too. (post #13). I find organizing my books very satisfying. More so when I have adequate shelf space!

No one who owns many books has read them all. Many with large collections love the collecting and have read only a minority of their holdings. Only people who have few books have read them all.

Jan 10, 2012, 6:40 pm

>143 PennyDreadful4:, Why be normal?

Jan 11, 2012, 8:59 pm

Nothing angers me more than when some random brainless visitor to my home -- say, during a party, for example -- wanders past my bookcases and asks, in a smarmy tone, "So, have you read all of these books?"

Fuck you! But I just smile and shake my head.

Number two is when someone says "You would really get along great with my Mom -- she has hundreds of those Reader's Digest Condensed Books . . ."

As for organization, I love doing it, although I would never share that with the two visitors above. My wife calls it "playing with books." I recently got back from the AIA Conference in Philly where I raided the publisher vendor stalls for vastly discounted tomes and came home with a suitcase full of new books. I was forced to do a major book move and relocate "Roman History" to a completely different shelf system. It was ... wonderful .....LOL

Editado: Jan 11, 2012, 10:00 pm

But the 'have you read all your books' can be answered positively by some people - some people are disciplined enough to read and absorb everything they buy. It takes far more discipline in buying (or perhaps fewer sources of books) than I have.
Still, the question is annoying, but you know that a bookish person wouldn't ask it, just check out the titles. A non-bookish person is a bit in awe and tends to ask the question as a filler, not knowing what to ask or say. Forgive them - they know not what they do.

Jan 11, 2012, 10:15 pm

shikari, are you saying you actually know someone who has many many books and has read them all? I have never met such a person, and if I did, I would certainly feel that this is a person with too few books.

I think it is important to have unread treasures just waiting for the right moment -- be it tomorrow or ten years from now.

Editado: Jan 11, 2012, 11:47 pm

I think I do (but haven't asked the question directly - after all, it is taboo for the libraried, isn't it!) but it's not how I myself could operate. And people's circumsrances differ. When I was a f/t grad student, for example, I bought nothing I didn't read at once. As a p/t grad student a few years later, by contrast, I bought everything but reading fell to a proportion. And the difference was a combination of access to a good library and money. The first time I was reading myself out in my subject and doing lots of exploratory reading in the stacks rather than at home. The second time I had a better library but without borrowing rights and I did have an income, and the temptation to buy was too high. Plus the supply of books had improved (Oxford rather than Durham).

Jan 12, 2012, 1:40 pm

Who was it (Samuel Johnson?) who, when asked if he had read all his books would reply "and many others, my good sir!" You might try that.

Jan 12, 2012, 1:42 pm

I have read probably 97% of my collection, mostly because my reading outstrips my book budget. Most of the unread books are either reference books or ones that were given or lent to my by a friend or relative. "Oh... thank you... I was just wanting to read a depressing, unsolicited novel, which was self-published by your friend...."

Jan 12, 2012, 2:56 pm

Like with most things, there is no rule we must abide by, but like Stellar I own many, many more books than I have read. And I keep buying!

Jan 12, 2012, 7:46 pm

>151 Cynara:: My aunt is a librarian so I get a number of uncorrected proofs from her. I've only ever really sat down and read through a handful of them though, so I suppose it's kind of similar to your example :-D One day maybe...

Jan 13, 2012, 5:13 am

I too am completely obsessed with organization. It even distracts me from reading itself, so I think I may have a problem lol. It's not just a compulsion, I really LOVE it. I love moving things around to fit in a better place, I'm even happy my favorite subjects tend to be at the end of the order so in order to make room for new books I have to shuffle almost the entire collection to the left. It's so unbelievably satisfying. I even went through a handmedown set of my husband's hunting for things I could stick on my shelves, so I could play with them and the set would be more complete. Why or why did I not become a librarian!!

Jan 13, 2012, 10:23 am

I dream of a new home. I install the luxurious and excessive boookshelves first, and then begin again with my shelving. This time there is ample room for any system I wish to try. It is one of the pinnacles of my life.

Jan 13, 2012, 6:28 pm

#155 Stellar, I am twisted as you are! My dream too ...

Jan 13, 2012, 6:53 pm

I went through a phase last year when I was designing straw-bale houses with big fireplaces, deep window seats, and ranks of bookshelves (as well as a library).

Jan 14, 2012, 12:49 am

What you need, stellaexplorer, is St Deniols, Gladstone's residential library ( Indeed Gladstone invented the rolling bookcase for his library!

Jan 14, 2012, 11:28 am

>158 shikari: Indeed that would do nicely!

Jan 15, 2012, 9:10 pm

158, indeed, I'll just place a cot in the stacks and be in my happy place.

Jan 15, 2012, 9:13 pm

>160 pmackey: Not necessary pmackey. I'm sure I could find you modest quarters of your own ;)

Jan 16, 2012, 6:14 am

I organize mine by general topics (childrens, language, cultural,etc...) each having their own bookcase. Then I organize my books by height, then alphabetical by title, then by series (prequels, sequels, multiple volumes). I remember visually the look an d approximate size of my books so when I think of them I rarely think of the name but what the cover looked like. I use to actually read every book I owned (not including reference texts like dictionaries, the atlas and thesaurus). After having kids I can still say that about the childrens books we own but my own books... I'm luck if I can find the time to flip through a few pages usually.

Jan 17, 2012, 1:48 pm

I've got mine now really into a good order split over 6 or so IKEA Billy with top and 2 extra shelves in most. It's mostly Dewey- which took a huge effort of checking and measuring as I've got them in a spreadsheet to sort faster- but I don't like the 813/823 splits which are not even correct for all authors so that is all bundled together as Fiction. Book heights sizes mean it can't quite be laid out exactly in order but I've got some really good blocked groups now, all authors with only very few exceptions are together and it's mostly alphabetical. I think colour-sorted looks stunning but I could never do that to my books.

Editado: Jan 17, 2012, 10:02 pm

>163 C4RO: "I think colour-sorted looks stunning but I could never do that to my books."

I am reading the delightful gem, a love letter to reading, by Anne Fadiman, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. This excerpt is germane:

"Some friends of theirs had rented their house for several months to an interior decorator. When they returned, they discovered that their entire library had been reorganized by color and size. Shortly thereafter, the decorator met with a fatal automobile accident. I confess that when this story was told, everyone around the dinner table concurred that justice had been served."

Jan 17, 2012, 11:20 pm

>164 stellarexplorer:

I did organize my books by color once; it was actually slightly practical, as I found I could often remember the color of a book I was looking for even if I couldn't remember the title, author, or even the subject. I started from black through red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet and ended up with white. Unfortunately, there were unsightly gaps where the infrared and ultraviolet books were kept, and once it took one off the shelf and laid it down somewhere I could never find it again.

Jan 18, 2012, 10:58 am

I'm finding the idea of the colour-organization concept deliciously transgressive. What if I busted up my long-used system and tried it?

Of course, I would probably discover that I don't have shelf space for all my books. Right now, I'm just telling myself that I'm untidy so I don't have to face the facts.

Editado: Jan 18, 2012, 11:03 am

I've been thinking of trying to arrange by publisher one year if I'm ever feeling ambitious with a lot of time on my hands.

Jan 18, 2012, 11:09 am

Also: I see that about 10.5 months ago, I was fretting about shelf space, book organization, and dust. Here I am again. There's a point in the new year when you realize that since you last rejigged your book organization, you've fallen in love with two separate series which, taken together, add at least 18 inches to your shelving needs. Something has to go. Dustcloths and a vicious purge are in order.

Jan 18, 2012, 12:02 pm

No, no: shelving must grow with the person. Some how, some way. To do other is to cut off one's limb. Except for mildewed paperbacks from the '60s.

Jan 18, 2012, 12:11 pm

If only apartment space could grow with the person, too.

Jan 18, 2012, 2:11 pm

That need must drive the future!

Jan 18, 2012, 5:10 pm

I'm thinking of expanding my house into the fourth dimension to provide more room for books. Not only that, I could read them without having to take them off the shelves. Try and do that with a Kindle. Of course, there are some minor technical problems to overcome first.

Jan 18, 2012, 7:07 pm


"Libraries, nature of.

Even big collections of ordinary books distort space and time, as can readily be proved by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned second-hand bookshop, one of those that has more staircases than storeys and those rows of shelves that end in little doors that are surely too small for a full sized human to enter.

The relevant equation is Knowledge = Power = Energy = Matter = Mass; a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read. Mass distorts space into polyfractal L-space, in which Everywhere is also Everywhere Else.

All libraries are connected in L-space by the bookwormholes created by the strong space-time distortions found in any large collection of books. Only a very few librarians learn the secret, and there are inflexible rules about making use of the fact - because it amounts to time travel.

The three rules of the Librarians of Time and Space are: (1) Silence; (2) Books must be returned no later than the last date shown, and (3) the nature of causality must not be interfered with."

Jan 18, 2012, 11:44 pm

Bookwormholes: well done!

Jan 19, 2012, 12:00 am

I'm thinking of expanding my house into the fourth dimension to provide more room for books. Not only that, I could read them without having to take them off the shelves. Try and do that with a Kindle. Of course, there are some minor technical problems to overcome first.

You have to be careful doing that ... see Heinlein's cautionary tale, And He Built a Crooked House :)

Jan 19, 2012, 8:22 am

on the question of reading all your books I have two lovely quotes -

"Book collecting is a full-time occupation, and one wouldn't get far if one took time off for frivolities like reading" - A.N.L. Munby

"It has been said that man is distinguished from animal in that he buys more books than he can read." - Edward Lasker

This is a lovely thread, and I'm glad to have stumbled in.
A quick count of my active bookcases is 22, with an additional shelf in the kitchen and use of the living room mantel. There is certainly a method to my shelving but it is not as simple as one type per case. It's more a cluster-of-fit method. Most bookcases allow tall books below, sizing down as you ascend; thus requiring certain collections be seperated for sizing. However, I can generally put my hands on any title within just a minute or two.

L-space seems related to the trans-dimensional closet I installed. But I reserve that for all of the OTHER stuff I can't part with. My books are my friends, and not to be shut away.

Jan 19, 2012, 11:16 am

I'm running into the space issue at my apartment now... my shelves are full and I've started piles of books on various flat surfaces now in my bedroom. I share the apartment with 3 other people so I'm kind of reticent to put up a bookcase in the common area... it's not that I don't trust them or anything (we're not exactly the partying crowd) it's just that I'd kind of feel like I was intruding on everyone else's space, and if I did expand out there, I feel like it could spiral out of control in a hurry.

Of course this isn't even taking into account the hundreds of other volumes I left back at my parents' house... those might have to remain there until I "permanently move" somewhere... although only the gods know when that might be.

Jan 21, 2012, 8:59 pm

I was at a client's the other day who had a fairly decent array of books but I was strick by the fact that his fiction was arranged strictly by author. He had several sets (Harvard Classics, etc.) jarringly broken up by this method. When I told him I arranged fiction and literature by srts and eras he looked as if he had been struck by lightening . . . like it had never occurred to him to do it any other way.

Funny, isn't it? Each of us arrange our books as best suits us. It typically would never occur to us to do it any other way ...

Jan 21, 2012, 9:21 pm

And he was unremarkable in every other observed way?

Jan 21, 2012, 11:49 pm

Stumbled on this lovely message. I re-organized "my" books ("my" in quotes as it excludes books owned by ther other 3 members of the household) mid-year last year and found myself to have ~1,500 books. The organization is trying to be as single-dimensional as possible - the critieria I ended up using is "date". For books about something that happened historically, dates is tagged to the end date of what the book is about; and for books for which the main point is not about something historical, the date is either the death date of the author (if it is a "big name" authors), and for other authors (whose death date is not known) or for living authors, the date is when the book was published. It served me well in general, though there were a couple of times that it literally took me weeks before I actually found the book I want.

Jan 22, 2012, 7:34 pm

#179 Many of my clients look like as if they had been struck by lightening when I fill them in on something incredibly obvious to me, so I no longer can easily determine if they are "unremarkable in every other observed way" LOL

Editado: Jan 25, 2012, 12:03 pm

Just passing by ...

#144, 148"shikari, are you saying you actually know someone who has many many books and has read them all? I have never met such a person, and if I did, I would certainly feel that this is a person with too few books.

My TBR pile is always tiny, less than 10 books at a time. Yet I wouldn't call my book ownership small. It certainly isn't as large as many LTers or as big as it could or will be, But I have read all my fiction and as much of my non-fiction as is directly readable (rather than references).

The 'trick' is restraint. I don't buy any books unless I have time to read them.

And the fiction is currently sorted by colour. Works for me.

Jan 25, 2012, 5:07 pm

182, What is this "restraint" of which you speak and where may I purchase it (in vast quantities)? ; )

Unfortunately, restraint would mean buying no more new books until, a) I get a bigger house, or b) kick the children and the wife out of the current house, or c) switch all my books to my Kindle. None of those choices are acceptable, therefore I must accept that my collection will continue to expand and spill over every flat surface I can beg from the Ms. Keeper of Spaces.

The only restraint I show with books is a result of limited discretionary money.

Jan 25, 2012, 5:38 pm

In my personal collection I have limited space so I usually just organize by size- but as far as categories on this site I've organized by Classics, (generic) Archaeology, Egyptology (which has its own shelf), and languages. Granted most of this organization comes from the classes I took in college so I try to organize them accordingly with the exception of Linguistics which is where I just toss all of the random language dictionaries and books I have including Italian, German, Greek, Latin, Ancient Near Eastern Languages, Middle Egyptian, etc.

Jan 26, 2012, 9:59 am

#184 Wow ... how many languages have you learnt?

Jan 26, 2012, 6:40 pm

Well, inspired by all the suggestions here I set out to organize my books. They are now on strike for better shelf conditions and an insurance plan that will pay for rebinding.

Jan 26, 2012, 7:20 pm

On the "TBR" pile and on unread books and on our 'mortality'

I have always loved this Poem. So with forbearance

Of all the streets that blur in to the sunset,
There must be one (which, I am not sure)
That I by now have walked for the last time
Without guessing it, the pawn of that Someone

Who fixes in advance omnipotent laws,
Sets up a secret and unwavering scale
for all the shadows, dreams, and forms
Woven into the texture of this life.

If there is a limit to all things and a measure
And a last time and nothing more and forgetfulness,
Who will tell us to whom in this house
We without knowing it have said farewell?

Through the dawning window night withdraws
And among the stacked books which throw
Irregular shadows on the dim table,
There must be one which I will never read.

There is in the South more than one worn gate,
With its cement urns and planted cactus,
Which is already forbidden to my entry,
Inaccessible, as in a lithograph.

There is a door you have closed forever
And some mirror is expecting you in vain;
To you the crossroads seem wide open,
Yet watching you, four-faced, is a Janus.

There is among all your memories one
Which has now been lost beyond recall.
You will not be seen going down to that fountain
Neither by white sun nor by yellow moon.

You will never recapture what the Persian
Said in his language woven with birds and roses,
When, in the sunset, before the light disperses,
You wish to give words to unforgettable things.

And the steadily flowing Rhone and the lake,
All that vast yesterday over which today I bend?
They will be as lost as Carthage,
Scourged by the Romans with fire and salt.

At dawn I seem to hear the turbulent
Murmur of crowds milling and fading away;
They are all I have been loved by, forgotten by;
Space, time, and Borges now are leaving me.

Jorge Luis Borges

Jan 27, 2012, 1:34 am

That is a fantastic poem, guido -- thank you! I think about that stuff all the time.

Jan 28, 2012, 6:02 pm

My girlfriend and I just moved into a house together, so she took the front bedroom as her library. I built a bunch of bookshelves and she arrainged all of her books in chronological order.
She's now reading every single one and blogging about them. She's on Great Expectations right now. This is gonna take years.
I still don't have all my books unpacked. There's no more wall space for the shelves!

Jan 28, 2012, 6:07 pm

#189 what's her blog link?

Jan 28, 2012, 6:23 pm
She's grading them too.
She's a tough grader.

Jan 28, 2012, 6:41 pm

Yeah, so far not one evaluation that wold make you want to read the book.

Jan 28, 2012, 7:16 pm

Has she considered reading books she's never read before?

Jan 28, 2012, 11:42 pm

And therefore has at least a chance of liking?

Jan 29, 2012, 7:16 am

Her reviews are intelligent and worth reading, though. My main reaction was that I would kill whoever thought that abridging David Copperfield was a good idea.

Jan 29, 2012, 11:19 am

#195 Yes why would anyone abridge David Copperfield?

Re the review: I would note that the use of clever names in David Copperfield is part of the beauty of the book ...

Jan 29, 2012, 9:09 pm

No aspersions meant cast upon the actual reviews!

Jan 30, 2012, 4:31 pm

Wow, I love her blog. I read my books similarly - chronologically down the shelves (organized by author's last name). I have been using this method for nearly 2 years now and am at the letter P. After I finish, I will go back to A and start over again, as I am always buying plenty of new volumes.
Now that I have started this organized way of reading through my library, I don't think I will ever change it. I love schedules of any sort, and portions of time divided into circles fascinate me. Reading my books this way has led me to a lot of unexpected gems that I most likely wouldn't have gotten around to reading by choice for a couple decades, if ever...

I skip over the books I have already read (with a few exceptions) and also try not to overload on one author all at once. For example, I have about 10 Charles Dickens that I haven't read yet, but the thought of spending 2 weeks reading them exclusively and all at once seemed as if it would be, for some reason, an insult to his work.

Jan 30, 2012, 4:55 pm

#198 Interesting method. I read too much non-fiction (which is slower going, of course) to go by author, but I suppose for fiction it must be fine. I am impressed by the amount of reading you can fit it -- if you could really read ten Dickens novels in two weeks then you really have a prodigious appetite for literature indeed!

Jan 30, 2012, 5:08 pm

#198 - i use a similar method, but only book by book, so that i will read one novel by an author whose surname begins with A, one with a surname beginning with B and so on. I have been using this method for the last three years. Occasionally, I will read one from the "wrong" letter if I have a strong motive to read it, but then carry on with the sequence thereafter. It takes the hassle out of deciding which book to read next. It takes between three and four and a half months to get through one cycle (I read a lot of non-fiction as well). It does mean that a sequence of novels by one author can take a long time to get through, but promites variety. I have a huge number of novels for some letters such as D and S, very few or none for some others.

Jan 30, 2012, 6:37 pm

Fiction and nonfiction are separated. Fiction is alpha by author. Nonfiction is divided by general subject area, then alpha by author. Basically, I single-tagged stuff first, then pulled up each tag and roughly calculated the amount of linear feet I would need to shelve each subject, then divided up the bookshelves (and bought more) accordingly. Items might have several tags, but I organize it by main tag. I have a few folio shelves worked in amongst the subjects most likely to need them (art, etc.) and I use one of those small rolling library carts to hold my current reading/research batch as needed. I have high ceilings in my old house (14 feet) so I have high shelves and have to use a ladder for some stuff (no rolling ladder yet, oh how I wish!). But going vertical leaves some room for my desk, a reading nook, the fireplace, and a few decorative bits. I made a simple diagram so that ppl can find stuff in my absence. That's the main room; there is a crafty/DIY shelf in my craft room, cookbooks are in the kitchen, and occult stuff is in the temple/meditation room.

As far as reading, I try to make a plan every year that covers the bases- some fiction, some non-fiction, and whatever subjects I want to research, with some "required reading" and a couple open spots so I don't feel completely trapped. Now whether I meet that plan, ha! That's another story. I also keep something less challenging at the bedside, and something really quite light in my designated cabinet in the kitchen at work, because it drives me insane to stand there doing nothing while the microwave is running. I also have something to read for my bus commute, and manage to listen to a couple borrowed audio books a week at work, so I'm really glad LT expanded the whole collection concept!

Finally getting my books organized has really allowed me to prioritize and start letting go of stuff I am never going to get around to reading, or things I have read that need to be released into the wild for others to discover- one of my favorite things about my neighborhood is that people constantly leave boxes of free books out for perusal, so I do that as well.

Jan 31, 2012, 5:11 pm

201> Do you live in NYC? People are always leaving boxes of books out in my neighborhood, as well. I also release a lot of my fiction out into the wild. I like to register fiction at so I can keep track of where they go. I set up my TBR shelf by size (title alpha order within size) and am reading the first book in each size group from both ends (heavy bed book/light commuting book.) Kinda complicated, but I found I was going for the new books and letting older ones languish for years. It's worked pretty well so far. I've read and enjoyed several books this year, I wouldn't have chosen from the pile.

I usually keep my non-fiction, which is primarily research related, grouped in topic order with current project at the computer desk. The older the project, the farther away the collection in physical distance. Over the years I've given away my collection of business books and have mostly history and writing stuff now.

Jan 31, 2012, 7:28 pm

>180 lawpark: “… though there were a couple of times that it literally took me weeks before I actually found the book I want…” One of the joys of having a library (or bookcase, or shelf) is looking for a book. You pass so many old friends on the way.

Jan 31, 2012, 10:28 pm

I have to say you are right ... The two books that (separately) took me weeks to find for different reasons. One is an annotated catalogue of books (about the commentaries of Zhou Yi, in Chinese) I think it ends the selection at Qing Dynasty, so I kept looking around my books around 1911. It turns out that it includes some 20th century work, and based on my scheme it then get bumped to the date of the publication (which also turns out to be wrong as the book was published like a decade after the author passed away). The other book was an ancient text without a very clear date of authorship - and I might have it classified it too far away from where it should be ...

All in all, I think at the order of books I have (actually not too many in my view), having any system that is "simple" is starting to be difficult. Yet it clearly does not need a full library-type system ...

Fev 1, 2012, 3:47 pm

Since I don't have room to unpack all my books yet, I've got some selected bookshelves for certain things. There's whole bookshelf devoted to my 40's,50's and 60's pulp paperbacks (fiction by author, non-fiction by whatever), two bookshelves devoted to my late mom's Harpers Monthly (and Scribners, and whatever) collection from 1832-82, and a general one full of the hardcovers and paperbacks I don't want to leave in the basement.

Abr 10, 2012, 7:38 pm

My Profile says how I organize my books and my system is always changing

Abr 11, 2012, 8:08 am

Books expand to fill the shelves available to accommodate them.

And then they start multiplying in earnest!

I try to keep books by the same author together, as well as books in the same series (sometimes these conflict). Beyond that, I feebly attempt to keep similar subjects together, but history books in particular are all over the place. And there's a pile of books on the coffee table, none of them coffee table books - they just don't fit so I need to get another bookshelf again. Some of the wargaming books are on the painting table for easy access, which does have the fringe benefit of freeing that much space on the shelves.

Abr 11, 2012, 9:09 am

I have to keep buying $20 plastic waterproof tubs from Staples to move old interests into as new interests -- and new books! -- emerge to take over my shelves ...

Abr 11, 2012, 11:53 am

I used to keep books in order roughly by region--for example, all my books on South Asia reside somewhat near each other, all my books on Europe in roughly the same place. Now I am much less fastidious (and also out of room) and books go wherever I can put them. When I move out of my current living situation, I plan on organizing them by region once more.

Abr 11, 2012, 5:03 pm

The boring way: fiction by author's / editor's last name, non-fiction thematically first -- prehistory & archeology, history, linguistics, dictionaries & grammars, mythology & religion, travels & tourism, ... -- and then by whatever makes most sense to me. Anything history-related is sorted chronologically by period (well, roughly), and so is mythology; books on travelling are sorted alphabetically by country. I use size/colour for art books and for books about books, and frequency of use for dictionaries.

I never really thought about pleasing ways of arranging my physical books. Perhaps I shouldn't let everything be dictated by the ease of retrieval.

Jul 4, 2014, 11:48 am

Not to completely resuscitate an old thread but for those who may have read my post #10 in this thread and doubted my sanity, I ended up going in another direction as you can see in this blog post:

Of course I'm currently in a Facebook discussion where folks are advising me that I should leave the old house up as a library (the new house is on the same lot). That has loads of appeal but I won't be doing it.

Jul 4, 2014, 5:52 pm

Farewell Greek Revival, Hello Lebensraum! Resettling the books will be fun.

Jul 4, 2014, 10:58 pm

Good luck with the new place, cemanuel!

Jul 5, 2014, 7:58 am

#213 Thanks! I've learned not to completely fill boxes when packing books. Those things are heavy!

Jul 5, 2014, 3:01 pm

>214 cemanuel: for books, small boxes are better!

Jul 6, 2014, 6:53 pm

#215 Once I started limiting myself to one shelf per box I was OK.

Jul 6, 2014, 8:56 pm

right now it's aesthetically. Leather with leather, paperback with paperback, It Suprisingly heliping me find things quicker

Jul 15, 2014, 10:36 pm

I have a bit over a thousand feet of shelf space distributed across six rooms. Perhaps three quarters of that is non-fiction, including a four or so yards of ancient history. Each room (and wall) contains one or two non-fiction themes (ancient history, Europe, Americana, Australiana, etc). I might add at this point that I don't tend to think of my library in terms of 'feet and yards' normally, but it's a useful way of addressing this issue of library organization for the purposes of this discussion.

After living with stacks of books on the floor for a few years I now try and keep ahead of the game by having a half dozen or so yards of shelving 'empty', available for the 20 or so books I add each week. These spaces are scattered around the house available to accommodate expansion in any of my 'thematic' areas. Rather than having the unfinished look of empty shelves I try to fill the (temporary) empty spaces up with ephemera (sculptures, pots, photos etc) that reflect the character of the books around them. My preference though is the look of well stocked shelves. To this end I have found it useful to use blocks of fiction to fill in the gaps. As I expand the non-fiction collection I gradually return the fiction back into the fiction shelves.

You might detect a paradox here, but yes I keep the fiction shelves fully stocked at all times and use three or four boxes in my store room as a 'bank' into which I deposit the fiction over-flow and re-draw from as I need to fill up spaces in the fiction shelves. The books that go into the boxes tend to be the fiction collections that I keep for guests (maritime novels, crime novels, science fiction). Essentially these are my 'lowest' priority books. My favourite fiction, and all of my non-fiction thereby maintains its place on the shelves.

The process flows go something like this....

Build new shelves = new space for non-fiction / draw good fiction from fiction library into the non-fiction spaces / draw stored 'pulp' fiction from boxes into the spaces created in the fiction shelves.

Filling new shelves = less space in non-fiction / withdraw good fiction from non-fiction library and replace into fiction library / displace 'pulp' fiction from the fiction library back into boxed storage

And yes, it is large amount of work, but it's the best method I've found for keeping the 8,000 or so books in some semblance of a library, given that I expect the collection will grow to about 15,000 (the constraint is the available space in the house). The point of the story, though, is not about the aesthetics of fully stocked or empty shelves, but about the selection of the fiction that I insert into the non-fiction collections. Essentially it follows the theme of the non-fiction. So, for example, I put Asian literature alongside Asian non-fiction. It's quite interesting to then 'dip' into one and the other. And it means that occasionally Robert Graves and Colleen McCullough get a place alongside Sallust and Livy. Heresy perhaps, but an argument for sometimes mixing up collections of non-fiction and fiction even if temporarily.

Jul 16, 2014, 9:16 am

>218 nandadevi: "So, for example, I put Asian literature alongside Asian non-fiction. It's quite interesting to then 'dip' into one and the other. And it means that occasionally Robert Graves and Colleen McCullough get a place alongside Sallust and Livy."

I've got my grandmother's copy of The Last Days of Pompeii alongside my Oxford Classical Dictionary, so it makes sense to me. :-)

Though actually, this raises a deeper question: where would you shelve pre-modern "fiction" literature -- say, Beowulf or The Canterbury Tales, or ancient epics like the Mahabharata?

Editado: Jul 16, 2014, 11:59 am

>218 nandadevi: interesting and ingenious solution, nandadevi. We share a few features of our shelving (>13 stellarexplorer:): favoring nonfiction over fiction; organizing nonfiction by topic; continually expanding space within a house; filling empty spaces with pots and objects d'art. But your fiction reservoir idea is clever and functional. One question: how to you maintain your stores of "good" fiction so they are readily available to shelve with the appropriate nonfiction section? I assume it must not be fiction-by-author, but some version of fiction by topic?

Editado: Jul 16, 2014, 12:16 pm

>219 nathanielcampbell: Suddenly I have a feeling of inadequacy, I don't have an proper copy of Beowulf, and I somehow missed cataloging my copy of the Canterbury Tales. What's worse I feel kind of obliged to find the latter before I punch it into my LT catalog. And despite searching for half an hour I still haven't found it... Leaving aside those failures for a moment though, the short answer is that I look at the context of any of my 'pre-modern' fiction and keep it permanently with the non-fiction that covers that same time or place. So Wilfred Owen's poetry goes into the WW1 area of my European history, and Euripedes and Aristophanes in with the Ancient History. Beowulf would be amongst the Anglo Saxon histories, and Chaucer alongside the histories of England in the Middle Ages. Similarly, folk tales go alongside the non-fiction that relates to the culture that created them. The key thing - seems to me to be - is that the fiction created in that time and place illuminates the society that created the literature, and the society which consumed it. By the same token, though, I should break up my philosophy collection, but I don't. But thinking about it now I probably will. Incidentally, the fiction/non-fiction thing works the other way as well - I put the biographies of authors and poets alongside their work in the fiction areas of my collection.

Which gets around to a wish-thing for LT, the ability to include in the LT Knowledge Base fields for each book a series of place+time values that could then subsequently be 'mapped' onto a sort of multiple-location timeline that could be 'drilled into' using either (or both) time and place search values. So the Canterbury Tales would be '14th Century + London-Canterbury/England/Europe'. It would be interesting to see this mapped in such a way that you could compare not only other material that was written about this time and place, but also find literature and non-fiction that was written about this period in other places (such as Sigrid Unset's 'Kristin Lavransdatter' set in Norway in the 14th Century). Or conversely find material written about a particular place (down to the level of village or town) at any specified time in history. Some of the elements to do this are already in the LT Knowledge Base but there's no consistent way of capturing or retrieving the information. Given that some history books will mention hundreds of identifiable locations over periods of hundreds or thousands of years how do you represent all of those places and that extent of time (and the location within the text of the mention in each book) in the Knowledge Base - not forgetting that many of the place names will have changed over time as well. I've seen a few attempts to do this on the wider internet, and Wikipedia makes a fair fist of it in their bibliographies, but it'd be nice to see something structured within LT. On the other hand I suspect LT would argue that the ability to search on time and place is already available in LT via Tagmashes, and it's just a matter of LT users adding sufficiently detailed tags over a period of time in order to make it all work. ...Takes pill and goes back to sorting books...

Jul 16, 2014, 12:38 pm

>220 stellarexplorer: Firstly I must apologize for using the word "good" in relation to some works of fiction and not others. I should have said 'my preferred', which is what I meant all along... Well it's hard to describe, but the fiction that goes in and out of storage are blocks of a single authors works. So all of Ed McBain's 87th precinct novels, or Alexander Kent's maritime novels, or Asimov's science fiction. Using fiction-series as the 'in and out of boxes' material makes it easy to remember what's in storage, and to identify the material 'as a block' when it's back on the shelves. This beats keeping track of individual works of dozens of different authors in and out of the storage boxes. Those books which are not in these long series and not involved in the in-and-out-of-boxes lark are arranged by geography. Generally it follows the author's nationality, but there are cases where it picks up the location in which the novel is set. So Robert van Gulik's Chinese detective stories (Judge Dee series) belongs in 'Asia-fiction' even though the author is Dutch, because the novels are much more 'Chinese' than 'Dutch'. Given that the non-fiction is also organised largely on geographic principles it's a simple matter then to select some appropriate fiction to go into gaps in the non-fiction shelves.