The Order of Things

Last week when I was in Madison, my friend and I spent a couple of hours yakking in her bedroom. At one point she had to take a phone call so I was left to let my mind wander.  That was when I noticed that all her books are sorted first by fiction/non-fiction and then alphabetically by author and THEN alphabetically by title.

Except for putting titles by the same author together (mostly), my books are not categorized at all. My fiction and non-fiction are wantonly cavorting together and nothing is alphabetized at all.  I feel so inadequate.

Do you have your books organized? Tell me how?

19 thoughts on “The Order of Things”

  1. Rise and Sort Baboons,

    Our books are loosely arrange by topic or interest, and a little bit by size. That’s it. You are on your own after that—not much order and I don’t dust them much either.

    I am gone for the weekend. See you Monday.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. My books are spread between shelves in three different rooms. They are mostly organized by size, though books by the same author are together regardless of size. One shelf is all non-fiction but there is some spillover to the fiction shelves due to available space. Travel guides reside together in a separate area. These days the majority of books I read are from the library. I don’t have enough space in my small condo to keep buying them.

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  3. Reading your post, VS, I started to think “Well, yeah…” but I don’t go quite as far as your friend. There are shelves for fiction (and a tiny short stories section), mysteries; one shelf shares memoirs and poetry, and these are alpha by author so I can find them easily when I want to.. Nonfiction is looser because some stuff is pretty hard to categorize… spiritual-esoteric, social and psychological studies, health and food related, art and how-tos, mythology…

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  4. My books are arranged organically according to a system that makes sense to me. The main thing is that I know where to locate any particular book within a shelf or so. Primarily the books are clustered by subject area, although some authors get their own cluster. Nonfiction and fiction books mingle promiscuously, in part because some authors, who are clustered, write both and in part because sometimes the subject area is more compelling than the fiction-nonfiction distinction. There are a couple of bookcases for titles that fall outside the main subject categories or author groupings, but I know what is on those shelves too.

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      1. Except lava doesn’t move on once it coalesces. The thing is, if I took all my books off the shelves, I could replace them in different and equally coherent clusters. They relate to each other in often surprising ways and the individuals and events and milieu they treat are multifaceted. The same authors also pop up attached to widely varied subjects. Overall, it’s a kind of matrix, with each book representing a point that adds character to the whole. That’s been my objective all along.

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  5. Morning –

    Our books are in the ‘Pile’ system. A pile here, a pile there… and if you need one, you simply search the pile until you remember where you saw it last.
    We keep saying we need more bookshelves.

    Our neighbor collects old books. I think she’s said mostly about housekeeping. She has 1000’s of books. If they’re gone and we’re collecting their mail, everyday will bring packages. I’ve never seen anyone get as much mail as they do.
    Once when they were gone I slipped a book into her shelves. She found it within days and commented. She knows her books and they must be in some kind of order.

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  6. I really don’t have enough books (maybe a couple hundred? to have this detailed a system – I just have always liked to sort, and play “library”.

    But I realized they aren’t all in the “library” either – there’s a small shelf by my living room chair, soon to be read (which never happens), and nearby the reference for crossword puzzles. And of course the cookbooks are in the kitchen… organized more by size.

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  7. We have a couple of shelves of books in Danish; mostly Danish authors, though there are some by Russian and American authors as well.

    Most books in English are arranged by author, and one shelf contains books signed by the author. We don’t have sufficient shelves in the living room to house all our books, so we have five other bookshelves throughout the house. My cook books are housed in the kitchen and pantry. In other words, it’s a glorified mess.

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  8. I have a loose and fairly unstructured system, sort of like Bill’s. Some of it depends on the size of the book and if it fits on a particular shelf. I generally separate fiction and non-fiction, and I have several shelves dedicated to signed books by writing colleagues and authors I’ve met, like William Kent Krueger. Other than that, my collection is small enough that I can find any book within a minute or two if I know I have it. OR, I’ll know I don’t have a book that I’m not sure I own after a minute or two of looking.

    Chris in Owatonna

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  9. When I had 26 bookshelves and hundreds of books, my daughter kept trying to organize them thematically. Nobody–including my daughter herself–comprehended her system. My own organization was simple: books I had written were clumped together; books written by friends sat together in a friendly group; books written by strangers were stuck wherever they fit. When I needed a book I would go up and down the rows looking for it, a process that naturally resulted in memorizing where each book was. Then my daughter would reorganize the books, and we’d all have to learn where each book was kept.

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  10. Our books are alphabetized within sections. The sections are history, natural history, biography, religion, psychology and social sciences, art, geography, poetry, and drama. We got rid of most of our fiction preparatory to moving in a few years. The cookbooks are in sections such as baking, desserts, casseroles, ethnic cookbooks, etc. They are not alphabetized.

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    1. I wasn’t thinking about cookbooks when I did this piece. My cookbooks are categorized by type. So the vegan cookbooks are together, the cookie and cake cookbooks are together. The international cookbooks are together and the Pampered Chef cookbooks are all together!

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      1. My cookbooks are arranged by nationality or ethnicity, and type. There’s a whole shelf of vegetarian cookbooks that’s used mostly for inspiration. There are sections of Italian, Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranian cooking. Then there’s a section where my favorite cookbooks reside. The Silver Palate cookbook, Annie Somerville’s Fields of Green, and Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Italian Country Table are in that section. A good cookbook is a joy to hang out with.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. What is this organization you speak of? It seems…strange.

    I have a pile by my bed of books I am reading or intend to read soon. Other books are mostly in shelves. Sometimes on top of each other on shelves. At best I can say there is stratification based on when they entered the house – though once I have more than two books by a particular author I try to keep those housed together. One shelf is mostly books I pilfered or took with permission from my parents’ or grandparents’ houses (which makes it a little easier to find the Norse folk tales when I want them). A shelf in the basement is about 60% theater books, scripts, art history and a handful of anthropology from my college years mixed in with other earnest books gathered when I was in my 20s. Other places biography, fiction, cheap murder mysteries, Shakespeare, essays, and my favorite children’s books frolic and collect dust merrily together.

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  12. There’s a little redlining going on in my bookshelves; paperbacks tend to dwell with other paperbacks and hardcovers with hardcovers. A lot of variation in size seems disquieting, so large books gravitate toward each other and snub the smaller ones. I have a dream that someday there will be a more just and equitable system whereby each is judged by its content and placed accordingly.

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