Every so often I get an irresistible urge to rearrange my book shelves. Yesterday’s urge was born out of the urgent need for exam revision and the strong conviction that productive revision could not possibly occur when my book shelves were so untidy. As ever I approached the task very methodically: first, I surveyed all my books; then made a careful list of how I wanted to rearrange them (continent, country, author, and also by genre/type) ; pulled them all off the shelves and roughy sorted them into piles; then promptly despaired at the sheer volume of books I had managed to displace and wandered off for a biscuit break, leaving my room and my bed buried under piles and piles of books.
Since yesterday, I have managed to rearrange all of four shelves. My cunning plan was to have separate shelves for distinct genres, such as poetry, plays, textbooks, language books and Terry Pratchett (I have many Pratchett books). Then I was going to sort my fiction books into world fiction and English Literature; the world fiction shelves (which have turned out to include non-fiction anyway, would be sorted by continent then country then alphabetically by author’s surname. Unfortunately, due to bookshelf size and relative heights of books, I couldn’t put the continents in the strictly alphabetic order I wished, so ended up with the South American section first (which also comprises Central American countries), then Asia and finally Europe into which all miscellaneous countries have been placed. Somehow India has ended up in Europe instead of Asia, and North America doesn’t feature at all because I classed it as English Literature. The shelves cannot possibly make any sense to anyone except me, and I suspect after a while I too will have difficulty working out where a certain book should be. I stopped short of actually labelling the shelves however; I felt that might be a little too anal.
Now the urge has gone, I have lost the will to sort out the rest of my books. Most of them are currently piled haphazardly on the shelves, on the floor or on other books. I find the sight of such a mess very irritating but not sufficiently irritating for me to actually do anything about it. I know what is going to happen. Sometime soon, I’ll fall over one of the piles and crease a book cover or something else equally catastrophic will happen to a prized book, and then I’ll curse furiously and frantically try to find them all a place on the shelves where they will be safe. Weeks from now I’ll discover my copy of Hamlet or The Good Earth under my bed where I kicked it by accident and never noticed. If I’m unlucky I’ll spill water or worse over Neruda or Pasternak and destroy an otherwise pristine book…
Maybe I’d better go and replace books on shelves.