On Rearranging My Book Shelves

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.



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15 responses to “On Rearranging My Book Shelves

  1. LK

    Oh, dear, I am afraid I relate to this post all too well. I was just thinking yesterday that I needed to go over my books and shelves (couldn’t find a new cookbook and couldn’t remember if I had gotten Farewell to Arms) …

  2. You know, I have never organized my books at all. I mean, I put the big books on the bigger shelves, because there’s room for them there. But otherwise, it’s just one big hodgepodge of a mess. And I’m so organized in the other aspects of my life! Maybe this is why I keep getting books from bookmooch that I already have!

  3. J.S. Peyton

    Wow, Dewey that’s the complete opposite with me. I’m very organized with my books and unorganized about everything else in my life. Ask me where I put my wallet, I’ll draw a blank; ask me to find my copy of Jane Eyre, I’ll have it for you in a heartbeat.

    Traveller you have my sympathies. I’ve been moving around a lot these past few years and unpacking and organizing my books is always the most daunting task.

  4. I’ll be doing this in a few month’s time, when we move the bookshelves out of our guest bedroom to turn it into the baby’s room. I’m already debating how I want to rearrange all my books!

  5. JMC

    This is exactly how I clean my house!

  6. This made me laugh. I’ve tried on numerous occasions to organize my shelves via country and then I start worrying about the politics of it all – your ‘somehow India has ended up in Europe’ comment made me really laugh – the country is still struggling with that legacy isn’t it? 🙂

  7. I hate it when the urge leaves halfway through the sorting and reshelving!! I have a few stacks that need to be put somewhere, but I have been too lazy to do it!

  8. Yikes! I REALLY need to rearrange my shelves. But I have so many books, they are starting to grow into STACKS on the shelves. I’m just afraid I will get lost while doing it!! It’s a summer project just waiting to be started!

  9. I like to reorganize my books now and then as well, especially when I’m trying to avoid doing something else. It never fails that once I get them all organized just as I want them, I find a couple that somehow got left out . . . Usually by that point I don’t want to go back and add them in so they end up stacked on top of the shelved books or set on a pile that won’t fit on the shelves anyway.

  10. Eva

    I’m playing with the idea of reorganizing my shelves right now; I’ve just gotten home from college, so I have about fifty extra books to find room for. I think it might be fun to reorganize, albeit slowly. Perhaps a chronological division is in order…

  11. labelling the shelves … i guess i can be anal. hahaha. i can only empathize with you. i’ve given up on arranging my shelves. it’s mission (seemingly) impossible. so kudos to you!

  12. Idetrorce

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

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