How to Put Books on Shelves

By , January 11, 2012 8:38 am

by Kristine Lloyd

I love to move. Most people find it onerous to pack up their pianos, taxidermied mammals, tea sets, Beanie Baby collections and other various and sundry items. As they near the bitter end, fueled by frustration and migraines, most people just start throwing stuff in the random junk box, no newspaper wrapping—nothing. Wait: is that just me?

The best part of moving is the opportunity to reinvent yourself as a clean and organized person in a new domicile. First and foremost are my clothes. Those get unpacked, organized by garment type and color-coordinated. Then I take a break, have some tea in the tea set and admire my handiwork; which a week later will be a collage of color coating my floor. Second are the books. Sometimes I organize them by color, sometimes by size and sometimes by genre, though I try to hide the Danielle Steele and Sue Grafton works behind the Dostoevsky and Melville.

In my ongoing quest to survey the ways that others store and organize their books, I found an interesting book, Unpacking My Library by Leah Price, containing photos on how 13 different writers organize their books. In addition, there are interviews with the writers about how they view books as objects and how their books are displayed. Thankfully, I learned that I am not a heretic just because I dog-ear my books or write in the margins. My books are my history and I treasure all of those dog-eared marked-up pages. Once, while reading a thrifted version of Excellent Women by Barbara Pym, I found a post-it note asking me if I’d had my tea yet. It was a wonderful gift from a fellow reader and confirms a James Wood quote in Unpacking My Library that states: “books are tools of living.” It might be time to move again and reorganize my books, but maybe this time by date order.

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