Anyone catch the Guardian Poll on Monday? Apparently there was a (very unscientific) survey in the UK that revealed 39% of British readers don’t have any sort of organization scheme for their bookshelves. Horrors! An almost as large number of readers, 35%, organize their shelves alphabetically by author. Then the Guardian presents a poll, click on how you organize your home library. Except you can only select one thing from the list:

  • Alpha by author
  • Alpha by title
  • by genre
  • by size
  • by colour
  • randomly
  • other

So far by genre is ahead with 37%. I had to choose “other” because well, Bookman and I have our own organizational system.

Our basement library is separated into fiction, nonfiction and anthologies and within each it is then organized by author. Mostly. There are some authors who write both fiction and nonfiction and we keep their books together according to what they write most, i.e. Stephen King: fiction. Then there are authors who have books about them like Virginia Woolf. All books Woolfian are kept together. Actually Woolf has two shelves all to herself and she is kept in the living room, not the basement. We also often have more than one book by an author and those are then shelved in alpha order according to title except if there is a series, then the books are in series order.

On the shelves in the living room are kept all the poetry books and books about specific poets including any criticism. We also tend to keep books we consider classics on the living room shelves, Bookman’s six different editions of Dracula and all of my Jane Austens for instance.

There are book piles which are not organized. I have a study/book room too where lives my desk, computer, sewing machine and a couple bookcases. There are several TBR shelves in there, unorganized. There is a shelf where lives Emerson and all related Emsersonia. A shelf of reference books. And a whole bunch of books about books. Also gardening.

See why I had to choose “other” for the poll? Most of the time I have no problem finding what I want. Sometimes something will go missing but is generally found eventually, usually when looking for something else. Everything, more or less, is cataloged in my LibraryThing account so I can technically keep track of what I do and don’t own. Nonetheless, there are a lot of books I don’t even remember owning and looking at the shelves is as delightful as browsing a bookstore or library.

Talking about how we organize our books never really gets old, does it? I wonder if how we organize our books says anything about us? And if so what, exactly? And do we want to know?

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