Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

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A dusty day amongst the books

Today is grey and drizzly, the sort of rain that Wales can keep up for days on end if it has a mind to. I'm busy tidying my bookcases. I've sorted out one bottom shelf of files, sifting through all my old teaching handouts and practice tasks from my last job. In the end I kept about 6 sheets of paper, but I couldn't bring myself to just throw the files away without checking through them, because if I had, I'd have been convinced that somewhere in all those papers there was something valuable, some vital piece of information, some vitally useful task, that I would want one day. So going through everything was tedious but necessary. Besides, it also meant I could re-cycle all the plastic punched pockets; I won't have to buy any more of them for quite a while.

I've now pulled most of the books off the shelves, brushed and dusted the books and polished the shelves. I'm pausing for a moment while I re-think my method of arranging books. The non-fiction was vaguely arranged by subject, so on one shelf religion (starting at one end with Bibles, hymn books and a copy of the Koran) merged through Buddhism to Tai Chi and Yoga. Above that are all the local history, folklore and archaeology. Above that again, the poetry and plays. This arrangement has worked well, though it's been slightly complicated by the fact that my favourite folklore books, the dictionary, Welsh books and writing How To books got moved upstairs into my study. The non-fiction has evolved as much of a system as I need, but the arrangement of the fiction books left a lot to be desired.

I used to have no system at all for fiction books, beyond grouping all books by the same author together; and actually this worked fine. I have a visual memory, so could remember quite well where I'd last seen a book. It also meant that I could shelve books to some extent according to size, thus making best use of the shelf spacings. But then the numbers of books increased it got a bit harder to go straight to the book I wanted, and I discovered that other people shelve their books *gasp* in alphabetical order. Now this idea wasn't totally strange to me, I had, after all, used libraries and bookshops, both of which employ this system. It just hadn't occurred to me to do it with my own books. So last time I did the grand bookshelf re-arrangement, my fiction all went into alphabetical order by author.

And this made my life easier? No, actually it didn't. As I said, I have a good visual memory but an appalling memory for names. I became fed up of scanning my shelves looking for thingy, you know the one where whatsit -- wasn't she a crippled orphan? -- finds the tiny dragons under the stairs, you know, that children's book by wossisname?

So my new system has three main categories: classics, mainstream, SF and children's books. Books to be arranged alphabetically by author within category. That should reduce the amount of shelf scanning I have to do in order to find what I'm looking for. Oh, yes. And one final category Not Read Yet. I kept these separate once before, but after a slight altercation with G, who accused me of buying more books when I hadn't read all the ones I'd got -- an accusation which I strenuously denied, only to then discover that I had 44 unread books on my shelves -- I then decided to hide unread books amongst read ones and set up a database to keep track of what was what.

This was all very well up to a point, but I'm going to segregate unread books again. G is right; it is stupid to buy more books when there are unread books staring at me accusingly, saying, "You fickle woman, you chose us, picked us out from the bookshop and ordered us from Amazon, and then when you got us home or we plopped through your letter box, did you read us? No, you shoved us away and forgot all about us because you'd fallen for the seductive glance of the next new book to flutter its eyelashes at you from the shelves of the very next shop you walk into. You wanted us once, why don't you read us now?"

So the unread books will all be put together again. They can then gang up on me and shout, "Read me! Read me!" when I pass them to put the volume I've just finished back on the shelf.

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