Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What's Your Perfect Book Classification System?

by Sara N.

Franklin is helping us shelve.
Organizational ninjas, I need some advice: How do you sort the books on your bookshelves?

My husband and I have been finishing our basement to turn it into the subterranean library of our dreams. We've finally gotten our massive book collection on the shelves in rough categories: fiction, non-fiction, romance, mystery, children's lit, textbooks, and sci fi/fantasy.

But I'm dissatisfied with that latter category, which makes up the bulk of our collection, because it covers so many different types of books: urban fantasy, horror, sci fi, paranormal romance, and fantasy. Is that too much diversity for one section? Do you separate your books into smaller categories when you shelve them? And if so, how do you draw the line between, say, urban fantasy with romantic elements and romance with paranormal overtones?

Or heck, maybe I'm overthinking this.

Do you organize your books at all, or do you just toss 'em onto the nearest open shelf? Our plan has always been to alphabetize the books once we've finalized the categories, but that may be harder to maintain than I realize. For the past eight years, most of our collection has been boxed up, and the books we've acquired in the meantime have been crammed onto any shelf that will accept them. We're looking at our new system as a fresh start to create order out of chaos ... but will chaos win out no matter what? Your input in the comments is appreciated!

Also, check out what I found while putting books away this weekend:

Cool, no? It's been chilling in my husbad's book collection for years. Think we should make this little guy our mascot? Our sad-eyed mascot who ... cries tears of blood?
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  1. At the moment I have 3 bookshelves. One is dedicated to text books....the other two are double packed :p

    At home my mum has floor to ceiling bookshelves lining the corridors, what she's done is separate the science/textbooks, the baby books (as in the stories she read to my brother and me when we were little), the kids books (the ones we picked out ourselves when we were younger), my brother's books (which live in his room), and then the vast majority is comprised of my/her books.

    Those books she's got roughly alphabetised, but it took her a while. What she started off with prolific authors (Georgette Heyer, Philip Pullman, Charlene Harris, etc) and sorted those out. Then she wrestled away from me/snuck out of my room/beat me over the head with the various books I had lying next to my bed (the Nalini Singh and Ilona Andrews books mostly) then she sorted those out into piles and put them on the floor next to the bookshelves she wanted them on, then took all the books off those shelves and sorted them onto piles. It took most of a week before we (er, she) got it all done.

  2. I read a wonderful essay by Anne Fadiman in her book Ex Libris about this subject, and she had a lovely way of phrasing it -- whether the person organizing it preferred an English or a French style of gardening. One is extremely orderly and regimented, and the other is whimsical and with a certain level of disorder that allows for discovery.

    I have very broad categories -- I put books that I've read for pleasure on my upstairs and living room shelves, books that I keep and use for research in the dining room shelves, and books that I use for work on one shelf near the TV. But within those categories, I like to just jostle the books in together, just keeping similarly sized books near each other. I like that because I feel like whenever I go hunting for a specific book, I get to encounter a few older friends along the way.

    I've got a lot of shelves. :)

  3. Aaaaaaaaaaaaugh! That looks like a Keane painting gone horribly, horribly wrong.

  4. First - I envy our new mascots glorious lashes.

    Right now my bookshelves are organized in 2 main groups - books I've read, and books I need to read. We won't discuss how many shelves make up the "Need to Read" group.

  5. I organize my books mostly by genre. Research books go on the bottom, since they tend to be larger. There's also a small section of children's picture books there, since they are tall. Within research you get all the subcategories: history, language, science, mythology... Then I have all the genres I don't reread as much on the next shelves: animal stories and mysteries mostly. The shelves from about waist high to just over my head are my fantasy (sci-fi, I don't own a lot of, but it goes in there too) section, since that's what I read and reread the most of. Those shelves are double and triple stacked right now, unfortunately. Within that broad category I group by "feel," as it were. Karen Marie Moning (Highlander and Fever books both) next to Laurel K. Hamilton (Merry and Anita) next to Charlaine Harris (Sookie and her Grave series, but those might be moved based on the last book...) next to Jim Butcher, who thankfully I only own the Dresden books of, though the Codex books might make a nice transition to more pseudo-historical fantasy. Tamora Pierce shares with Harry Potter; even though one is modern day, I started them around the same age, they are young adult, and they share the same quality of being so without being trite. So for me it's less about genre and more about a sliding scale of "if you like this, you might like..." The upper shelves are historical fiction, including historical YA and romance (I just don't have a ton of romance, so they don't get their own section, and the ones I have all cross neatly with fantasy or historical) and one lonely shelf of manga.

    -Anna M

    P.S. I really enjoy that lately there hasn't been a "break" in your layout, since that makes it easier to read in my Feedly App, but for some reason it won't load the name and email "comment as" option. Dunno if that's Feedly, touch screen interface glitch, or what, but that's why I'm commenting anonymously with a signature.