Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Shelving Is an Intimate Thing...

On my dinner break this evening, I was catching up on reading the debut novel, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, and came across the following passage that really struck a cord with me. The author, Reif Larsen, writes "Shelving [books] is an intimate thing, like the fingerprint of a room."

This is yet more proof that I am not alone in my book "habits." In the past six years, I've moved three times and during each move, my favorite part of unpacking is getting the chance to shelve my books again. I don't let anyone else touch them. This is my one pleasure in the midst of moving chaos, and I won't let anyone take that away from me -- including my husband.

I have a very intricate system. First, I divide all the books into piles of those I have read and those I haven't. They go on different shelves, and once a book has been read, it is moved from one shelf to another.

Second, I start with my "read" pile and divide into two new piles by the author's last name. One pile is A-L, the next pile, M-Z. I then start separate by each individual letter and begin placing books on shelves.

Next, I'll move to my "to be read" pile and repeat the same steps as for the "read" pile. There are significantly more "to be read" books than "read" books, so I tend to divide the piles into A-F, G-P, Q-Z.

This process takes the better part of a day and when I'm finished, I'm torn between how beautiful everything looks on the shelves and being sad that my task is over, as I often find myself flipping through pages, discovering books bought long ago that I simply haven't gotten around to reading yet.

I know the majority of you out there will think I'm nuts, but I also know that there are a few of you out there who know exactly what I'm talking about, and no Kindle is going to make up for it.


  1. This is fantastic! :) SO glad we're both as enamored of the unpacking book process. I'm always so torn when I buy a new book. I leave it on the stack of books on the floor next to my bed for close to 6 months, and then, if I haven't read more than 1/2 of it by then, it gets moved to a shelf. But which shelf? Ah, so many options! I loved reading about your own shelving habits - thanks for sharing!

  2. This is why I refuse to let my roomate correct the order on my bookshelf . . . and I suspect that the general disorganization of that shelf is a rebellion against the order she instills on all of the other books in the house.