One of the great pleasures of being a book collector is seeing your books on a shelf and mulling over memories of reading them. However, one of the biggest challenges of being a book collector is where to place each book on a shelf. I do sometimes move my books around, dithering over the best place for each one. Here are a few ways of arranging books you might like to consider for your home:
By genre. This is what bookshops and libraries tend to do. But you still have to decide where each genre should go – does Poetry sit on a top shelf, while biography takes up lower and more easily accessible shelves? And what about those over- sized volumes that refuse to fit with the rest of their genre?
Alphabetical. It certainly makes a book easy to find when you arrange from A for Austen to Z for Zola, but when you come home from the shop with a new Margaret Atwood, the entire collection has to be shifted along to make room for it. And if you forget the name of the person who wrote that history book, you have a real problem.
Favourites. This is the scheme where you give authors you prefer the most prominent positions. I favour this method and have one whole bookcase dedicated to Jane Austen – various editions with different illustrations, books about her books and her world, biographies of her life etc. This can cause decision-making issues. Should Claire Tomalin’s excellent biography of JA go into the JA collection, or be shelved with Tomalin’s other biographies (and should those other biographies be shelved alphabetically under D for her Dickens book and M for her Katherine Mansfield biography?)
Publishers. Does one keep all those classic Penguins in a row – an orange row, and a blue row etc?
Size. It was by size that Samuel Pepys arranged much of his superb library. To some extent we all have to consider size, because there will always be that awkward large volume that refuses to fit nicely.
Colour. This is a method much favoured by interior designers, who create amazing rainbow effects by merging blue spines into green, yellow into orange. But surely a nightmare when trying to find a volume and you cannot remember what colour the cover is?
Whatever your preferred method of book arranging is, you will probably have the perennial problem faced by all book lovers – not enough shelf space! I have book shelves all over the house (in all rooms except the bathroom), which means I also have to decide whether a book should stay downstairs (where it can be admired by guests, and is most easily saved in case of fire), or upstairs where it might feel demoted to a back room and therefore less loved. I dream of a library, with large squashy sofa, roaring fire, and every wall lined with shelves. I also dream of one day being able to arrange my books by the ‘Jeffrey Archer Method’, i.e. multiple versions of books written by me, arranged according to their many editions, translations and DVD versions. Well, dreams are free …
How do you arrange your books? I’d love to hear your ideas, please leave a comment.
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