Friday, 12 January 2018

The Great Book Nook Dilemma of 2018

How do you arrange your books?
It's an incredibly important question.
One I've spent many a sleepless hour pondering.

You see, I have a nook in my new study.
Now a nook is nothing special.
It's just a place for the useless overflow of everyday life - baskets of unfolded laundry, old tax files, bicycles with flat tyres, visiting relatives who have outstayed their welcome ...

But this week, a very exciting thing happened. 
Shelves were built and the humble nook was transformed into a book nook.
And a book nook, once stocked with the objects for which it has been designed, is a place of  whimsy and adventure, challenge and learning, comfort and delight.
A book nook is a magical place.

Ooooh. Sends tingles up and down my spine just thinking about it!

But of course, with great blessing, comes great responsibility.
I now had to place my books in the shelves.
And that involved making a Very Important Decision:

             WAS I
         GOING TO
           MY  BOOKS

Should I arrange them by genre or nationality?
If by genre, what would I do about the books that crossed over? Would a funny travel memoir be under Travel or Humour? Should a historical romance come under History or Romance ... or under  Light and Fluffy, depending on the author? 
If I arranged by nationality, should it be the country in which the author was born or the country in which they lived the greater part of their life? Or should it be the country in which the book is set? And what if the story takes place in multiple countries - like Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days

Russian authors.
They just had to go together.

Then I wondered about ranking my books.
I've always loved the idea of arranging my collection from best to worst.

But which book is really my favourite? 
Little Women?
The Book Thief?
Cold Comfort Farm?
The Murderers Among Us?
I could go on all day listing options for first place. And then I'd have to choose second, third, fourth.... 

And what about my own books? Is it arrogant to rank them highly? Is it bad publicity not to?

We discussed the ranking dilemma at the dinner table last night. My son said he knew how to make it really easy: 
Imagine there's a gun to your head. You have to choose your top three books. Hesitate and - BANG! - you're dead.
'Okay,' I said, rising to the challenge. 'First: Winnie the Pooh. Second: My Family and Other Animals. Third: The Little Paris Bookshop. No! Hang on! Pride and Prejudice or Emma.'
I felt like I was living in a scene from Sophie's Choice.
Ranking, my dear friends, just cannot be done.

So in the end, I compromised. I started arranging my books, loosely, along several lines:

  • Nationality of authors - Australian, English, American and The Rest. (Apologies to The Rest, but there weren't so many of you.)
  • English text and Danish text.
  • Children's books and grown-ups' books.
  • Genre.
It wasn't perfect. There were many overlaps and ruthless decisions had to be made. 

Children's books - but this tiny
section also contains Danish,
English and Australian authors and
texts in both the English and Danish

No, it was not perfect.
But it was going along quite well.
Until I decided to add knick-knacks to the shelves.

I love my knick-knacks as much as I love my books. They had to be included.
But where should they go? 

Should the old typewriters be amongst the novels? Or were they more a nuts and bolts sort of thing that should sit with dictionaries, thesauruses and compendiums of well-known lines of poetry and wise sayings?

And shoe lasts - where on earth should they sit? With a book like Tracks or The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry? With the Brothers Grimm fairy tales collection because of The Elves and the Shoemaker? Or amidst the DIY-ish books - cook books, gardening books, how to draw books?

And then there were the bird cages. It would be perverse to sit them alongside What Bird is That? Even more perverse near the fable, The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly.  Perhaps beside The Goldfinch would be better - marginally.

In the end, I opted for a mix of meaning and aesthetics. 
A typewriter seemed to belong alongside
the work of some great old English writers -
and the orange casing tied in sweetly with an
orange book spine or two.

The photo of my father-in-law's dart victory
 and this wooden duck have absolutely
nothing to do with Leon Uris.

At the end of two long days, I was finished. My book nook was arranged to my satisfaction. It felt logical and orderly and looked lovely.
Perfect, actually.

And then, my son came in and asked for some book recommendations ... AND TOOK THEM AWAY!!!!

And now there are gaps.

And THEN I realised that there are a few books on loan that might not fit into their appropriate place when returned.

And there are books on order.

And there will be books for birthdays and Christmases.

And suddenly, my tightly organised book nook  seemed not so cleverly organised after all.

How do you organise your books?

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