Let’s Talk with Tina Whittle

Book Classification
By Tina Whittle

Reckoning and RuinFor the past few weekends, the biggest project here at Whittle Central has been putting down a new hardwood floor. By ourselves. My husband is a handy guy, and so he was more than capable of scraping the concrete floor of old stickiness, cutting and measuring the boards, gluing them down plank by plank. And the final result is beautiful—lightly distressed hickory, burnished golden so that it glows honey-warm whenever the light catches it.

But the work we had to do! Hoo-boy! Every piece of furniture we owned had to be moved from room to room, including the bookcases. Massive oak bookcases. Bookcases we bought when a beloved independent bookstore closed. Bookcases designed to hold a ridiculous amount of books. And we had filled them full.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to handle every single hardback and paperback and coffee table book we own. I got to look at the places I’d bookmarked. I got to read the inscriptions from writer friends and writer celebrities and writers who have passed away. Best of all, I got to sort them.

I don’t know the Dewey Decimal system, or the Library of Congress system. So I had to make up my own. It had to take into account who the book belonged to, how it needed to be stored. Was it big or small? Fiction or nonfiction? Something sentimental or a work of research that needed easy access on a daily basis?

Tina with azaleasBut it was trying to sort them into categories that most confounded me. I’m a writer, so of course I have lots of books about writing. But where does a book like Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott go? It’s about writing, of course, and has lots of good advice on craft and technique, but it’s much more than that. It’s also a work of memoir, one of the classics in the field. So I really want to shelve it with Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Except that I’ve put that book in the pile for Inspirational next to John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara, which I decided to move there from its previous home in Spirituality.

Books, like people, defy neat classifications. They have layers and depths, surprises and contradictions. And like our dear friends, we like to keep them close. In my case, right at my elbow.

How about you? Do you try to organize your books? Or do they run wild in your home? Tell me about your books and I’ll choose one commenter to win a miniature book charm.

***ps After you leave a comment for the book charm drawing, be sure to visit our gift card contest, also on this site, where a $25 gift card is up for grabs by a lucky reader. Here’s the link: Gift Card Link

Comments

  1. little of both

  2. I try to keep my print books in alphabetical order by author last name. Right now, my shelves are a disaster. I really need to take all the books off the shelves and redo them…yes….them. At last count, I have about 700 books to read.

    In my Kindle, I organize in collections with author last name to keep them alphabetized. Other collections include some genres and books I’ve read. I’m not sure how many books I have on my Kindle but I have a lot there too. Guess I better hunker down and read more, read faster! LOL

  3. Is there a way to organize our Kindle books? Like, Have Read and To Be Read categories? Currently, I remove books I’ve read from the device so I don’t get confused and read them over again. I’ll also put a brief note inside saying “I’ve read this book.”

  4. I organize my books by genre/subgenre: mystery, historical romance, futuristic romance, paranormal romance, writing books, cookbooks, general reference and nonfiction.

  5. Annette Naish says

    My books are alphabetical by author’s last name. That is both the keeper shelves, and the shelves filled with books yet to read. That rule is even true on my kindle.

    • This is the first time I was able to create a TBR shelf and not just have a TBR Stack always about to devolve into a TBR Heap.

  6. Annette Naish says

    My books are alphabetical by author’s last name. I have separate keepers and yet to read shelves.

  7. I have four categories: Religious, Mystery, Nonfiction, Children’s.
    They’re all mine, oh, and Fiction also! I’m most into mysteries, so that’s my focus on categorizing my books!

  8. maggietoussaint says

    Mine are grouped, somewhat. Fav author section – check. Book Writing section – check. Religious stuff – check. Local history – check. Keepers that I can’t stand to part with – check. Junks shelves with anything goes – check. Books which get the most use: fav author, local history, and a few writing books. Sigh. The rest might as well be wallpaper.

  9. Mine are sorted by author first, and then by favorites. Reference books have their own section.

  10. When we moved cross country, I faced the same sort of dilemma. Of course, I needed shelving in my office, and we had more downstairs. For the bank of shelves we had custom built, I asked for several rows of paperback height to allow for more shelves. But then I couldn’t decide whether sorting books by size made sense–after all, I had both hard cover and paperbacks from some favorite authors. At least now I’m buying more ebooks, which helps stop the overflow on the too-full bookshelves.

    • I actually caught myself looking for an e-book to put with the others in the series, which I have as print. I knew I had it and couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t in one of the stacks. Now my OCDish side wants to go buy it in print to make everything complete.

  11. *favorites

  12. Three shelves of faborites, one of series, one on travel. Next case is word books…punctuation, etc. Christian, then two shelves of classics.
    Third case is hubby’s Civil War books, signed copies, and non-fiction and humor.
    Mostly just organized by size there.

    • I had to factor size in too. Plus I like to stick boxes and doo-dads on top of books, and I love those little crannies and spaces that short books make.

  13. jmjackson054 says

    I keep my fiction alphabetical–within the bookcase. There is very little rhyme or reason why some books reside in my study and others upstairs; why some are Michigan-based and others reside in Georgia. Reference have their own area (where Bird by Bird resides). Biographies are alphabetical and history by date. Nature has its own section, but field guides are somewhere else.

    Truth is, you have to be me to know where to find a particular book.

  14. Marcia Berbeza says

    sigh…I’m a retired school librarian. I love Dewey. But it really isn’t practical for my personal collection since it’s primarily fiction. I tend to split my books by genre. Children’s, Sci-Fic, Mysteries, etc.