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