Originally uploaded by adelaide writer

The dust on my books is depressing me. Their disorder is distressing me. They are horizontal, vertical, diagonal. They are in wobbly piles all over the house. Next to my bed, the fridge, the television, my favourite chair. The new bookcase, delivered only yesterday, is full.

The edges of their classification have long ago blurred. Time was, you could see the fiction, non-fiction line. You knew where to go for Australian history, Russian history, Spanish history. Australian literature. Magical realists. Playscripts. All alphabetical by author. Of course.

It was great.

I am going to order my books by colour. Spine colour. It will be an undemanding order and will require little maintenance. I will not grade the shades of orange or black. I will not concern myself with their size.

The only exception will be the books which I brought home from my grandfather’s. They are sitting together on the top shelves of my new bookshelf. I am their guardian but it would not be right to subsume them into my collection. The subsumption would be an untimely assumption.

What should I do with the piles of Australian Book Reviews? Throw them out? But they’re so interesting to flick through every now and then. Here. Put them in this box and put this box in the studio to be reopened again the next time I try to bring order to my life. What about this patchy collection of New Yorkers and this incomplete set of Overlands? I don’t know. Are you going to read them again? Probably not. Do you like having them? Not when they get dusty and disorderly like this. Then throw them out.

I can’t.

Don’t get me started on the children’s books. They have a lot more books than I realised. Did I buy them all? I must have though I don’t know when. At Christmas time, and birthdays. But there’s more books here than that. They are unwieldy things in all manner of awkward sizes. And so, this afternoon, I have given them three homes. This shelf in the study for the large picture books and those two bottom shelves on that bookcase in their room. The very bottom shelf for smaller picture books, and the one above for the growing collection of novels. There’s four homes if you count the space I made in the cupboard for the board books. Next to the bag with grow suits and singlets.

Time goes.

Here is the box of books I am throwing into the recycling bin and here is the box I am giving away.

When this job is done I will be able to read my books again. It’s going to be great.

0 thoughts on “books”

  1. I find book spring cleans to be satisfying but also have trouble giving them away. Usually kid’s books my boy no longer reads have to go because I can’t bear to give away mine.

    And ABRs and NYers are too difficult to even contemplate throwing out – I even have ten years of Who Weekly (tragic I know, but they’re from 1992-2002, a complete set, if anyone is interested in doing a research project on changes in celebrity media coverage) in my cupboards that I cannot part with.

    Have fun re-reading 🙂

  2. I have one whole shelf of black spines (Russian Lit) and one of orange (important lit) but after that the system fell apart and it’s a mess. I think I have biographies together, and art books together and gardening books too, but the rest is a shamozzle. And it’s shitting me to tears.

  3. Since we bought some serious IKEA bookshelves four months ago, and horrifyingly used them up immediately, I’ve had a cleanout on my to do list. But I can’t bear to do it. But at least having all the books on the shelves (even if with no new space) has meant I’ve reread some old favourites.

    I know what you mean on the kids books. How did they get so many?

  4. I sorted our kitchen bookshelf (the one I can see as I eat my oats) by spine colour over Christmas after seeing it done in a home design mag. The vision still provides me with a calm pleasure each morning.

  5. Why do you still have the grow suits and singlets? I can’t believe the number of people who have passed on baby clothes to us, when their children are 5-6-7 years old. I’ve already passed on the 00000 and 0000 that my two have grown out of. One advantage of very small houses – no storage.

  6. Good luck. I always start the re-reading halfway through the sorting, and never get back to it. Please, if you make it through, show pics of the finished shelves.

  7. Once you’ve sorted them by colour, how are you going to order the colours? I’m intrigued.

    We have way too many books. Almost all the fiction is in the spare room, including a bunch of non-fiction of the ‘read for pleasure’ type, and the study is full of ‘boring books’. I think some of them will have to go to make way for the baby.

  8. Nothing of the inessential and trivial sort annoys me more than bookshelves with books shoved horizontally into the gaps at the top, and bookshelves with things other than books mixed in.

    I second Duck’s desire to see an After photo.

  9. I order my books by colour on one of my bookcases.

    But then life intrudes, the book tornado takes over and I end up with a stuffed shelf that explodes if you remove a book.

    Sometimes I donate those beloved collections of dusty things , to schools or libraries. You would be surprised!
    I have a decade worth of art and australia, half in my garage and half in the house. They constitute a portable student library so they come in handy at work.

    I went to orifice-works on thursday to laminate something and ended up ordering a bookshelf: with wheels! yippee, it can be dragged around the house. Only 99 dollars!

  10. Peg Bracken the wonderful 1950s American writer (the I Hate to Housekeep Book) advocated shelving books by blocks of colour.

    Her books would be fascinating social artefacts if I could ever get my hands on them again. They were written for a time when being a rebel meant being snarky about housework but not even contemplating not being the one to do it.

  11. Well, I cannot talk about this sensibly. I reorganised all my books recently.
    And now I cannot always find the ones I want, let alone remember everything I have. Just moving them around seems to have broken something in my brain.

    The least used parts of any collection (as in kitchen cupboards)are the corners you forget fastest. Either at home or (gasp) in a real library, where things get lost all the time. ALL THE TIME.

  12. I have found just the best article about Peg Bracken EVER. God I love this woman.

    “I went to work on the book, but then I hit a speed bump,” she says. “My husband who was also a writer was jealous. He said, ‘You’re wasting your time; who’d want a book like that?’ He didn’t want competition. He wanted to be the only writer in the family.”

    After that particularly telling period in their marriage, Bracken says, “I showed enormous patience and waited four more years until I left him.”

  13. Did you hear the book reading on Radio National yesterday? ‘The Idea of Home; he was talking about his mother’s collecting. ‘The house expanded,’ he said, ‘to accommodate years of stuff’ or whatever. Reminded me of you.

  14. any sort of order is promptly rearranged in our home…by the baby of the family. In fact dragging books from the bookshelf is the current obsession of the week.

  15. I periodically rearrange my shelves, and I have tried to “theme” them:

    Non fiction, political non-fiction (I have a lot of that), Renaissance history, literature, crime fiction, etc.

    It’s just a pain when you have half a shelf of something, and I don’t have shelf space to share….

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