Like Rob Gordon, the character played by John Cusack in the film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, I love a reorganisation. The only fun part of moving house is getting to pack, unpack and reorganise your treasures.
And it is getting to be quite a job. When they are all relatively neatly placed on bookshelves they don’t look so oppressive. But when they are all stacked on the floor they look overwhelming and my 14-month-old daughter standing next to them looks like Godzilla amongst Tokyo’s skyscrapers.
It prompted my wife to say, again, that we have too many books; a thought that depresses me. Especially when I look at the books I don’t have and haven’t read yet. Classics like Kristin Lavransdatter, The Decameron and the works of Tagore. There are Asian classics, an area I have badly neglected, like The Mahabharata, The Romance of Three Kingdoms and The Sea of Fertility. I don’t have Beloved or Three Men in a Boat or any Virginia Woolf. There’s Money by Amis, Generation X by Coupland, Underworld by DeLillo, even The Princess Bride! There are series like A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Accursed Kings and A Song of Ice and Fire. Not to mention all the books I want to buy for my daughter and that I want to read about raising a daughter.
And what about all the non-fiction? The many books of history, biography, science and philosophy I don’t have and am dying to read are too long to list.
My wife is probably right and to be fair we donated, I would estimate, about 100 books during the move. I will be parting ways with the memoirs of John McEnroe and Eric Clapton I’ve read, some of the lesser titles of Stephen King and Michael Crichton and some even trashier pop fiction titles I am ready to let go of. I’ll also ditch some books that were considered to be somewhat literary, but I disagreed and did not particularly enjoy, like Pigeon English and The Book Thief. My wife is ditching the novels of Robert Galbraith, John Green, Philippa Gregory and Henning Mankell that she’s read. But mostly we are ditching the classic books that we have two copies of since we married and merged our collections – mostly Dickens’, Brontes, Austens and some others.
But anyway onto the reorganisation. At the suggestion of my wife, I am ditching our old method of categorising our fiction books into classics, modern classics and contemporary literature and instead one big shelf will contain all our fiction (plays and poetry as well as novels) alphabetically by author. This also means we no longer keep all our Indian and Russian fiction separately. There is still no place for the pop fiction of Stephen King, crime novels, fantasy and sci-fi or for any Shakespeare; they will still live in boxes in a closet somewhere. That big bookshelf now looks like this:
The bookshelf is two-sided, which is annoying. Maybe one day we will live somewhere a bit more open-plan and can use both sides and enjoy double the shelf space it currently offers.
Our shelf for history and biography is still pretty much the same, but is less chronological. Instead we’ve categorised into sections and then alphabetically by author within each section. The sections are Ancient History, Medieval and Renaissance, Modern History, WWII and the Holocaust and Non-Historical Biographies. Unfortunately, I can’t share a picture of it – the lighting in its new home does not favour a good photo.
That leaves the rest. On three shelves that used to house our fiction we’ve put our books into sections for Science and Math, Religion and Philosophy, Economics, Art and Indian Non-Fiction. There is also a section of Children’s books. Mostly Dahls, Pullmans and Rowlings of my wife and I as well as the Puffin Classics I have recently begun collecting for when my daughter is a bit older. The shelves also contain the Jeeves and Wooster series by Wodehouse, Documentary DVDs, as well as a section of ‘Other’ Non-Fiction – trivia, pop-culture, and some other odds and ends. On top of these shelves are various large hardcovers.
That is it for our reading room, but it doesn’t even cover all the books we have. As mentioned, we have a couple of storage boxes full of the books we are neither willing to part with or able to find room to display. My wife’s Agatha Christie collection sits on shelves in her office. And our daughter has about three small boxes full of age-appropriate books that she loves to pull out and flick through.
As difficult as it was as a bibliophile to part with some of the books I gave away, some things were harder to deal with. My wife gave away a copy of George RR Martin’s A Game of Thrones; a book she never got around to reading and can’t see herself reading anytime soon. I didn’t argue; I would love to read the whole series someday, but I’m happy to wait until the series is completed before I do, especially with all I have to read already. A week after we moved, my wife decided to ditch the book she was currently reading as she found it boring and admitted that she hasn’t been able to stop thinking about A Game of Thrones since she gave it away, especially since the most recent season of the TV series just finished! So much so that, as soon as she got a free half an hour, she sped to the mall to get a new copy! And I’m the one with a book problem?