Dear NPR


I am writing this blog post in response to your request on Facebook:

If you’re a book lover, you probably have shelves upon shelves of literary treasures. We want to know for an upcoming story: How do you organize all these? Do you keep fiction and literature separate? Do you go alphabetical? Or do you sort by size and appearance? What has to be in hard copy and what only lives on your Kindle? Where do you hide those guilty pleasure reads?

First, the book lover part: My husband and I actually bought an old house partially because it had a library where I could finally put out the bulk of my books. Many years ago, I rented an apartment for the same reason, and in those days, the collection was probably not even 1/4 of what it is now. My previous house was very small, and I had to find interesting places to put all the books I couldn’t resist buying. It led to a funny story about hiding books in the linen closet. They weren’t particularly guilty reads, but I had made a pledge I wasn’t buying any more books so when I broke the pledge almost immediately, I needed to keep them out of my husband’s sight. He found them when he went looking for toilet paper.

Even in my new house, there are still a few books stored in the cupboards below the open shelves, and the collection has spilled over to other rooms. Almost every room in my house has at least a few books that live in it.

booksYou seem particularly interested in organization. I’m currently working on scanning my books into a database and have been thinking a lot about how I organize. For now, my books are loosely organized by genre. I have several major collections: children’s books, education, nature and history, and they are housed together in groups but not in any other order. I also have a huge collection of fiction and literature, but they are in no particular order and tend to be sprinkled throughout the shelves as I don’t have any more open areas so I just shelve them where I can. Probably my favorite shelving pair is the Kama Sutra sitting next to the Bible, something I didn’t plan but that a friend pointed out.

Some books were placed where they are because of the height of the shelves. The house came with books from the previous owner, a doctor whose children were not book people. He had a huge collection of dime store paperbacks that fit perfectly in the top shelves. They are put together by author since I had to move all of them and took the time to put them together as I placed them on the shelves.

At this point, with books spilling over everywhere, I try to limit my purchases in general. I buy first editions and hard covers in the  nature and history categories since they are my major areas of collecting. I will buy hard cover first editions of other kinds of books. I also buy analog books when I’m supporting independent book stores, part of something I call book store tourism. I make it a point to seek out local stores when I travel and usually have room for a couple in my suitcase. Kindle and Nook purchases and library checkouts are for books that I’m going to read quickly, in a day or two. But, I will break that rule if the books are used and cheap. I don’t mind reading ebooks, but there are times when I just crave a real book.

As for guilty pleasures, earlier this year I announced that I wasn’t going to feel guilty about reading anything ever again. I’ve read my share of the classics, tackled some tough nonfiction, so I don’t have to justify my reading habits to anyone. My books are on the shelves for me, and I’m old enough that I just don’t care about what other people think. If you’re ever near by Bottle Tree Farm, feel free to stop by and browse.

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