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The Art of Sorting: How to Organize your Bookshelves and Stay Sane

The Art of Sorting: How to Organize your Bookshelves and Stay Sane
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Palina Dolia

Take a look at your bookshelf. Closer. What does it remind you of? An uneven row of books of all sizes and colours? Perfectly even row, where everything is arranged exactly in alphabetical order? Chaotically volumes thrown on each other mixed with postcards and magazine inserts? Whatever is in your bookcase, you've probably thought about sorting it at least once. Home libraries always look flawless in photographs and in movies – if only it were like this at home! It's time to dust off the spines and learn about ways to tidy up your bookshelves. And to figure out how the National Library is doing it.

To begin with, we will mention one very important detail. No matter how you decide to organize your library, it should be a system that works exclusively for you; that is, it helps you find the right book as quickly as possible, and at the same time fit in the available space. First of all, this is all for your comfort. Be a little selfish after all! There is nothing shameful about taking aesthetic aspects as the basis of your sorting. Well, someone may consider this attitude narrow-minded and superficial for such a serious matter, but... do you care? Beautiful bookshelves – surprise! – stimulate your desire to read, encourage it. Some public libraries don’t take this into account and lose their readers: if the books on the shelf are out of order, look unaesthetic, do not catch the eye, then, naturally, no one wants to take them. Attractiveness matters.

Let’s summarize: sort the books the way you like. One of the ways will probably work great for you, and your reading life will become much easier.

So, how do you organize your shelves?


In alphabetical order by author

Let's start with obvious options. You are probably used to this from the first visit to the public library: cardboard plates with letters, strict alphabetical order, utter seriousness. Even large scientific libraries (for example, the US Library of Congress) use this method: books on the shelves are arranged strictly by author in the order of citation. The same principle applies to the thematic sections.

Thus, this kind of sorting equates all the books that you could get hold of on the shelves, regardless of genre and direction. It will emphasize your versatility or help organize books in original author blocks, if you happen to be are a monogamous reader and your library pays tribute to only a few writers who touched your heart.

However, even such a system has a drawback. Suppose you have collected all your home library, carefully put it in the correct order from A to Z, everything is beautiful, even, perfectly compiled. And then a month or two passes, and you buy a couple more books. Where do you put them? Do you start rearranging everything again, making room for new items? There’s a solution: leave a little space on each shelf in advance for books that you will buy in the future (and you will definitely buy some, we know you).

In alphabetical order by title

Combines perfectly with the first method. Your space is used as efficiently as possible, it is easy and simple to search for a book. All that remains is to make sure you leave room for yourself to expand your potential book collection.

In this case, a whole extravaganza of different genres, standing side by side, will again appear on your bookshelves. It is likely that even books by the same author will be separated. A minimum of integrity. It is likely that some kind of hilarious phrase will turn out from the titles on the spines. Not the most traditional sorting method, but at least it’s fun.


Dewey Decimal Classification, or Library of Congress System

Yes, yes, we mentioned that this library uses alphabetical sorting by author. But this is just the tip of the iceberg: in fact, everything is much more complicated. If your library has grown to the size of an average public library, and you yourself are meticulous and attentive to details, this sorting method may very well suit you.

So where's the beef? Take a look at your library and break it down into nine conditional classes – genres or whichever you like best. Assign a number from 0 to 9 for each class. Now divide each of these classes into subclasses, to which you also assign a number. Work out the structure this way until you run out of books or ideas. In the end, it turns out that any of your books has a conditional index – the first number in it denotes the class, the second – the subclass, and so on. You can even stick a piece of paper with an index on the spines, so that everything is like in a serious library.

Difficult and confusing? Let's give an example for clarity. Suppose there are enough books on the history of art among your collection, and, accordingly, a whole class appears – "Art" with the assigned number 7. Inside it – "Painting" with number 1, "Sculpture" with number 2 and "Cinematography" with number 3 You are looking for something about Renoir, so you remember what is there in the section "Painting", and it turns out that there are more subsections, and among them there is "Impressionism" with number 5. As a result, you realize that those same books are about Renoir have index 715, so look for it.

Wipe the sweat from your forehead: the system seems complicated and overloaded only at first glance, but if your home library has shelves full of scientific literature, and you often have to refer not so much to a specific book as to a topic, decimal classification will save you a huge amount of time and strength. True, before that you have to work hard.

By the way, on the basis of this specific system, the Universal Decimal Classification was created, which is still widely used all over the world – including your favourite National Library. The main sections of the UDC are obviously universal and the same for everyone: 0 – "General department, documentation, librarianship, etc.", 1 – "Philosophy and psychology", 2 -–"Religion and theology", 3 – "Social sciences", 5 – "Mathematics and natural sciences", 6 – "Applied sciences, medicine and technology", 7 – "Art, photography, music, games and sports", 8 - "Linguistics, literature", 9 - "Geography, biographies and history". As you may have noticed, number 4 is not on this list. This section – attention – has been vacant for future use since 1962. The next time you look at the shelves in the atrium, imagine how many numbers and complex connections are behind each of the books.


By genre, category and even mood

Sorting by genre can be convenient if you are constantly tormented by the idea of what to read according to your mood. Do you want to shed a sad tear? Laugh heartily? Scare the hell out of yourself? With genre sorting, you always know where to look for the needed book.

First, you have to make a list of genres by which you will sort your library. Maybe you have a huge collection of science fiction and have the patience to classify all its subgenres? From "A" (alternate history) to "S" (steampunk) or even "U" (urban fantasy) – the classification depends only on you.

After all, you can always organize books by category: your childhood literature is here, textbooks are there, postmodernists are on a prominent place, romance novels are shamefully put in a far corner. Separate fiction and non-fiction, and then again return to the division by genre, but within these two large categories. Or don't return – these are your books, do whatever you want.

To classify books by mood, of course, you will need to at least superficially leaf through all the books in your extensive collection. Yes, even those that you bought a hundred years ago and still promise yourself to read. Remember what they are about, what mood they are imbued with – and sort them like never before. Put together all the books that squeezed litres of tears and sentimentality out of you, books that gave you the jitters, books that take you back to warm summer days or make you reminisce on your childhood. In this case, sorting will become not only useful, but also quite enjoyable. After all, there are hidden memories behind every book – you just have to look.


By book size and format

Moving on to options that are more prosaic. Books of a non-standard form annoy to the same extent that they attract: they always do not fit on the shelf, stick out in all directions, obscure other spines… Even the neighbourhood of hardcovers and paperbacks can unsettle especially sensitive aesthetes. Let alone an uneven fence of giant and very tiny books standing one after another. Solution: sort everything by size and don't be ashamed of it.

First of all, collect all your large-format books, huge magazines and other albums, and put them face up on the very top or bottom shelf. Yes, face up. Remember this moment, we will return to it a little later and clarify everything. In the meantime, arrange everything else by size – you have enough books from the same series or just the same format for sure. This method is rather auxiliary and is perfect in combination with others.


By the colour of the book

Throw away all your prejudices: the aesthetic side of sorting is also very important. These are your books, do whatever you please with them – especially if your visual memory works best, but the titles somehow don't stick too much in your head. In the end, who of us has not had a situation when we urgently need to find “well, a book, a blue one, with something white on the cover”? Told ya!!

Actually, when sorting by colour, it is also worth defining some rules in advance. What's your book palette? Where to put books with the spines of several colours? And what would you do with white, black, golden, silver? Once you have decided upon all the important aspects for yourself, arranging the books will become easy and enjoyable.

By publisher

A sudden option for those who often buy books from a specific series: sort by publishers! Many of them try to stand out, creating a specific design for their covers and combining a variety of books by tones. For example, you will never confuse Penguin Books with others, because there is so much orange in them. After all, this is a good way to pay tribute to the people due to whom your home library exist.


Alternating lying and standing books

Well, it's time to move on to an auxiliary method that will help you make the most of your bookshelf space if you have enough books of roughly the same format.

The traditional way to store a book on a shelf is to put it upright. But with the auxiliary method, some books are placed face up on top of each other, so that the title can be seen. Yes, at first it will seem that this takes up more space o, but this is a deceptive impression: in fact, your space is used as rationally as possible. Just try it – and you will understand that many more books fit on the shelf than before. Also, the spines of paperback books will not deteriorate.

Another way is to lay all the books in a certain series flat, but put the very first one upright. It looks very aesthetically pleasing.

Read and unread

A great method for small home libraries that fit on a couple of shelves. Instead of puzzling over the classification of all this treasure, just put them in two different angles: in one, there will be read books, and in the other – the ones to be devoured.

The method is simple and works well in combination with others, because you can always just leave one shelf for untouched books, and sort the general collection more thoughtfully. If, of course, one shelf is enough for you unread books...

When sorting books, listen to your heart.

   Internet Portal Maintenance Department


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