I think a person’s favorite Hemingway says a lot about them, and I think the way a person organizes their bookshelves says a lot about them, too. Not sure what these shelves will tell you about me (I’ll let you decide that), but here’s how I’ve chosen to organize my books!
Most of my books are by region: the top of this low bookshelf is literature from Asia, starting with the Middle East and Iran on the left and flowing eastward into Korea and Japan. South Asia is to the right of the sound unit. The few Latin American books I own are at the far right and Spain (Cervantes’ Don Quixote) is tacked on at the end.
The lower left section is for authors of the Lost Generation – my copies of Faulkner and Steinbeck as well as Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Ford Madox Ford and Orwell are here, too.
The middle section is more loosely organized as Renaissance and literature from the Enlightenment period, along with those works that influenced these ages (e.g. Plato’s dialogues, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in both prose and verse and Sophocles’ plays). Other plays I own take their places alongside the Shakespeare – the massive Norton hardcover is from a Shakespeare class I took in college. There’s also a couple philosophy/political theory books here.
I have a few of my nonfiction books at bottom right. Mostly fun U.S. politics books (election campaign memorabilia, presidential stories of the White House), books about economics or business (including my Vanderbilt and Rockefeller biographies) and journalistic works like All the President’s Men and From Beirut to Jerusalem, the latter blending into a line-up of political science books I have on the Middle East.
The top shelf is organized by both region and era. The left is U.S. fin de siècle literature, followed chronologically by WWI, WWII and mid-century books. A break for contemporary literature through Donna Tart and the pattern resumes with England and Jane Austen, diverting westward to James Joyce before terminating in French literature.
The entire middle shelf is Russia, excepting the books lying on top of the others for want of shelf space. I have fiction and authorial biographies here. This section is by far the largest in my book collection; I finally had to bring the first two volumes of the Gulag Archipelago down to the bottom shelf, which…
houses nonfiction. U.S. history, military history, biography and other non-fiction, arranged chronologically and then alphabetically. My Robert Caro books on LBJ and Robert Moses have their own spot at my bedside by virtue of being an ongoing biographical series.
This last shelf is genre fiction: fantasy, mystery, sci fi, espionage and crime fiction…I found new overstock copies of all but the 2nd and 3rd Harry Potter books on a trip to Half-Price Books. I used to read every Harry Potter book each summer and after recently finishing the first in the Lord of the Rings series I find I’m in a fantasy mood and want to revisit these favorites!
Out of place on this shelf at the moment (as if they had a permanent place – oops!), Gaiman and Tóibín are standing in for Wilkie Collins’ classic mystery, The Woman in White, while I’m reading it…another situation of having nowhere to go for my newer acquisitions; they tumble in any which way!
I also have a shelf for reference books – German language and Arabic grammar books, more political science books, composite histories (e.g. H.G. Wells’ Outline of History).
Now tell me…