“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
— Marcus Tullius Cicero
I consider myself to have a larger than median book collection (a rough estimate says between 500-600 books), it fills 3 1/2 large Billy bookcases…and part of the floor…and under the bed. I have most of the books I have ever had from childhood to the present day, in a wide range of genre and type.
Most people I know just put books on a shelf, this is just a travesty. There are systems people, systems and one specially for books, the Dewey Decimal system.
The act of curating my bookcases took a full three days, mainly due to stopping and reading but also because each one had to fit in the right place. It’s like a giant vertical jigsaw where every piece is rectangular. Fiction and non-fiction should be separate, sci-fi and fantasy beside each other but not mixed, ordered by publication date where possible (notable exceptions include having to place The Silmarillion before The Hobbit which comes before Lord of the Rings).
Books on science flow from Physics to Biology via Chemistry, history from Ancient Greece to Modern day. Sports are linked by players and nationalities, everything in order not overspilling the shelf. And this is where the problems arise.
What if I have one book too many to fit in the space? The sensible answer would be to put it on the next one, but does someone who takes three days to organise a bookcase sound rational to you? The real answer is to rearrange and start again. I did, and got them all to fit perfectly.
The only problem is now I have bought more books, books that I don’t have space for. This calls for a further reassessment of the organisation of the Billys, what could be better?
As a side thought, I am tempted to classify the books by colour. I may just try that. I wonder if there is a chromatic Dewey Decimal system?
Then I would have to judge a book by it’s cover. Has there ever been a more pointless idea? How can I make a judgement call over which book to read if there is not any indicator to what is contained in the hundred or so pages. The last thing I can do at a bookstore or on Amazon is to stand there and read it all to see if it’s worth reading.
As a result the best way to get me to read your tome is the way it looks. Obviously it can lead to disappointment but the way a book looks on the outer cover is just as important as what is contained within. Any novel gets two first impressions, once on the front and again on the back. Here are some of the books which have made an impact and caused me to pick them up (and one important lesson learned).
It’s got a dinosaur on, I like dinosaurs so I read this book. It had dinosaurs in. This is a good example of a “Ronseal” cover, it does what it says on the cover. If this was a book on the way a childless man acts as a surrogate father to two children in times of crisis I wouldn’t have been impressed.
It wasn’t. It was about dinosaurs.
Lord of the Rings
There is something cryptic about these covers, and while they may reveal some element about the story it is only through reading them that the cover illustrations make sense. These are the kind of illustrations that draw you in not through flashy imagery but by raising your curiosity.
Inverting the Pyramid
It may be a book on the history of football tactics, but it is a cracking read…as long as you have a fleeting interest in WM and a false 9. If you don’t then nothing I say will convince you to pick it up. As a football fan it does need to make me want to buy it…and it does so with another fancy book cover trick. It uses a strange title to make me go “what?!” and want to look further.
Life of Pi.
It says “Man Booker” on the front. Put it back down, it will be awful.