Where does it belong on your bookshelves?

I wrote most of this post in April of 2012 and I guess forgot about it.  As it is still an issue I struggle with, I thought it would be interesting to post and see what you all have to say.

In one of my graduate seminars, we would always end our book discussions with the question “Where does this book belong on your bookshelves?”  This question was designed to make us think about what sub-field(s) of history we thought the book belonged to.  Thinking about this meant we had to articulate and define sub-fields, in addition to pretending to be those librarians who actually categorize and decide where libraries shelve these books.

I was terrible at answering this question, as I am the sort of person who has a terrible time categorizing or labeling things.  I have such a hard time categorizing things because I feel like nothing really fits into a particular box just perfectly.  But this is a question that keeps coming back to me as I blog and track and talk about what I read.  How do I categorize what I read so that it is useful piece of knowledge for both my readers and myself?  Should I even bother trying?  How do I decide where these various books fit on my imaginary internet bookshelves?

Normally, I either make my best guess based on the opinions of other people or don’t even both trying to pick a genre (general fiction, it is!).  I mull over the genre tags on Goodreads to see what other people have said.  In the end, I don’t usually tag my blog posts with a genre, but will make note of it on my book-tracking spreadsheet.  And then go back and change it.  But usually I feel mired in ambiguity when it comes to the question of genre.

Seeing as how I am terrible at this game, I thought I’d ask for your feedback.  How do you decide where a book belongs on your bookshelves?

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8 thoughts on “Where does it belong on your bookshelves?

    • Shelving by genre, especially when you have shelves in multiple areas of the house, makes a lot of sense. I am sort of hopeless in terms of actually shelving my books. They’re a total wreck and I can never find what I am looking for!

  1. Its a good day if my books are mostly on bookshelves vs on the floor by my bed or couch or in my car. I totally gave up organizing by genre. If I do organize my books its done aesthetically by size and color.

    • Haha! I pretty much ignore the books on my shelves, so actually organizing them hasn’t been a big priority. The fact that they are not stacked all over the house is progress enough!

  2. My bookcases at home are organized willy-nilly according my mood and the aesthetic quality of the arrangement. I know my books very well, so I know where to find them in my non-scientific arrangement of things. I have hardcovers together, paperbacks together, a shelf of complete trilogies, a shelf of non-fiction, etc. I also have a shelf this year that I’m calling the “2014 Shelf”…all the physical books I read will go on that one shelf, to see if I can fill up the whole shelf. I just allow myself to move my books around and reorganize them constantly as the mood hits, so I don’t stress to much about the specific location of a particular book.

    • Choosing to ignore the question of genre altogether seems like it may be the smart way to go. As it is, my shelves are kind of a disaster that will only be remedied if I go on a mad organizing kick!

  3. Currently, I am in tight quarters and lack shelves for my books. They remained tucked away in boxes. Previously, they were sorted by genre, and then by “Read” and “Not read”. It’s amazing how quickly the “Not Read” pile can grow.

    • No kidding! Though I have been pretty good about limiting my book purchasing in the last couple of years. Having access to a great public library has really changed my habits!

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