The Opinion Engine 2.0:
How do you arrange your bookshelves?

Question asked by Alexander McCall Smith via Today on BBC Radio Four.

Books Readers with long memories will know about the slightly baroque approach I’ve taken to cataloguing my dvds (more here) and that continues apace unfortunately. But the other morning just before work, I caught the end of this piece on Today in which Alexander McCall Smith explained how he arranged his books and asking listeners the same question, with replies via Twitter.

One of the benefit of having a relatively monosyllabic taste in books is that they’re fairly easy to organise. Sitting on the desk where I’m typing is a bookcase, the top of which has all of the pre-nuWho spin-off novels in some kind of relative order with the Eighth Doctor BBC Books up front waiting to be worked through. Below that are three shelves filled with Shakespeare handbooks and biographies and other contextual stuff.

Right next to my chair are two old Argos bookcases piled on top of one another. Top shelf are the Cygnet editions of Shakespeare plays, and Penguin second editions and on the shelves downwards, Arden Shakespeare second edition, Arden’s third edition, Penguin thirds plus the Arden Early Modern Drama (all alphabetical by title), miscellaneous editions, then the plays on cassette, then various Hamlet productions.

The books on the rest of the shelves, the general knowledge, aren’t in any particular order other than height with some series gathered together. Unlike the dvds I don’t own enough that it’s too much to have to bother with and I quite like having to look for a title if I really need to because of the resultant tiny sense of satisfaction when it’s been found. One bookshelf contains the backlog, spine towards the ceiling, taunting me.

Given my professional librarian qualification, you’d think I would be more organised. But the dvds have essentially fulfilled that addiction. Watching Alan Yentob’s Imagine about the rise of ebooks the other night I couldn’t help having a slightly guilty tinge, just briefly, relishing all the space I could save if all of these volumes were just files on a Kindle. Apart from anything else, I’d never have to have a clear out.

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