John Waters once famously suggested that if a potential paramour doesn't have any books in their home, you should probably, uh, leave. But for many bibliophiles, just having books doesn't quite cut it — it's how those titles are displayed that really makes the difference. If you're craving a deep-dive on shelf arrangement (and what self-respecting bookworm isn't?), check out this reddit thread about organizing personal libraries.
The initial question was simple enough: yesterday, TheWanderingHoboJoe asked the /r/books universe, "How do you organize, display, or sort your books? How do you set up your shelves? Do you use a traditional system or a proprietary one? I am looking at rearranging my shelves and I am struggling to find the best way to do it. The more unconventional (yet still rational) the better."
It's a conundrum many of us with extensive home libraries have struggled with - how do you store and display your beloved books in an aesthetically pleasing, yet easy to navigate manner? Do you do it by genre? By author? By color? Read versus un-read? Or do you try this hives-inducing, "spines inward" style which immediately gives me a stress headache? Do you stack them on the floor? In a box? Do you invest in a series of bookshelves? Do you hide them in hard-to-reach places from sticky-fingered children (or roommates)? What do you do?!
Perhaps a good place to start is the Library of Congress - after all, they're kind of the national experts on where to put your books and how. Within a library, each book is assigned a "call number," a series of four number and letter combinations that collectively identify a book's genre, topic, author and publication date. The Library of Congress believes in "serendipitous browsing" — that by grouping books on similar topics together, a reader, in search of a specific title, can easily stumble upon a slew of books they didn't even know they needed.
While creating a call number for each book within your personal library is a bit excessive (although, once you've read through this list, you may be altering your concept of "excessive"), the general idea, that the manner in which books are shelved can affect the ways in which you read, is an interesting, if not poetic, one. Who knows - a quick rearranging of your own collection could open up a whole new world.