I’ve been rearranging my books again – I had to unshelve a lot of them to wash some mould off the wall, and I took the opportunity to start sorting them out a bit. This was also much needed due to the seven+ years of comings, goings, and general muddle.
Although there are overlaps and grey-area cases, my books do roughly break into a series of collections.
Fiction. Novels and short stories, all of which I only keep in the long-term collection if I’m likely to read them again – these are mainly the exceptionally good (e.g. Lord of the Rings, Good Omens), the fannishly relevant (e.g. novelisations of Star Wars, Harry Potter), the somehow distinctive (including a few which are hilariously bad – e.g. Druid’s Blood), and fantasy epics so long and/or complicated that you need to re-read the previous parts before the new one comes out (e.g. Katherine Kerr’s Dverry cycle).
Poetry. Individual authors and anthologies. In the recent weeding, I decided to only keep these if they were one of the following three things: a) something I’d studied, 2) something I really liked, or 3) something I found intriguing.
Archaeology. The majority of this collection is about British prehistory, with a particular focus on stone circles and other monuments. There are a few forays into other areas – cathedrals, for example – and a steadily growing range of specific guidebooks, both thematic (bog bodies, fogous, religion) and geographic (Lewis and Harris, the Llyn Peninsula, Cornwall).
Miscellaneous fact. I suspect this is actually two collections, one of the sort of fact books I read from cover to cover (Table-Rappers, anything by Jon Ronson), and one of the sort of fact books I dip into sometimes (the dictionary of place names, Mythic Woods). This division is somewhat blurred by books which are not quite either – Seals, Peter Sellers: A Celebration). At the moment I haven’t decided on an order in which to put them, except by size. Maybe I’ll do it strictly by size, then at least they’ll look neat.
Plays and scripts. Unsure what to do with my Greek tragedies, set of Bernard Shaw plays, Two Ronnies scripts, and Richard Curtis screenplays, I have put them all together. The logic of this is a little dubious but perhaps I’ll sort them chronologically so they are easier to find.
Humour. These are the sorts of books which I used to read in odd moments where I now do Facebook quizzes and browse Tumblr tags. I have sent a lot to the charity shops but some old favourites remain (Max Headroom, The Deeper Meaning of Liff, The Unadulterated Cat, etc.).
Children’s books. This is a mixture of classics from my own childhood (Thomas the Tank Engine belongs to my parents and I don’t know what became of Ben Goes to Hospital, but there’s still The House at Pooh Corner and some others of that sort), together with recent acquisitions aimed at doing ‘religion stuff’ with my Brownies. The latter probably needs weeding now I’ve tried some of them out and have a better idea what goes down well.
Spike Milligan. I hunt all over for these when they’re spread out in fiction/poetry/scripts/(auto)biography/children’s books/humour/something else again, so I decided to give them their own space. I have more than I thought I did, although I’m a long way short of a complete collection.
Religion. Mainly academic books, mainly on subjects I have studied in the past or needed as background but not pursued further – when I have, they tend to be in one of the categories below. There’s also the kind of ‘religion’ book I pick up as general reading – Why I am a Muslim, Principles: Zen, that kind of thing.
Quakerism. We might be quiet in Meeting, but we are very willing to talk, and publish, the rest of the time. I’ve been collecting recent Quaker literature for over three years, and the shelf – and the box of pamphlets – have extended rapidly.
Gender studies and sexuality. I haven’t added much to this collection since I finished my MA, but it’s a useful core to which I refer from time to time. It also complements another specific collection:
Jewish feminism. Very much at the overlap of gender studies and religious studies, I bought all kinds of fascinating books in the course of my theology undergraduate dissertation and my MA dissertation, and have been pleased to use and extend my collection in teaching about this as well.
Philosophy. Again, a background collection of a) things I studied and might want to go back to one day, and b) those pop culture and philosophy books (I can’t recall ever buying one for myself, but I can see why they appeal when people are trying to buy presents for me).
Theology. Post-PhD, this collection is heavily focused on George Lindbeck, John Hick, and Don Cupitt, although it does also contain a lot of feminist stuff and bits of this and that.
Wittgenstein. Both primary and secondary texts, things I just ended up consulting so often – or didn’t find in the library – that I bought them.
Paganism. More a practitioner’s collection than an academic one, this has been formed by periods (perhaps I should say spells) of buying everything relevant I could find, or could find second-hand, and then times of weeding as it became clearer what my real interests are. It’s now so large I think it’s about to need splitting into a series of smaller collections, probably including mythology, Wicca, Druidry, the Northern Traditions, hilarious 101 books, herbals, and a small shrine to Ronald Hutton.
Practical reference books. Distinct from mere factual books in virtue of being useful, these include craft books (cross stitch patterns, bead jewellery), recipe books (The Bean Book, Nanny Ogg), and Girlguiding publications (four or five generations of Brownie handbooks, among other things).
Graphic novels. Some of Sandman, some Hellblazer, a variety of superheroes, a few serious ones like How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, and of course some Wolverine, because he gets everywhere.
Books I haven’t read yet. These have now run to two shelves and are threatening to start a third, so I think I’d better stop writing blog posts and get some reading done!