Thursday, December 13, 2007

Catalogue indeed, what fun is that?

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Do you use any of the online book-cataloging sites, like Library Thing or Shelfari? Why or why not? (Or . . . do you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking to?? (grin))

If not an online catalog, do you use any other method to catalog your book collection? Excel spreadsheets, index cards, a notebook, anything?

I have never had the slightest inclination to catalogue my own books. I get a book, I put my name in it, it goes on the TBR pile. Eventually it gets read, then it gets shelved, sold, or given away. I see all these fellow bloggers with their handy-dandy library-thing-thingy on their blogs and I think - who has the time? I'm in grad school now, but even when I was working full time I don't think I could have made time for it. I'm just not that anal. I pretty much know where everything is, occasionally I have to hunt but usually I can locate it very quickly. And get this, I don't even alphabetize! In fact I don't organize the books by size, or by color either. I have a very lose system of categorization that includes fiction, favorite books, fantasy/sci-fi, biographies, music, theater, Russian stuff, Joseph Cornell Stuff, modernism and WWI stuff, poetry, neuroscience, other non-fiction, books on acting, books on music, art books, foreign language, reference books, books on writing, a shelf with Penelope Fitzgerald, May Sarton, Virginia Woolf, Iris Murdoch and some books on archeology. A shelf with Herman Hesse, Thomas Mann, the complete works of G. B. Shaw, Shakespeare, and short story collections, a shelf way up top of my bookcase of stuff I'm afraid of like In Cold Blood and Snow, a pile of books in a closet that I'm giving away, and a huge mass of books near my bed, on the floor, nighttable and on top of a shelf, of the stuff I'm going to read in an order that roughly approximates when I think I might get to it. And there are some random piles sitting about the house in no particular order- totally random. Like the one by me now on the side table. In order from bottom to top: If Only We Could Know, The Glass Palace, a volume of rarely done Ibsen plays, The Proud Tower, The Redress of Poetry, Edith Templeton's short stories, Paris Style, The Collected Stories of John McGahern, one of Mavis Gallant's story collections, and 100% Evil. If I had to catagorize the pile, I would say - Books I've begun reading that I truly intend to get to just not right now and that don't fit on the shelf they would go to if I could admit that I might be done with them. See? I know where everything is. Go ahead, ask me for something. Catalogue indeed, what fun is that?


7 comments:

GeraniumCat said...

Maybe it's just a case of not yet? My books were always categorised by where they'd fit rather than any other system, but I used to know exactly where anything was. After each house move, I'd shelve them and then I'd know. Doesn't work these days - I don't always remember whether I've got a book, let alone where I might find it. It's not too bad yet, but it's getting worse (and the book piles keep growing). Maybe I'll catalogue the last few pre-ISBN books on my deathbed, but at least I'll die feeling in control! Of course, I'll be in trouble when I forget who I am on Library Thing.

Ted said...

Geranium - I'll never say never. Let's just say it's not in my immediate future. I weed my collection about twice a year to try to keep those book piles at bay. I like control about a lot of things, but that degree of order for my books doesn't seem to be one of them.

Stephanie said...

When I found Library Thing last year, I went ahead and purchased the life-time subscription. Figured I would use it!! I'm gradually adding my books. But with the amount I have, it could take a while!! Who really has the time?

Happy Thursday!!

Danielle said...

I prefer to think of it as being 'detail-oriented'! :) I do use LT, but I am lazy about adding books. What I like is being able to seach for books via the tags and getting a list of books. Also I read a lot of mysteries, and I can never remember which ones in the series I have, so this is great. But I don't shelf alphabetically (I work in a library--just think if I shelved them in LC order? Wouldn't THAT be scary). Mine are also just grouped by type and I try to keep books by the same author together. Now if I had enough shelf space I might be....more detail oriented about it...

The Quiet Australian said...

I can't fathom why anyone would want to catalog their books so obsessive-compulsively either. You buy all of the books in your own library, - unlike the books in a library intended for many people - so surely cataloging them isn't necessary. I suppose it's just a ritual for some readers, just like writing your name in a book, but to me it's just scary. My bookshelves aren't as freewheeling as yours are though :). I have a shelf that is completely random for all the books I haven't read yet; but as soon as I have read a book it gets moved to another bookshelf which is arranged alphabetically and then chronologically within author.

Oh, and afraid of In Cold Blood? The first time I read it, I loved it so much that I went out and bought Capote's entire back catalog :).

Ted said...

Stephanie - That's a commitment! At least you have a lifetime.

Danielle - I can understand that about mysteries. I don't read as many as I once did. The advantage of losing track of them is that I can read them again and not remember what happened, although sometimes half way through I'll realize I know who did it but I can't remember how.

QA - I can understand the impulse in a way, it's another way to be involved with your books. Now that I've read In Cold Blood, I admire it and fear it no longer.

ebony said...

I'm just amazed by all the people who keep such track of their books. I'm too busy reading to catalog. I keep it very simple. I keep the books I have posted at paperbackswap separated so I don't accidently give them away. The rest are just there with no regard to author, genre, height, spine color, etc.