After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Book Crazy

I am a trained information specialist, a librarian. I worked all my life with books and the organization of information. I have advanced degrees. Why then am I stumped with how to arrange the books in my one bookcase?

Showing half the biblioteca with Ruben and lovely student

Do I put them by size--the bottom shelf is the only one that will hold oversized art books. Do I put them by author? Those that are signed to me by the authors? Books that I've read vs books that I've yet to read? Books by country--I've got Argentina, Mexico, Cuba, France and Brazil--with a few about Italy, China, India, Guatemala, and Afghanistan. Books by subject--dance, writing, memoir, cemeteries (yes, I have lots of those), travel, art (generally the oversized ones), music, biography, children's, history (heavy on WWI & II), or as decorators sometimes do, by color?

I only have five shelves. If I get a new book, an old one has to go. Do I keep the really good ones I've read and hope to either reread or to pass on to someone else? If I can't remember I've read them, shall I read them again? If I haven't read them yet, what's the cut off time--how many months, years, decades should they hang around?

Today I emptied the five shelves to organize and to dust. Books accumulate dust like nobody's business and boy am I allergic.

Now I've filled the bookcase and there is still an equal number on the floor. Have they multiplied like coathangers in the back of a closet?

Bringing my books with me has been a tema in my life as a traveler and expatriate. Wherever I've lived there have been books in every room of my house. Just knowing they are there makes me feel good. Having collected books throughout my life, it was painful to pare down when I moved from Los Angeles. But there is nothing heavier than a box of books. And the books I have with me today I brought one by one on the plane with me each trip I made back for visits. I had to leave even more behind in my son's garage. But now he's moved, and I don't ask what happened to all of those books.

Some books I brought to Buenos Aires are quite valuable--so then what happens when I'm gone? No one here will know their value, or care. And realistically, why should I?

Since the living room is also our dance studio, the bookcase is the only area I have to display my tchotkes, and I've got a lot of those too.

No, I'm not ready to start over with a Kindle, thank you very much. But maybe one day.


Pj Schott said...

My Kindle changed my life. The library goes with me. Along with my highlights (changeable) and notes (searchable). I can read one book on my way to town, do my research anywhere, and read another book on my way home. Whatever suits my mood and my energy level (mental & physical). Most books are going to the high school library. The rest are grouped by subject. Good you keep yours circulating. In Feng Shui, it's a must, since paper holds so much energy. WONDERFUL BLOG. When I'm not reading a book I like to talk/read about them.

Anonymous said...

I can't read digital books. I've tried. I suppose I am too old for it.

As long as you have floor space, you have space for books. You should see the pile in my flat.

tangocherie said...

I'm sure, Don. But I bet you don't use your place as a dance studio!

Elizabeth said...

Books are tactile, they have scent, they have design, heft, history. I love them so much, especially my art books, that life without them would be incomplete. But yes, how to deal with them? I recently took all my art books out to the studio and arranged them by artist, then in other sections by subject (general books on printmaking, painting, ceramics etc. But now I think maybe Dewey decimal? It was fun having all the books out, all those memories, all those new old ideas!
If we build a new house I want a big wall of books, maybe two stories, or the staircase lines with books, or, as I saw recently, stacks that roll, as room dividers! Well, I can dream.
I get rid of all but those most wonderful and time tested fiction books. Garden books stay if I use them, but all art books will have to stay forever. Do you ever sleep with books? Sometimes I wake up with books on the bed! I already know that my grand daughter will want them someday. I even got rid of my cookbooks, mostly. I photocopied the most used recipes, and put them in notebooks, saving about five feet of shelf space. I know my food by heart, and can use the net for the rest.Kindle might be nice, but probably not for me, as reading is not actually the only reason for my books. E

Anonymous said...

My books are like a history of my life. Where my interests have changed so have the books. Then there are the Haynes car manuals serving as a history of my cars. So perhaps you should arrange them chronologically. Noboby else will understand your system, then, as you say, why should you care.