books organization

The Vagrant Book

I know it’s here somewhere.


It’s been nearly three years since the move.

Really, everything should be in order by now (and by everything I mean, of course, the books). That’s hardly the case. The shelving is haphazard and volumes of recent interest trace my path through the house like intellectual bread crumbs.

Before the move, I’d long since resorted to double-shelving. This is a reprehensible practice, but not as bad as piling books on top of shelves or around the bed. Or on the piano. And the desk and dresser. And under the bed—I’m sure you understand.

Despite the demands of a program of thorough Austerity, the books kept creeping in. It’s not enough to stay out of the used bookstores almost all the time; a surprising number of book-feet can be acquired in the fit that follows six months of asceticism.


Before the move, there was a semblence of categorization; indistinct, perhaps, but with logical nuclei. In the grand game of Tetris, everything was packed into boxes as it would fit, an orgy of gleeful bin-packing heuristics.

A month after closing, the walls are painted, the floor refinished. I’ve been eyeing the walls, trying to figure out how many additional bookcases might be slipped in. I fantasize about building barrister bookshelves into the ceiling, spines facing downwards, with shelves that rotate down by a hinged edge. M——. tells me that this is foolhardy and would be courting death. It’s a nice thought, though. How about a shelf around the top of the room, just for the mass markets? They’re impossible to store.

Three months later. The number of bookshelves has been augmented by a half-dozen or so. For convenience, some of the boxes have been unloaded directly onto the shelves, with very little sorting. There’s no double-shelving, so far. What virtue! But the bookcases are now full; what do with these, er, several dozen other boxes? [Update: M——. just told me sternly that once you pass forty-eight, you can no longer say ‘several dozen’.]

Six months later. All right! I agree they should probably go into the attic. Just for a bit . . . when I get some spare time, I’m quite eager to get everything sorted out.


Yes, I have checked the office. Thoroughly? Well, not that thoroughly, perhaps. I searched it last week, looking for a different volume, and I’m sure this would have leapt to my attention. I know it was sitting on my desk before the move, and there was something I wanted to reread.

You really think you saw it there? Excuse me. Perhaps I’ll check just once more.

2 replies on “The Vagrant Book”

You think that’s bad? Try having books in different countries. Of course, there’s always culling. I remember reading about a Victorian collector who refused to have anything bad on his shelves–thus he would dismember and re-bind the good parts of various Collected Works. For me, nostalgic attachment has long since ceased to be a valid criterion for book-possession. Out you go, 1984. Etc.

The very thought of having my books scattered around the globe gives me nightmares. For a while, M—— and I had boxes in four locations across two states, and that was more than bad enough. For that matter, it’s bad enough having them in the attic!

I’ve always been too tender-hearted for the serious, full-on cull that the book collection needs, but its day will be soon. (Well, perhaps within the next four years, which is soon as these things go.)

I did survive my recent experience of actually throwing books into the trash, so I’m getting closer to moving away from this bibliomaniacal gloutonnerie toward a more measured gourmandise.