In a recent New York Times article, the author Jo Nesbo informs us that he arranges the books in his library at home alphabetically. This is sensible; I wish I’d started doing that a long time ago. Writers always like to boast about how many books we’ve read and own, moaning on and on about how difficult it is to move house when you own literally every book ever written, including some of those really large intimidating ones that scare people. You know the drill. But it’s true! I own a lot of books. And they are in complete chaos.

Years ago, my books were arranged carefully by author and series, and I would spend a lot of time after every move carefully unboxing the collection and arranging them again. When I moved into the house that has been the Somers Compound for the past decade or so, I was simply too tired to do that, so I just tossed books onto shelves in any order. And there they have stayed.

The Flood

Things have only gotten worse over the ensuing years, too. Shelf space is tight, for one thing, so I am forever making shelving decisions based solely on space and geometry. Plus, now that I write so much on books online, I get a lot of freebies from publicists and such. Which have to go on the shelves, because, as I may have forgotten to mention, I never get rid of a book I’ve read. Never. I don’t throw them away, sell them, or loan them out. If I read it, it’s mine forever.

So I obviously regard my books as part of me, as representative of me in some way. So the fact that I’ve allowed total disorder to descend on the collection is worrying, in a way. If it somehow represents my inner world, my inner world is like the universe in Stephen King’s Dark Tower books: Slowly dying.

I have now depressed myself.

I often think that if I’d been born 20 years later I could have amassed this library and habit using eBooks and saved myself all the trouble; except that my experience with MP3s tells me I’d have lost like 500 books in various platform and storage missteps, which would be an even worse metaphor for my inner world. So it’s back to learning higher math in order to squeeze one more bookshelf in the house.

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