Today, I looked EVERYWHERE for a book that I wanted to quote from and couldn’t find it …
I know you’re in here, somewhere. You were a Christmas present; when I got back from my second home in Wales I put you down when I unpacked. You’ve not left the flat. The only place I didn’t check was the kitchen: it’s got no windows and I don’t go in there if I can help it.
Where are you hiding? *
The Boar’s Head Bookshelf (top-right) creeps ever closer to 100 Shakespeare/EMP-dedicated volumes, plus the plays, and my shelf-space issue remains unsolved – the piles of books dotted in random places round the flat seem to be multiplying, and aren’t helped by the fact that when I reach for a quotation I rarely, if ever, put the book back where I found it. A man living alone in a two-bedroomed place has plenty of nooks and crannies for his books. Worse, it’s only the Shakespeare stuff that’s perambulating round the rooms, depending on where I am when I blog. All the other stuff: the Pratchett, the King, the Science Fiction, the Victorian Lit, and especially the books-I-don’t-much-like-but-still-won’t-get-rid-of are staying resolutely put. I could partly solve it, I guess, by blogging about ‘books I don’t give a damn about’.
Frankly, if my books had independent lives when I wasn’t around, like the toys in Toy Story, I wouldn’t notice …
Plus, to be fair, even at my advanced age, I would LOVE it … I wonder what they would say to me?
I’ve tried taking a selection of books to school to help my A Level students in their research, but that makes me edgy, and less likely to sort the physical books at home:
- there will be gaps in the shelves, so why bother?
- who, from the lower school, is doing what to my books when I am not there? Who have I given a detention to this week, that might feel the need for a childish revenge? Which oik is going to feel the need to draw their genitalia in my cherished ‘Rivkin and Ryan‘?
- am I going to get my loaned-out books back? Much as I love my sixth-formers, and I do, these aren’t gifts, folks.
- finally, of course, whilst they have them, I don’t, and can’t be using them myself!
Renting is another part of it – when you have at the back of your mind that your days are numbered in a flat, it seems a little pointless to get super organised and create your dream library. Which WILL happen, eventually, but not whilst I am paying someone else’s mortgage, thanks very much.
Anyway, enough of the nihilistic tone …
Go and take a look at the Bookshelf page, will you? It, too, is beginning to feel a bit messy, a little unwieldy. I’ve colour-coded the latest additions in green, as ever, and this time I’ve placed them at the top of the list for easier reference.
But I’m not satisfied. I feel like I want to do more with it. And although it is, in some ways, for me, I’ve always intended that it would prove useful for some of the people who visit. After all, I can simply look at the books – if I can find the buggers. If I can get them all in one place, at one time, facing the same way and in order – like herding people into a massive group photo at a wedding, and YES, I know what I’m talking about.
So I’m open to suggestions about how I ‘reshelve’ these books online. Being a typical bloke, and this being my equivalent of a vinyl collection, record of train/bus sightings, etc. (yes, I knew some BUS spotters a while back), I have an instinctive need to obsessively categorize my books, but I want it to be useful. The purpose of the shelf has never been to show off where my disposable cash goes, but always to curate, signpost what to read and what to steer well clear of. To be helpful, actually, so that anyone who wants to do some secondary reading on Shakespeare / Marlowe / EMP is encouraged, not swamped or made to feel like the knowledge is kept in vaults they have no access to.
Every person who reads one of these is someone I could potentially have a chat with about their reading experience.
Overall, I’m tending in the direction of some form of database, be that excel/numbers, or a dedicated database-style thingy (I’ve been using Ninox since Christmas to record useful quotations for easy reference). But what data would be useful for you? Would you prefer longer reviews of books rather than the brief summaries? With suggested companion plays? Should I tweet relevant quotations more often? Or shall I just pay more attention to my Goodreads profile and direct people there?
I’m open to suggestions …
* It’s worth pointing out that, at the time of writing, I’ve not seen my iPad for about 48 hours, and that seems to bother me less. When I find the book, I WILL tell you where it was lurking. I’ve stopped looking, on the basis that it is now bound to turn up. It could be in my bed. Stranger things have happened.