Shelves that fill up faster than you can build them

I love having books stacked up on the floor of my library. John doesn’t. What I didn’t realize when we decided to have some additional shelving built in the basement was that he was going to then consider floor stacks to be a thing of the past. Oh well. I guess we will cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, with my new shelves, I have some open space.

The bottom part of this unit was in the house when we moved in. Half of it is devoted to a radiator and the other half has some of my urban planning books, a small portion of John’s gardening books, guide books, CDs and some other odds and ends. The top part of the unit is brand spanking new.
The geometry and layout of the basement is funky enough that the three over two of the new configuration isn’t as jarring as it could be.
Surely this could get taller without falling over? Little hard to look at any of them though.
More orphaned books from the library that needed a place to go. The majority of the books that were to go on the shelves are non-fiction. Author memoirs and bios and books on books, books on royalty and the UK, etc.
So I got this far in the process of loading the shelves when I realized I didn’t like how things were going. The problem is that most of these non-fiction and short story collections are things that I am unlikely to read from cover-to-cover. They are the types of books I want to dip into now and again. It seemed to me that if they were down in the basement, that kind of serendipitous browsing was highly unlikely.
So this is what I did: I moved the fiction that I have already read down to the basement. After many years of culling I am down to books that I truly believe I will read again, but I don’t need to see them on a regular basis. Even this, however, presented a problem. The new shelves didn’t have enough space to hold everything. My OCD brain needed criteria for leaving some of that already read fiction upstairs. So I decided to leave those books by authors whose work I have a lot of. So all my 24 Brookners and my Shutes and Sartons and a few others stayed up in the library.
This is what it looked like when I got the non-fiction, my reference library, up to the library. It was at this point that John needed some smelling salts.
Things got worse before they got better. Most of what you see towards the right is my chronological TBR shelves. the emptyish area on the left contains my author and publisher fiction that I have read that didn’t make the trip down to the basement.
Organizing my non-fiction was not the easiest thing to do. There was enough crossover between categories that all attempts to have an iron-clad classification system were pretty frustrating. I wanted all my volumes of letters in one place, but then I had the urge to have letters of one author next to their memoir or bio or some other author-related volumes. And then the volume of Gustav Mahler’s letters. I wanted to put them with my books on music. Did books on the Bloomsbury Set go with my books on books or with my books on England? In the end I did a very rough job of organizing them. No doubt another rainy Saturday will take care of that.
And here is the final mishmash. Books I have read that didn’t go downstairs take up the top five shelves on the left-most bay. The top four shelves of the four right-most shelves contain my TBR in chronological order. Row five has a bit of that as well as my short story collections. The rest is all of my higgedly piggledy non-fiction that I am happy to have back in the library. You never know when I will want to look at my 1950 Street Atlas of London. Or maybe I need to peek into one of the two bios I have of Fanny Trollope. Nice to have it all close at hand. For shelf voyeurs, this photo enlarges pretty nicely if you click on it. And just look at all of that empty space.

12 thoughts on “Shelves that fill up faster than you can build them

  1. Mary Arth May 31, 2018 / 5:48 pm



  2. Melissa F. May 31, 2018 / 8:04 pm

    Looks great, Thomas! (Loved the line about the part when John needed smelling salts. My husband has the same aversion to book piles, but oh well.)


  3. Jennifer May 31, 2018 / 10:55 pm

    The other day I reduced three shorter piles into two taller piles. I then treated myself to two new books at P&P… But on the other hand it does mean that the laundry basket is no longer boxed in.


  4. Stella June 1, 2018 / 1:58 am

    How many have you got and are you on livrary thing?


  5. kaggsysbookishramblings June 1, 2018 / 7:39 am

    OK, I’m having the vapours now – and I obviously need to get a basement built in the house (or just get a house with a basement. And I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles to decide how to classify and shelf things…


  6. Joan Kyler June 1, 2018 / 8:48 am

    Isn’t it fun to play with your books? We recently moved and I have a new library. When I packed up my old library, I packed them the way I took them off the shelves, Fiction A-B, Fiction C-D, History Box 1, etc., intending to make it easier to unpack. However …. even though I have more shelf space than before, I found boxes labeled Kitchen that had a few miscellaneous books in them. And I did have to use an extra free-stanging bookcase for my Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books (don’t look at me like that!). I don’t put my TBR and Gotten Rid Of books on my shelves; they live in boxes that I periodically open like Christmas presents.


    • Ruthiella June 1, 2018 / 5:01 pm

      No judgment here Joan. I WISH I had a bookshelf of Nancy Drew book (they yellow spine ones). I loved those books as a child!


      • Joan Kyler June 2, 2018 / 9:04 am

        Nancy Drew is the reason I wanted to learn to read. And to be like her!


  7. Ron Elliott June 1, 2018 / 11:41 am

    Please come and do my bookshelves! We got a quote for something built in – a quarter of yours and it was 8 grand!


  8. Liz Dexter June 2, 2018 / 11:26 am

    Lovely! I have fiction upstairs and non-fiction downstairs and that works kind of well. Just done some weeding and giving away via BookCrossing so there aren’t any piles exactly but there is some double stacking.


  9. Susan in TX June 2, 2018 / 11:43 am

    Love the new arrangement, and the new shelves. I try to not ever be jealous — the thing I actually envy the most is your energy and physical strength to actually move that many books up and down the stairs. :) Every time I think about rearranging my books I think, “Which of the kids would be home and bribable?” I only have 1out of 4 that actually enjoys that kind of reorganizing, and she’s the one who gets home the least. So, for now, I’m going to revel in the enjoyment of watching you rearrange yours from time to time. :) It’s not just any book nerd that finds tremendous satisfaction in these kinds of posts, you know…
    And, for the record, I could probably do it myself if I spread it out over a few days…I’m honestly just too lazy.


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