Things to Think About Whilst Moving 2,000 Books From One Side of a Small Room to the Other


This weekend I did not have a weekend. Instead I mostly stayed in and put all 2,000 of my books in alphabetical order. I thought this would be fun. I thought this would take around three hours and the rest of the weekend would be mine. This was not fun. This took a total of approximately nine and a half hours. This meant that I did not get to watch Casualty of a Saturday night, and did not eat dinner on Sunday ’til almost midnight and, in lieu of a normal, functioning lower back, now have what feels like a pointy foot kicking me repeatedly in the spine, (and yes, before you ask, I did bend with my legs, but there’s only so many times you can bend with your legs before they pack in and you have to forget everything you learnt in Belfast City Council’s Manual Handling for Office Workers’ Introductory Training and bend with whatever bit of you has retained some modicum of flexibility).


I am pleased to announce that all my books are now in alphabetical order within genre, (fiction, non-fiction, music journalism, theology, poetry, travel, plays, literary criticism, graphic novels, recipe books and books so bloody enormous they will only fit into that one weirdly, deep shelf you are left with in every Ikea Billy bookshelf). They are so perfect and pretty I am never going to read any of them ever again for fear of upsetting my bookshelf equilibrium. I am also fighting the almost irresistible desire to shout, “George Orwell,” or Moby Dick or, The Beginner’s Guide to Screenplay Writing, and then move to the spot where this particular book is located with such speed and ease of access, I will no longer regret wasting a whole weekend up to my ears in dog-eared paperbacks. I am currently thinking about buying some of those library ladders on wheels and going to bed for a fortnight and certainly never buying any books ever again because they are already all here in my house, looking smug. Here are some other thoughts I had whilst carting many, many books from one end of the living room to the other for a back-breakingly long time.

  1. Perhaps this could be a new form of exercise aimed at librarians and people who work in books stores. It would involve bending and squatting with huge handfuls of heavy weights, much like kettle bells only with The Goldfinch in hardback and Sylvia Plath’s Complete Diaries balanced in either hand. It would be good for your thighs but the books might get sweaty.
  2. How could I possibly have lost American Gods again? That’s three times now I’ve bought it and three times it’s disappeared. Neil Gaiman must have it tied to him with a giant piece of elastic. Damn you Neil Gaiman.
  3. How have I acquired three copies of Jonathan Lethem’s Dissident Gardens? I do not even really like Jonathan Lethem, AND I heard Dissident Gardens on “Book at Bedtime” and remember thinking it sounded particularly dull, and yet here I am with two paperback versions, and a hard back.
  4. Wine will probably help with the process of sorting all these books.
  5. Wine did not help with the process of sorting all these books.
  6. I have forty one books about Bob Dylan. I probably know more about Bob Dylan than Bob Dylan does. Why does anyone need forty one books about Bob Dylan?
  7. Publishers should stop making oddly shaped high and wide and impossible to stack books. They only fit on the shelf sideways and upset the flow of the shelf which then makes me already disposed to dislike the actual reading experience.
  8. After ten years, and carting the stupid thing all the way from the West Coast of America in my hand luggage, I am finally ok with throwing out the collected short stories of Ernest Hemingway because there are 75 crucial pages missing from the middle of it and many of the stories do not make sense and I do not like Ernest Hemingway. (Apart from The Old Man and the Sea, and certain parts of A Moveable Feast).
  9. It is interesting to think about the various writers thrown up against each other as a result of the alphabetising process. Whilst I have no doubt that CS Lewis, Anne Lamott and Madeleine L’Engle are having all the holy banter, I struggle to imagine what Faulkner is saying to Helen Fielding.
  10. I now fully understand that bit in the Bible about the shepherd noticing one sheep out of a hundred is missing. Some chancer’s got my copy of Junot Diaz’s first short story collection and, even in a pile of two thousand other books, I still instantly noticed it was missing.
  11. So many Francois Sagan novels. Why? Maybe I liked the covers. The covers are pretty cool.
  12. Once again, at what point in my life did I acquire a personally signed copy of Simon Armitage’s Kid? (The book, rather than his actual child). I have never met Simon Armitage. Where did this book come from? How did he know my name?
  13. C is a surprisingly popular letter when it comes to authors I particularly enjoy. F, not so much. Obviously M and S.
  14. in regards to Arthur Conan Doyle, is Conan his middle name, (as in Conan the Barbarian), or his first surname, (as in Conan the American chat show host)? This is crucial information when it comes to deciding where to file Sherlock Holmes. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are equally problematic, also your man who wrote Infinite Jest, which is also problematic in its own way.
  15. A Million Little Pieces: to file in fiction, non-fiction or the recycling bin?



2 thoughts on “Things to Think About Whilst Moving 2,000 Books From One Side of a Small Room to the Other

  1. This is so brilliant! And although I am currently hobbling with a non-book-related injury it has most definitely not put me off the idea of getting this done with our/my book collection. The thought that at last the Philippa Gregorys can sit side by side instead of in different rooms, or that I won’t have to visit every corner of the house to locate a particular book that I know we have somewhere, is consoling enough that I will risk the back ache – although given that I am twice your age and we appear to have maybe twice as many books, it certainly won’t be achieved in a weekend! Good job, Jan 🙂

  2. Amen to #7. Why isn’t there a standardised book size? I’ve given up on alphabetical order because how the books sit on their shelf over-rides it. Well done with the sorting, the books look great.

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