The Problem with Dinosaurs

The simple task of moving a couple of books on the bookcase accidentally turned into a full blown rearrangement exercise. The ones I was originally moving were new acquisitions that had hastily been shoved on a shelf, but once I started thinking about where to put them I realised that at least three of the shelves weren’t arranged properly.

Obsessive readers are often obsessive about how they arrange their bookshelves. Alphabetically, by size (physically or in page numbers), by genre, by colour… There has to be a system. My shelves are arranged by genre, and I know that this is probably the most troublesome system to implement, and that it was obviously the reason why so many books seemed to be out of place. There are a surprising number of books whose genre is difficult to pin down, or that perhaps fit into more than one genre. Then there’s the problem of sub genres – I highlighted the long list of fantasy sub genres in a previous post (high fantasy, contemporary fantasy, historic fantasy, urban fantasy… to name but a few).

I started pulling books off shelves, wondering why I was making things so difficult for myself. Surely an A-Z bookcase would suffice…? But that just sounds too incredibly boring, so I persevered. I split the books into piles of similar genre, creating new categories when required, and setting aside titles that I found a little difficult to place, until I ended up with the following list:

  • Classics
  • Non fiction (mainly history text books and cookbooks)
  • Magical realism
  • Urban fantasy
  • Horror (mainly vampires…)
  • Futuristic sci fi
  • YA dystopia
  • YA fantasy
  • YA magic
  • High fantasy
  • Contemporary crime
  • Contemporary thriller
  • Contemporary mystery
  • Contemporary comedy
  • Historical
  • Historical fantasy
  • Children’s

The next task was to put all the groups in the right place on the shelves – the question of which ones sit next to each other is also an important consideration of course. All in all it didn’t actually take that long to accomplish, until, that is, I realised I was left with one book I just couldn’t place… Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. I instinctively categorised it as sci fi, but it didn’t match with the other (albeit few) sci fi titles I had. It’s contemporary, but didn’t fully match any of the contemporary categories either. Or horror. It wasn’t the fault of the book itself – its relatively easy to categorise – the problem was with the books already on the shelves. I moved it about a few times, until finally giving in and putting it with the other sci fi titles (after becoming filled with self-doubt and checking on Wikipedia that it did indeed come under that genre, which it did. Interestingly Wikipedia also classes it as horror and techno thriller, a phrase I don’t think I’ve come across before, but which makes sense.)

It still doesn’t seem to fit where I’ve put it. I think the only solution is to buy The Lost World, so it has a companion to sit next to.


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