Sunday, October 21, 2012

On Organizing Books on a Bookshelf: Lew Rockwell and Ron Paul Left in the Dust

When I met with Ron Paul last year, at one point the talked turned to how to organize books on a bookshelf. Because he had just moved into a new house, he was reshelving his books.

He told me that he called Lew Rockwell to see how he organized his books. Lew told him that he puts his books alphabetically. Dr. Paul then with a bit of a grimace indicated that he wasn't happy with that method of organization and said he had decided to shelve his books by topic.

But compared to Geraldine Brooks, Lew and Ron are not very creative book organizers. Via Andrew Sullivan:

Geraldine Brooks explains the rather sophisticated approach she takes to organizing her books:
I arrange my shelves as I would seat guests at a dinner party. Anne Tyler and Anthony Trollope both seem devoted to a diligent scrutiny of manners. So I imagine them, shelved side by side, comparing notes on the mores of their respective eras. Claire Messud and Alice Munro? I’m sure they’d get on. But Norman Mailer and Anne Michaels? I think not. Best move the poetic and exquisitely sensitive Michaels next to Andre Makine — a much better match. Mailer can slide back along the shelf to sit beside D.H. Lawrence. If nothing else, they can always brag to one another about their sex lives.
That's not all:
When Thomas Mallon gave one of my novels a lacerating review, I retaliated by reshelving him. I snatched him from his place beside an author I thought he might enjoy — David Malouf — and wedged him instead alongside Toni Morrison, hoping that her liberal feminism might prove a thorn in his conservative spine.

This sounds like a fun idea. I think I would put my Paul Krugman books with Ann Coulter on one side and Arnold Schwarzenegger on the other. This surely would give him a headache. Nouriel Roubini between Margaret Thatcher and Barbara Walters. Bob Murphy, on an end, next to Woodrow Wilson and David Gordon on another end next to Raquel Welch.


  1. Sounds explicitly schizoid.

  2. You actually spend money on a Krugman book????

  3. May I sit on the other side of David Gordon's companion? I'll even write a book for the occasion.

  4. Surely Murphy isn't THAT risible!

  5. Cool post, especially given the insights into RPs and LRs shelves. I've been amassing quite the shelf of Austro-libertarian, pro-peace & revisionist history books.

    I have several shelves in my living room, and arrange the books much like a supermarket might arrange its goods. I make sure prominently displayed, top-shelf books are reserved for major works (lots of Rothbard) so that when guests look and ask questions, the conversation must turn to hard hitting libertarian selling points. "Oh, For a New Liberty? Major influence on me. Let me tell you about how a market based world might look."

    I also display flashy and provocative titles prominently as well. Why Peace?, a beautiful looking collection of essays edited by Marc Guttman, adorns the end of the shelf because of how colorful and eye catching the artwork is. Guests have to confront issues of war and peace when they see that cover looking them in the eye. Also on the top shelf is Anarchy and the Law, for similar reasons. Are you an anarchist? Never gets old.

  6. Have some mercy! How can you place Bob Murphy next to Wilson? Murphy is a self-proclaimed pacifist for Pete sake! Don't punish the guy.

    Why not place him next to Krugman? Then the right guy will be punished, eh?

  7. And to think my wife arranges them by size, which of course drives me bat shit crazy.

  8. I got a Krugman book at a garage sale for $1. The guy literally gave me a dollar to take it out of his garage!

  9. I have one whole shelf for Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Raimondo, Flynn, Rand, and Rockwell. The shelf damn near RADIATES LIBERTY. It is my catechism.

  10. I think the ebook revolution will end the debate allowing indexing by author, date, topic, as well as a myriad of other customizable criteria and a search feature. Paper books are going the way of the dinosaur. I can carry along an entire library on a kindle, nook, or thumb drive, or on my smartphone. Oh, and I don't see much of a future for wrist watches, Garmins, iPods, fax machines or many other things that my smartphone does. I do however see much of a future in battery technology.

  11. I´m with gcdugas here. I do not own a single paper book, as I threw them all away last year. I am; however, a proud owner of a huge collection of eBooks. Not only do I have now more free space, I don´t have the organizing problem either. I´ve got all my books on my iPad... which is always with me. God bless technology!

  12. Why not simply go w/ Dewey Decimal

    or better yet, LOCC:

    Those numbers exist for fiction. Just get an intern to look up & label the books!