Monday, December 11, 2006

Battle Royale, Nerd Edition

Mr. McGee and I got new bookcases not long ago, and moving around the books has thrown our entire household into disarray. We each entered the marriage with about four full-sized bookcases full of books and our attempts to integrate our libraries have so far failed, largely because we can not agree on organization.

First it's important to know that Mr. McGee is a linear thinker and I am a lateral thinker, and as a result, neither of us think the other's jokes are funny. We're like a Deborah Tannen book waiting to happen.

So Mr. McGee has his books arranged alphabetically by author within subject sections, like a library. I find this possibly the most inconvenient way to organize books in the history of the universe; its only redeeming value is that if you know exactly what book you want, what subject it's in, and who wrote it, you can find it relatively quickly and without help.

I, on the other hand, organize my books around ideas that interest me, with a strong secondary bias to "when I read it." So I have a whole bunch of books that relate to my intellectual interest in liturgy -- some of them liturgy books, but also books of essays, a handful of novels, and some seemingly unrelated books that made me think about something liturgical. In a "real" library, more than half of them would belong in another section. I have one section on evil, another one on Holocaust, and another on Jewish law, which all blend one into the next, generally in the chronological order one interest led to the next. It drives my husband crazy that I have "A History of the Modern World" in my "great theologians" section, but duh, I have to be able to look up what world events were happening when they were writing! He doesn't think Fromm belongs in political theory, but it spurred me to great thoughts on political ethics.

Admittedly this is a system that nobody else can decipher, but *I* can put my hands on whatever I need immediately, and the groupings serve as a sort of road map to my mental history. When they get mixed up from my personal loci of intellectual interest, I get very confused and disoriented. But I can see my husband's fingers practically twitching to rescue that Par Lagerkvist from political theory and put him in fiction where he belongs, or to sort my Holocaust studies into history and commentary, at the very least.

So we're in an uneasy book detente as I defend my illogical organization system to the death and he persists in explaining to me why my system is illogical. I totally agree it's illogical, I just don't think it inevitably follows that merely because it's illogical there's something wrong with it! He finds this exasperating. I think it's part of my charm.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, it is part of your charm!Hold on to that and don't give in! He needs to respect your space. You have separate bookshelves, right? So what difference does it how you sort your books. I ahve been married for 25 years to an ocd, alfa male type scientist. He once told me that without him, nothing would ever get done. I quickly responded that thatwas true, but without me, he would never have any fun!
Peggy

HeartShadow said...

pff. Mr. McGee needs to understand that thinking around in circles is the proper way to do it. :)

Every time I organize my books, it drives me crazy until they end up back into a big mess-pile again. There's nothing wrong with that!

C. J. Summers said...

I organize my books by height, weight, binding, type, and general subject matter -- not necessarily in that order.

For instance, all my large, heavy, hardback reference books are on the bottom shelves. Books on small-groups ministry are kept together and arranged on a shelf with the tallest books on the ends and the shortest ones in the middle.

Eh, I won't bore you with the rest of the details... you get the idea -- I'm psychotic.

Dalandra said...

Let's see, I organized my books into study books and stuff-I-read-for-relaxation. Within the latter category, there's fantasy, non-study-psychology (which others might put with the study books, but I read them for fun, so I don't care), other-fiction... I sort by author, then put the different authors in order by asking myself "how the hell can I fit this on my shelves". And there's the mess pile of "books I bought after I last sorted my books and ran out of space in the section where it belongs", which holds books from all categories. And the pile of books by the bed. And the several books I'm dragging along to keep me entertained while travelling or waiting.

Milton doesn't even try to find my books, he just asks me for them.

knight in dragonland said...

Piles ... BIG piles. Stacks and piles of books and journals in some random order, although I do tend to put the bigger books at the bottom of the pile so they don't knock over easily. I can never find anything. ADHD? Me? Nooooooo.

What were we talking about?

Eyebrows McGee said...

hee hee! I'm so pleased everyone else has crazy systems too!