Cooking the books

I spent several hours this evening reorganising the books in my flat. There’s just too many of them and not enough space, but I’ve managed to segregate them into the following places:

Bookcase number one (Billy, Ikea)

  • Top shelf: London history, antiquarian, assorted philosophy
  • Fourth shelf up: reference books and fat hardbacks
  • Third shelf up: CD player, speakers, CDs and assorted bits and bobs
  • Second shelf up: living poets
  • First shelf up: dead poets and anthologies
  • Bottom shelf: travel, oversized books

Bookcase number two (back-street Whitechapel furniture shop)

  • Top of the bookcase: Shakespeare and Renaissance theatre
  • Top five shelves: fiction a-z
  • Second shelf up: some little poetry magazines
  • Bottom shelf: twentieth century plays and theatre criticism

Bookcase number three (Billy corner unit, Ikea)

  • Top shelf: DVDs, computer games and Xbox
  • Middle shelf: Medieval and Anglo-Saxon history and literature
  • Bottom shelf: OS maps and assorted crap

Books to read are piled next to the phone. There are currently twelve in this stack. I also have all my copies of Tears in the Fence lined up behind the door in the bedroom, and some old stuff shoved in a chest somewhere. Cookery books are in the kitchen, next to the spirits. Guess which gets the most action.

This exercise – really quite enjoyable – did make me realise how many books I’ve started and not finished this year, the likes of Martin Amis’s Other People, Douglas Coupland’s Generation X and Glen Neath’s The Outgoing Man. I have book guilt. That said, I’ve just rattled through Ballard’s Concrete Island, which I thoroughly recommend, especially to drivers.

“New Year Resolution No. 1: Read more, buy fewer books”


  1. Michelle says:

    Lovely photo. You’re horribly organised. Yes, I think I’m going to join you in your New Year Resolution No. 1. I’m in danger of being buried under an avalanche in my study.

    Here are a few I’ve started and not finished this year (which is not to say I may not finish them one day… oh dear): Lawrence Durrell’s Avignon Quintet, Daphne du Maurier’s The House on the Strand, John Fowles’s Daniel Martin

  2. Rehan Q says:

    Splendid, I was looking at the same bookcases in Ikea yesterday. Thousands of my books have been stacked up in heaps and piles for the last 2 years. I can never ever find the one I want.

  3. brrnrrd says:

    Book guilt, yes. I have this too. I have The Paris Review Interviews, A Mercy, Black Hole etc all piled up from last year. It doesn’t help that every eight weeks I’m given a new reading list packed with interesting things. I’ve made no resolutions regarding this; I keep moving about, so my shelves – all higgeldy piggeldy, with the good stuff buried beneath the crap – must remain shameful. I’ve taken to raiding the library. I know people have been doing this for centuries, but it only recently (i.e, mid 08) occurred to me how good it felt to have a stack of new titles every week for free.

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