I have a friend visiting this week, so naturally yesterday when I got home from work there was a frenzy of cleaning to do. A lot of that frenzy involved putting books away, and I realized that from an outsider’s perspective, the specificity of where books go in my apartment might seem a little odd.
Of course there are the regular bookcases, sorted by client v. non-client, subrights client v. my client, picture book v. middle grade/YA v. adult, fiction v. non-fiction, collection v. single author, and probably many more. My 4+ years of booksellerdom have really stuck with me.
Then there’s the stack of books to give away: the ones I accidentally bought twice, or bought but then remembered I have the galleys already, or brought home multiple times from the DGLM giveaway pile, or read and disliked enough to not want to make space for them, or plan to lend rather than gift because I know someone who will love them as much as I did. That stack has post-it notes on it marking who they’re for.
The other post-it note pile, actually shelf, is the books I’ve borrowed, each indicating whom they belong to so when I’m done reading I’ll remember to put them in the giveaway stack instead of on the regular bookcases with the books that actually belong to me.
Then there’s the box of books I’m donating because I don’t know anyone who’d really want them—which has been sitting near my front door for at least a month now, but I swear I really will make the time to go donate them…soon.
And of course there’s the temporary pile, where books accumulate throughout the week for sorting into one of the above mentioned sections, along with various papers I need to file or deal with.
But the most prominent book space in my apartment is the one that sits just beside my TV. Those are the books I’m in the middle of and don’t want to put down too long lest I lose the thread. That also includes the books I have to read by a certain date, for one of my three book clubs, say, or because I’m planning to attend an author event. Also there are books I need to read sooner rather than later, for work reasons or because I really want to or because I know that someone I know is reading, too, and I want to be able to talk to her/him about it. The last part of that stack is the magazines I had to have because this time I was definitely, definitely going to read them, and I can’t recycle them because no, seriously, I’m going to read them this time. (Among those magazines right now is a World Cup issue of something, which I think about every time I bring it home a new magazine friend to live with forever on my TV stand.) That’s the pile I’m excited about, that I don’t want to forget about, that I need to feel guilty about not turning to when I’m Netflixing the 8 millionth episode of Friends.
As I sorted books from the temporary pile into all these other homes, I thought about how, outside of publishing, even my very literate friends usually only have a bookcase, maybe two, and certainly fewer teetering piles of doom. Maybe they read e-books or listen to audiobooks. Maybe they use the library or give their books away when they’re done because this is New York City, for goodness sake, and space is at a premium. But you know what? As I looked around my clean apartment before going to bed last night, it was actually the thing I was most proud of—it’s not such a bad apartment over all, but mostly there are books everywhere you look.