Chaos of my bookshelves sends me down literary rabbit hole of discovery - Ian McMillan

Right then, if the coronavirus shutdown is carrying on into this end of the spring then I reckon it’s time to do something practical like organise my bookshelves and then I can get round to actually rereading (or in some cases, guiltily, reading) them all.

Is it time to sort the bookshelves or is there room for discovery among unsorted collections of books? Photo: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

I can look forward to meeting old friends and making a few new ones without leaving my settee.

At the moment, I confess, there’s no rhyme or reason to the poetry or philosophy books, the organisation of the novels is a work of fiction and the picture books are completely out of focus.

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To be honest, though, I quite like the chaos of my bookshelves because they seem to reflect the random nature of my mind.

The Yorkshire Post columnist Ian McMillan

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So I take all three books, the stories, the poems and the book about Shipley and I line them up on the table and I can’t decide which one to take to the settee.

That’s the problem with the random method of book storage and selection; each book leads to another book and then another one and soon, like when you’re browsing the internet, you’ve entered some kind of literary rabbit hole and before you know it it’s the day after tomorrow.

OK then, that’s decided: I’m definitely going to reorganise my shelves. But what method should I use?

Alphabetical is the obvious one, but I always find it a bit boring, like when I read an anthology of poetry and the poets are put side by side alphabetically; I like the serendipity of discovery.

Yes, that’s all very well but I need something to do now that all my gigs have been cancelled, so I’ll get on with the organising.

Not alphabetical, then? How about by genre: the poetry books here, the fiction here, all the non-fiction here.

Well, that makes a kind of sense but it’s still not all that exciting. Knowing that certain books are in certain places doesn’t make my heart beat faster.

That could be my mistake: thinking that the arrangement of books on a series of shelves should be exciting.

It’s the books themselves that should be exciting, not the way they sit in the room, in the same way that the Yorkshire Pudding is more exciting than the recipe.

I could organise the books by height, by colour, by thickness, by the length of the name of the author or age of the book.

Or here’s a great idea, I could just shuffle them like they were a giant pack of cards and return them to the shelves in a completely different order.

A random order, because in the end that’s the way I like them. And then I’ll wash my hands.

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