Daisy Goodwin: How I Shelve My Books

Daisy Goodwin: How I Shelve My Books

Daisy Goodwin
20 Something Reads
Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Daisy Goodwin, author of THE AMERICAN HEIRESS — which release in paperback on March 27th — doesn’t have a system for organizing her books, but she did learn a very important lesson — do not let your friends shelve your books for you.

I wish that I had a system for shelving my books. I have this vision of one day having enough time and energy to group them in some wildly logical way, but so far that hasn’t happened.

I did once have a houseguest who thought it would be helpful to sort my many thousands of books by, wait for it, color. Green with green, red with red, pink with pink. It ‘s not an entirely crazy system, as quite often the color of a book’s cover does reflect its content — Scandinavian crime is usually monochrome, chick lit comes in a thousand shades of pink, forgotten female classics of the twentieth century in Virago green, HARRY POTTER in red.  But it is not a system I would recommend unless you enjoy the unexpected — Agatha Christie nestling against Plato, Georgette Heyer with Graham Greene.

But while I don’t have a system as such, I notice that the book shelves next to my bed are full of the books that I reach for and reread in the small hours: Barbara Pym, BRIDGET JONES, A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Collected Poems of Philip Larkin and Edna St. Vincent Millay.  There are also heavier books that I dip into rather than devouring at a sitting; the selected letters of Charles Dickens and the letters between all the Mitford Sisters are currently top of my browsing list.

Once every six months I have a purge and divide the biggest piles into books I would like to imagine I will read one day, books I liked and think I might read again, and books I have read and regretted reading. The last pile I take straight to a charity shop. It feels wonderful and for a few weeks I feel cleansed of book guilt, but slowly and surely the books start piling up again.