By colors, sizes or affinities: the adventure of ordering books at home and not going crazy

If the strict confinement served us one thing – in addition to stopping the damn bug – it was to give us the possibility of snooping in the private sphere. The telematic connections, with their impossible frames and their sequenced image, allowed us to get to know our interlocutor in a different way through the clues left by that intimate scenography that, in a somewhat generous way, we call home.

We are talking, of course, about the Ikea Expedit that usually appears at the bottom of the image, the indoor clotheslines with their hanging socks, the Mr. Wonderful cups or that scrawny poto that hangs from the shelf. Also from books. Or of his absence. At the end of the day, the home is still the reflection of its inhabitants, a brief glance at what appears on the screen expresses a lot of who speaks to us.

Marie Kondo: “With unread books, someday means never. Let’s face it. You will reread very few”

The pandemic made us read more and buy more books, as indicated by at least the Barometer of Reading and Buying Habits of Books in Spain 2020. The reading index in Spain grew throughout the past year, but it did so especially during the months of confinement to which the pandemic led us, reaching its historical maximum with 68.8% of Spaniards who decided to open a book throughout the year.

One wonders what happens next. Once opened, and after reading or premature abandonment, it is time to store the volume. Small domestic bookstores, more or less assorted, force us to a cataloging exercise whose result, on occasions, is the most unusual. A task, that of ordering our books, that if it were for Marie Kondo, guru of order and minimal expression, would not take us more than a few minutes.

The purge

Kondo advocates shelves with no more than 30 books. According to this method youtuber Japan, it would be enough to reduce to thirty the number of copies that make up our library to gain personal well-being. And to make said sieve – she uses the word Discard- He recommends us to start the relevant pages and put them in a file. A true literary escabechina sponsored by the queen of austerity.

He also suggests that we pre-select the books that we are going to stay holding for a few moments, but without reading them: “Reading clouds your judgment because, instead of asking yourself what you feel, you will begin to wonder if you need that book or not,” he wrote in The magic of order, a publishing phenomenon with more than 30 million copies sold worldwide.

The islets

The question now would be whether 30 books can be called a library together. Be that as it may, the strategy kondiana it opens an interesting debate about our unhealthy tendency to accumulation and, more specifically, about the suitability or not of preserving on the shelf all those unread volumes that wait, for years, to be opened. Needless to say, Marie is clear: “With unread books, someday means never. Let’s accept it. You will reread very few.”

Roberto Calasso: “It is essential to buy books that will not be read right away”

A clear commitment to the bibliographic sanitation that, obviously, does not have a good press among the wounded letters. This is the case, for example, of the Italian writer Roberto Calasso, who, in his very brief essay How to order a library (Anagrama), defends that “it is essential to buy books that will not be read right away. After one or two years, or perhaps five, 10, 20, 30, 40 years, the time will come when the need will be felt to read precisely that book. “

Calasso opts for an alphabetical order interrupted by “small islands of related themes”, a method that would allow the reader to find alternative stories to go through, as if the location of the books fostered unsuspected adventures based on a hypothetical thematic affinity. A placement strategy inspired by the German historian Aby Warburg, owner of a bookstore that exceeded 60,000 volumes, who advocated the so-called “good neighbors”, or what is the same, texts that complement, expand or refute the required book.

Colors and sizes

The color option is, perhaps, one of the most popular methodologies in recent years. It is a cataloging system that prioritizes aesthetics and that, in essence, consists of ordering the library according to the color of the spines. Thus, the random polychromy of personal bookstores is replaced by mono-colored stripes that say a lot about the organizer’s decorative taste, and very little about his bibliographic rigor. The book as an ornament.

Another recurring bibliographical affront consists in ordering the volumes by virtue of their dimensions. The content and its author are subject to the workmanship of the book or the depth of the distances that keep it accommodating. Literature as filler. A resource that will surely allow you to optimize the library space, but that will make it difficult to find those volumes that you are looking for.

Editorials and genres

They are the two most used options after the everlasting alphabetical order. Its reliability at the time of the search is beyond doubt, provided, of course, the publisher and / or the genre of the author or the title that we yearn for is known. The increasing hybridization of genres could cause some other problem when cataloging the volume in question.

In this section we could also include the collections. We are talking, of course, of the now classic encyclopedia, made up of dozens of volumes of a more than considerable thickness. A treasure of knowledge whose knowledge, universal and rigorous, manages to warp to the alarming extent the shelf that holds it. In general, this type of work is located in the lower part of the bookstores, an arrangement that would avoid the mess generated by its foreseeable collapse.

More readers and more sales

According to the last Barometer of Reading and Book Buying Habits, frequent readers and time spent reading has marked an all-time high. In general terms, the total percentage of Spaniards who read at least one book in 2020 did not grow significantly, standing at 68.8%, only 0.3 points compared to 2019.

The most notable rise, however, is found in the percentage of readers who read on a recurring basis (daily or at least once a week), which goes from 50% to 52.7%. What’s more, during the months of confinement, the figure reached its all-time high of 57%. .

Despite these positive data, there are still a large number of people who do not touch a book throughout the year: 36%, a high figure that does not correspond to the literary power that is Spain.

Regarding the sale of books, if in the first quarter of 2019 the global amount by bookstores amounted to 85 million euros, in 2020 it stood at 78 million and in 2021 the sales figure reached 87 million euros, as reported by the Spanish Confederation of Booksellers Guilds and Associations (Cegal).

By segment, non-fiction is the genre most demanded by readers, with sales exceeding 35 million euros, followed by fiction (24 million) and children’s and young people’s literature (17 million euros). Of all of them, the narrative has been the one that has experienced the greatest increase in sales compared to previous years, since from around 19 million it has grown to 24 million invoiced this first quarter of 2021.