My father is an Artist. My mother was a former English and Music teacher. When I was a child, the bookcase was a battleground.
My father would arrange the books aesthetically with all the big books together; medium sized together; small ones together; and, if possible, grouped in complimentary colour shades along the spines so the overall effect was very pleasing on the eye.
My mother would complain that if she wanted to find a book by Delia Smith then she wanted to be able to look under “S” and find the damn thing without having to hunt through different shelves trying to remember what size it was. Her reordering of the bookshelf often offended my father’s aesthetic sensibilities.
My own bookshelf is arranged more or less by category: philosophy books, religious texts, graphic novels, maps and travel books, art, design and photography books, business manuals, and so on, all occupy their own areas on the shelves.
Last night I glanced across at the recently stocked bookshelf near Maggie’s side of the bed to see how she’d arranged her own tomes. However to my surprise, and consternation, so far as I could tell her books were not ordered by size, genre, author, publisher, chronology, colour, font, or even alphabetically by title, surname or forename. In fact they weren’t all upright either; some were piled on their sides, but even that appeared to be random.
After several minutes of attempting to squeeze my mind into ever more bizarre classification permutations, I admitted defeat and asked Maggie her method for putting the books on the shelf. She looked at me with a certain amount of curiosity, then pity, then slowly and clearly explained that she’d lifted them out of the boxes and placed them wherever there was space.
It turns out her random, chaotic way of placing books is quite deliberate; it means that when she glances along the shelves Maggie can never be sure what she’s going to find. Consequently she gets all sorts of surprises and treats when she looks for a book to read.
It reminds me of the strategic board games I used to play with my older brother when we were teenagers. I would use logic, reason, and calculated and considered tactics, while he would charge around the board chaotically leaping from one place to another with little reason beyond “it seemed like a good idea at the time”. Needless to say, nine times out of ten I would beat him soundly.
But I always suspected he had more fun.