Make Room for Margaret Atwood!

We didn’t get that many books for Christmas, considering who we are (who we are: people who sit on their butts for lots of hours, reading…and this description includes my two-year-old). I got one novel, and three books on the craft of writing. Husband got three (four?) Terry Pratchett novels. Z got…I have no idea. A BUNCH of picture books. At least five, possibly more. (And that’s after I held one back as soon as I realized that, given the number of gifts she would receive, she’d be opening presents until Valentine’s Day.)

Anyway, I had to do a little bookshelf organization. First, it had to be alphabetized. It irritates me to NO END that Shakespeare is up at the top, shelved between Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America and Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty. (His Highness’s Complete Works won’t fit anywhere else except that one shelf.)

This is the "after" shot.

Because the available space for library expansion was at the bottom of the shelf, and because I am short, I started at the bottom. First I cleared out the poetry books that did NOT belong in fiction. (The poetry shelves are full, however, so what happens to this small pile of poetry remains a mystery.) Next, I condensed Z’s overflow library to one small corner. Then I began the Perilous Book Shuffle of Doom. The many knick-knacks I had to work around raised the stakes (and time needed to complete my task) to astronomical levels.

By the time I’d reached the top shelf (skirting around the Complete Works of Shakespeare), I had no room for the pile of Margaret Atwood paperbacks I’d found in the basement last month. This would not do. For a few years I was obsessed with her writing. Poetry, fiction, essays, whatever. I wanted to be Margaret Atwood. No matter that I can barely recall the plots of the five paperbacks staring accusingly up at me from the floor. No matter that I still haven’t gotten around to reading Oryx and Crake. I had to fit these books on the shelf.

So the Perilous Book Shuffle of Doom began all over again, starting from the bottom.

This time I culled.

This time, I weeded.

And do you know what I found?


We have:

  • 2 copies of Barrel Fever by David Sedaris
  • 2 copies of South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami
  • 2 copies of Sula by Toni Morrison
  • 2 copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by you-know-who (one Scholastic, one Bloomsbury)
  • 2 copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (one Scholastic, one Bloomsbury)
  • 2 copies of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (one in Spanish)
  • 2 copies of The Little Prince by Antoine de St. Exupery (one in French)
  • 2 copies of Emma by Jane Austen
  • 2 copies of Twilight by what’s-her-face
  • and 3 (THREE!) copies of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby x3

It’s this last one that bothered me the most. I know The Great Gatsby is like, considered by pretty much everyone to be super fabulous, Great American Novel and so on, but I had to critique it in Sister Aaron’s Critical Theory Class at least three times, not to mention read about it being critiqued ten different ways in my textbook. By the end of that semester, I was ready to ship my copy of the book to the West Egg. Or is that the East Egg. Does it matter?

You’d think the Twilight duplicate would bother me most. I mean, I’m definitely getting rid of one of them, just like I’m tossing the two extra copies of His Holiness the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s touted tome.

The whole exercise got me thinking, though: if I don’t plan on reading a book again, why do I hang on to it? Why does anyone?

Don’t get me started on what happened when Husband and I watched an episode of “Hoarders.” Quite a few of the knick knacks pictured above have gone missing.

On the bright side, I made more room than I needed, and now I’ve got a special place for my library books:

And on a totally unrelated, random note (if you’ve made it through this long of a blog post, I salute you)… I made my first lolcat thingie, which you can view by clicking here. I think I’ve found a new way to procrastinate on typing up my manuscript.


  1. Dana · January 14, 2011

    I think my bookshelves need a culling of “books I will probably never read again.” There’s some mysteries that are hanging around for dear life, but I think I might be done with them. Of course, once I get rid of them, I will be hunting for them wondering what happened to them (aka Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors, what the heck was I thinking???).

    Also I see you did not mention your five copies of Shogun or something.

    I’d like to FULLY alphabetize my books, instead of having mass market in one bookcase and everything else in another. It bothers me now. But it is space friendly. BOTHER.

    • Beth Hull · January 14, 2011

      It was only two copies of Shogun, both belonging to Husband. I can see why you’d think it was five copies, though – even one copy of that book takes up like half a shelf. Anyway, he got rid of both before I had to make room for Margaret Atwood.

      Space friendly is important sometimes. Maybe if you got rid of the mysteries you no longer want, you wouldn’t have to have separate shelves for mass market?

  2. kymber ensele · January 16, 2011

    I really need to do something like this. I had everything organized by subject, and being a history major twice over, I had enough in each category to take up a shelf…but somehow I have Amy Tan snuggled next to not one, but two copies of Bernard Lewis’ tome ‘The Middle East’. Luckily my hubbin has only a wine library, so I just have to make room for my own reading habits (and luckily yet, he still lets mine expand and we just drink his if it gets unwieldy).

    • Beth Hull · January 16, 2011

      If only we could drink our extra books!

  3. Vicki R. · January 26, 2011

    What I’d like to know most of all is how in the world you HAVE the time to sit around on your butt (your words!!) & read a book?? I feel like I have 15 minutes of undistracted time in a day & have 50 things to choose from in what I have to read or like to read. You amaze me – messy house or not! I’ve never seen “Hoarders” but I’m pretty sure you don’t even come close to something like that. 🙂

    • Beth Hull · January 26, 2011

      That’s my biggest helping of luck. Z is often quite happy to play on her own for up to an hour at a time. Some afternoons, I just let her make a huge mess in the family room while I sit in the corner with a book. If she joins me & wants me to read to her, I do. But she’ll play blocks or “read” to herself a lot, as well. I don’t know if it’s something she would do on her own, anyway, or if she’s realized that when I pull out a book and say, “I’m going to do mommy things and you can do Z things,” I really mean it. Either way, I don’t abuse it. If she has played independently for a long stretch and then wants me to play with her, I do, because it only seems fair. Or sometimes I’ll “feed the meter” and spend a whole bunch of Z-focused time with her, and tell her that in a little while I plan to read.

      I have no idea how I’d manage that with two kids. It might work, but it probably depends a lot on the kids.

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