Because I've spent the last few days in bed I've been reading quite a bit. Fortunately a couple of weeks ago I went to the Lifeline Book Fair - a twice-yearly Canberra institution with a large exhibition space full of second hand books of all shapes, sizes and quality. Most people treat it like a minimal cost lending library - spend, read and return to the next fair; it's a major fundraiser for Lifeline who do very good work. The most fun is on the last afternoon where they dispense with individual pricing and charge $20 a bag ... lots of people with very very full bags they are trying to nonchalantly float through the cashier even though the bag weighs about forty kilos. Because even though you know you shouldn't try and scam Lifeline - who isn't going to try to cram the most books in for your $20? I got about 30 books in my bag, although half of them were thin - children's classics for number two son, who reads like I do. At huge speed and without much thought.
When we moved into this house nearly eight years ago we had these bookshelves put into the downstairs hallway. It was a fairly wide and useless hallway, and the bookshelves are specially made for paperbacks (not too high and not very deep) so we could get as many as possible in. At the time I thought "we'll never fill that up!". But we did in about a year and we also have bookshelves in the family room, kitchen and most of the bedrooms. I purge regularly for school fetes and back to Lifeline but it's so hard to get rid of the ones I really like....
The hallway shelves are alphabetically arranged by author. I like this because it means I can find things more easily, and also see who my favourite authors actually are in terms of books bought, as opposed to who I think they are when I'm trying to impress people. Turns out I buy books by Bill Bryson, Terry Pratchett, Joanna Trollope and Ian Banks. There's a whole shelf of Doris Lessing, which is mildly literary - but also a full one of assorted Mitford sisters. The biggest single author is Anthony Trollope, one of the few I will regularly re-read, but that might have more to do with the fact he wrote so very many books, than any passion of mine for long-winded Victorians.
Because the books are alphabetical, I do a really dorky thing when I finish a new book and put it away. I like to see who the author is going to be tucked up next to, and I wonder if they'll get on. For example, I just finished "and I shall have some peace there" by Margaret Roach (which I really enjoyed by the way. I was expecting some sort of sappy moving to Tuscany life-change and organic passata fiesta - but it was much grittier and more interesting than that). So I popped her in between Philip Roth and the guy who wrote "Shaka Zulu" ... and felt quite bad about it. I don't think they would get on at all well. Margaret is probably not having fun.
On the other hand, I just tucked Anne Tyler (Digging to America, quite a good read if not one of the world's greatest books) between Mark Twain and John Updike. That would be a much more interesting side of the table.