Affinities: Arranging One’s Books, No. 1

Affinities, Arranging One's Books

July 27th, 2011

From “Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books” by George Perec (1978):

Between these two tensions, one which sets a premium on letting things be, on good-natured anarchy, the other that exalts the virtues of tabula rasa, the cold efficiency of the great arranging, one always ends by trying to set one’s books in order. This a trying, depressing operation, but one liable to produce pleasant surprises, such as coming upon a book you had forgotten because you could no longer see it and which, putting off until tomorrow what you won’t do today, you finally re-devour lying face down in your bed.

Besides the kinds of orders Perec lists (alphabetically, by continent or country, by color, by date of acquisition, by genre, by format, etc.), we all have our own idiosyncratic criteria for the order (or disorder) of our books. I’ve asked a few people to send me photographs of some section of their libraries in which disorder yielded some serendipitous arrangement or juxtaposition, or in which an unexpected species of order created a very particular and unusual constellation of affinities. This is the first set, including a one from my own and Richard Kraft’s library. (Click on each image to read the book spines more clearly—and see what Breughel brushes up against.) More to come. —Lisa Pearson

ANN HAMILTON: Books from her “Stylus” project.

SUZANNE TREISTER: One of her favourite shelves with some of the books she collected while living in Berlin.

JOE BIEL + HILARY HOPKINS: The bedroom shelf.

RICHARD KRAFT + LISA PEARSON: A shelf that was one thing and became something else entirely.

And this from HELEN KIM‘s “Things I need to re-read, or read for the first time” shelf.

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