My books

I was checking out Bryan L’s commentary bookcase just now and I began thinking (yes, I know–hit the x-out button now!): I wonder how others with larger book collections arrange their books.

I am a little nit-picky about my books, so I arrange them very systematically. Here’s the rundown. I have my books shelved first according to subject matter. I have sections on OT, NT, OT languages, NT Greek, theology, history (which is divided between American, world, and ancient histories), modern languages, philosophy, homiletics, early church…you get the picture. I don’t arrange alphabetically (title or author) because that would create such visual dissonance that I couldn’t focus when studying or just reading (even though my shelves are behind me).

Once this division is properly made, I then arrange books by height and width (no, I don’t get out a ruler!). Naturally, taller books come first, followed by shorter books. Wide books (which, thankfully, are considerably few), if they are not overly wide, such that they obscure more narrow books next to them, follow according to height.

Commentaries, dictionaries, and multi-volume sets are all arranged by series. All the Word Biblical Commentary volumes are together; NICNT, NIGTC, etc. I tried once to arrange them by bible book, but I just couldn’t stand to break them up. The black IVP dictionaries stay together, only separated according to which testament they cover. My TDNT, of course, is all together, as well.

One of the few exceptions is bibles. If it’s one of my preaching or study bibles that are leather, I keep them in their box and lying flat on the shelf. If they are hc or pb, they stand like other books.

If you were hoping for a picture, sorry–I am between office and house with books stacked up on every wall in my office, so the disarray is visually unappealing. Maybe someday I’ll indulge all you who enjoy such things. So, does anyone else have such a persnickity way about them? Or are you so careless as to throw books onto the shelf with no regard for order? 😉

Αυτω η δοξα,


11 thoughts on “My books

  1. I arrange mine according to their Library of Congress classification number. This has a nice order to it. It takes a little time to get used to though. Books are still arranged by subject, but in such a way that if I need to go to the library for a book, I know exactly where to go right away.

  2. One of my former profs arranged by LoC. It drove me nuts. Of course, as I acquire more books and move beyond what I have, that may become preferable.

    I arrange as follows:
    -group according to OT, NT, Judaism/World Religions, Holocaust studies, Theology
    -within those categories they are grouped thematically; OT theologies together, Psalms together, Genesis together, intros together
    -commentaries are on my misc shelf (namely because I have no room to fit them on another shelf and maintain the integrity of the above groupings)
    -size isn’t a huge factor for me, but if there is a ridiculously tall book, that usually starts the section, and the entire shelf.

    It’s an intuitive system for me. I pretty much know where anything is at any given moment.

    1. This is pretty much the way I have mine. Within every major category (OT, NT, Theology, etc.), they are grouped by size then subject. All intros are together, Pauline works together, etc. Like you, I know where every book is that I would need at any given moment. As absent-minded as I tend to be, it’s comforting to know that my library is ordered and I don’t have to worry about finding things!

  3. I used to arrange mine by topic, but in the last few years I’ve moved to a strict alpha by title.

    I’ve also given several libraries away over the years. Moving is such a killer when your books take up more room than your furniture.

    Right now I’m down to a room that serves as a library.

  4. Bitsy: Interesting. I just don’t think I could handle doing mine any other way…I don’t deal well with that kind of change! Given away several libraries??? Wow! Let me know the next time you’re feeling so generous!

  5. I don’t really have a specific method. I do sort by category but then everything after that is kind of arbitrary. I might keep big books first and then smaller books or I might group introductions and more general books first and then specific topic in that category next. It all depends.

    The categories that I’ve sorted my books into are:
    1.) Paul
    2.) Jesus
    3.) NT intro
    4.) NT background
    5.) NT Theology
    6.) OT (I just sort all the OT stuff together)
    7.) Biblical interpretation/exegesis, criticism, nature of the Bible and its inspiration
    8.) Theology intro and method
    9.) Systematic theology
    10.) Specific topics in theology
    11.) Religion and history (including early church)
    12.) Introduction to philosophy and history of philosophy
    13.) Philosophy of religion
    14.) Epistemology
    15.) Philosophy dictionaries
    16.) Hermeneutics (philosophical hermeneutics and theological hermeneutics)
    17.) Ethics
    18.) Logic
    19.) Literary theory and criticism
    20.) Linguistics
    21.) Science

    Bryan L

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