(While this isn't related to my current reading, it is book-related, so what the heck.)

I unpacked my books this weekend. Unpacking books is, depending on the details of the experience, either a pleasant cruise through a few hours, or a harrowing nightmare that lasts for weeks.

Last time I moved, it was the latter: I was rigid in my book-sorting algorithm (sorted by binding type, height, publisher, author, and series, in that order), and shelving my books was a task for which I steeled myself night after night for far too long.

This time around, I decided not only to bite the bullet of chaos, but to enjoy the bullet's metaphorical leady taste. My shelves are unsorted. Completely unsorted. Del Rey abuts Bantam, Zelazny perches next to Asimov, and hardcovers and paperbacks engage in forbidden embrace.

This creeps me out far more than I expected it to, but the advantage of shoveling books from box to shelf can't be easily denied. Complex sorting algorithms just require too much maintenance and upkeep to justify themselves at my current library volume. Before this, I was treating it as something of a hobby, arranging my shelves in the same way that others might knit sweaters; but I'm afraid the activity no longer holds my interest as much as it once did.

Still, I think there's a middle ground between my previous meticulousness and my current carelessness. What I'd like to see -- and what I'd implement if I weren't so lazy -- is a simpler sorting system where my books are arranged first by their read/unread status, and then grouped loosely by author.

That form of organization has several obvious benefits. First, consider that my primary interaction with my bookshelves is searching for a new book to read. By dividing out my read books from my unread ones, I've just optimized the searching algorithm. (Where n = the total number of books, and m = the number of unread books, the time it takes to look over all unread books shrinks from an O(n) operation to an O(m). Now, m in my case is about n/2, but for most people it's a constant of about 10-20.) Additionally, I can get a sense of tangible progress when, upon finishing a book, I get to move it from the unread shelf to the read shelf.

At any rate, it should be obvious that I'm still obsessive on the subject of properly shelving books; but now my laziness has o'erthrown (aside: replacing letters with faux-poetic apostrophes is more fun than you'd think) my obsession, so that my bookshelves give no prima facie evidence of my mad interest. This probably counts as progress of some sort.


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