How do you sort your MLs?

Scot Kamins kamins at
Sun Oct 17 16:16:44 EDT 2004


When I first started collecting MLs, I sorted the books by binder 
type (pre-8, 8-14. giants), alphabetically within type. I didn't have 
that many pieces, so when I wanted to pull a volume to read it was 
easy to scan for what I wanted.

When my collection grew beyond a couple hundred titles, this became 
inconvenient. Sometimes I wanted a novel, sometimes a volume of 
poetry - but being over 50, my powers of recall had become not as 
good as they once were. "Who was that sharp-tongued woman from the 
Algonquin Group who wrote all those great short stories?" Scanning 30 
or 40 titles looking for the book was one thing - but scanning over 
ten times that many became a problem.

So I sorted my collection by genres - poetry, drama, short stories, 
novels, biography, essays, philosophy, religion, psychology, and so 
on - in alphabetic order by author, with each section starting with 
anthologies of miscellaneous authors sorted by title. I ended up with 
fifteen areas or so. (I keep all the illustrateds and the buckrams 
together, with the buckrams sorted numerically just for fun.) This 
was a fine solution - scanning the short stories area was much easier 
now ("Oh - there she is - Dorothy Parker - right!"). Novels were 
still a problem because there were so many of them, but I muddled 

The problem came when I began selling my collection. I have 
descriptions and values for most of the books in a database; I 
exported the database files to HTML tables, and that's what ended up 
as my For Sale lists at Dogeared. When someone ordered a book, I'd go 
to the shelves and pull the title for verification and packing.

But in the database I neglected to create a field called "genre." 
Where did I put Homer? He was a poet (genre: Poetry), but I couldn't 
recall if the translations were done into prose - and if so, were 
they with the Novels or in the Mythology section? (Answer: Poetry for 
both him and Virgil, because when I studied them in High School...) 
And Nostradamus - where the heck did I put him? (Answer: Religion, 
for "Prophesy). Flame of Life - what the heck was that???

(By the way, Flame of Life is how the Titles index at Dogeared came 
about. Without searching can you recall who wrote that - and what 
genre it's in?)

So this is a long-winded way of asking: How do you sort your MLs, and 
why? What have you found are the shortcomings of that method?

Scot Kamins

"Modern Library books are intended to be read and not just to be 
stuck away in bookcases like old sets of Balzac and Victor Hugo..."
                    - Bennett Cerf

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