Wait…Do I own that book?

Ever since I was a child I have loved books.  I have many memories from my childhood of riding my bike to The Little Professor bookstore in search of another great read.

This passion has not subsided, but has grown over the years.  I wish I still had all of the books I’ve purchased in my lifetime but due to moves and loaning books out I do not.  But I still have a lot of books.

Several weeks ago I was at a bookstore that was closing.  As I rummaged through the leftover books I was having a hard time remembering all the titles of books that I own.   So I have decided to inventory all of my books.  It will be a lot of work, but I am hoping that in the long run it will pay off.

My spreadsheet has sections for Fiction, Nonfiction, History & Politics, Biographies, and Travel books.  As you can see, there are certain types of books that I buy more than others.  The nonfiction category as of now is a catchall for the books that don’t fall into the other 4 types.

Going through this process has shown me that I have a habit of placing piles of books all over my apartment.  Part of this project will involve gathering all of these books and organizing them into a more functional system. The picture to the right shows the books I collected from closets and shelves from all over.

I have my  work cut out for me!

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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34 Responses to Wait…Do I own that book?

  1. Michelle says:

    wow! Looks & sounds like a huge project! I should do the same though! We’ve collected a lot of books & we’ve also inherited a bunch. We have one big bookshelf where we have books two rows deep & then we also have a few boxes with books in them that wouldn’t fit on the bookshelf at all. I don’t know what we have & what I’ve read & haven’t read in all the mess! Since getting my Nook Color, I tend to get new books on there more than the bookstore, but I really want to organize the books I have!

    • TBM says:

      I’ll let you know how my attempt works and maybe I can share things that worked and what didn’t work. This will be a somewhat long process I fear, but I want to get it right. I’ve thought about adding a column for if I read the book or not, but I haven’t decided how detailed I want the list to be.

  2. Carl V. says:

    I don’t know of any more joyous work, though, than organizing one’s books. I have yet to catalog mine, but last year I finally did a big organization of mine, putting together a basement “library” to handle all of the overflow of books that won’t fit on shelves upstairs. Over the past year I’ve acquired many more books and they are in piles downstairs, so I’m actually very excited that I have another book-related project to tackle! Your project is exciting me enough that maybe I’ll do that this weekend!

    Make sure to take pics of your re-org and share them with us.

    • TBM says:

      It is fun to rediscover books I’ve bought and totally forgot about. If you tackle your project this weekend good luck. And I’ll be sure to share the final product, but it will be a little while off. I will be moving to a new apartment in September so I’ll have to figure out where to put everything in the new digs.

  3. Seasweetie says:

    I too want to do this. Having moved recently, I am discovering that I have more books (and more clothes) than I thought I did. I keep a record of everything I have read, and have done so for the last few years, but I still get thrown off when a publisher reissues a book I’ve read with a new cover several years after the initial publishing. I can’t count the number of times I’ve started a book only to think, “Hmmmm, this is familiar…”

    • TBM says:

      How do we collect so much stuff? Books I love collecting. But I need to go through my clothes and such to figure out what I should donate. This summer is dedicated to getting more organized. Hopefully I will succeed.

      Do you have a book journal? Is that how you keep a record?

  4. Ipodman says:

    Wow, if you have trouble remembering what books you have, then you really must have a lot of books! O.O

    • TBM says:

      I do! And I am the only one in the house that collects them so it is all my fault. I can’t blame anyone else. Do you have the same issue with movies and music?

      • Ipodman says:

        So far I haven’t had any trouble remembering what movies/music I own, but it’s the storage space that’s the problem… I’m running out of shelves and cabinets :/

  5. TBM says:

    Yes storage is a problem! I had to buy more shelves…and I think I need more.

  6. Caroline says:

    I have huge piles as well and they are not very organized. Despite the huge number I have only bought one book twice and it is the most expensive paperback I own (60dollar!). I’m still puzzled that it happened with this book + I had to order it in a book store.
    Good luck to you. I agree with Carl, it is pleasant work.

    • TBM says:

      I have found some duplicates, but they are ones that I have been given and I didn’t know I already had them. Funny that you bought the same book twice and it was the most expensive. You must have really wanted that one! What book is it if you don’t mind my asking?

      It is fun and I think it will pay off!

      • Caroline says:

        No, I don’t mind but I don’t know whether it has been translated. It is called Le Génie du Paganisme by Marc Augé. Cultural anthropology. It’s odd that I bought it twice.

      • TBM says:

        Do you still have both? Might be good to have a backup. I love all the different types of books you read and in different languages. I’m jealous.

  7. Jen Moore says:

    Good luck! I keep telling myself I’m going to do a catalog, and then I get through one bookshelf and realize how much more I have left to do and it all kind of falls apart.

    My basic strategy for “wait, do I own this already?” has been to get a PDA and keep a list of what I do and don’t own for the series I’m collecting. That’s far from all my books, but since those are the ones I’m most likely to buy randomly, it helps make sure I don’t end up with too many duplicates.

    • TBM says:

      I will admit that when I got through the pile on the floor and then looked over at my bookshelves I almost quit. But I am trying to stay on task. I’ll keep your idea in mind!

  8. Seasweetie says:

    I do keep a book journal, and go through my “giveaway” box before I giveaway to be sure each is recorded. And I’m off to buy yet another bookshelf this weekend.

    • TBM says:

      I recently picked up a book journal and at first I used it. But then I forgot about it and now I can’t find it 😦 Buy two bookshelves. It’s good to have a spare.

  9. Meredith says:

    I do not understand this phenomenon of not knowing if you already own a book.

  10. Skye says:

    I do this with my manga all the time, and I had to start carrying a notebook with a list. Maybe you should join Goodreads or LibraryThing. I think LibraryThing has all this fancy stuff for organizing…you just have to enter the info and it’s free. I haven’t messed with it a lot, but it seems cool.

    • TBM says:

      I plan on carrying my list of the books I own and my list of 1001 books that I plan on reading in case I happen upon a bookstore. Thanks for the tips. I’ll have to check them out!

  11. hugmamma says:

    I love collecting books as well, especially biographies. I’ve been trying to downsize all my stuff, literary and otherwise. But while I might weed out one or 2 books, I end up at Half-Price books where I find oldies but goodies that I just can’t resist. I’d have to assemble all my books from everywhere in the house to see if I have as many as you. But I don’t think I’ll do that anytime soon. That would mean I’d have another big project on my hands. And my plate’s already full of tasks needing to be accomplished.

    so i’ll leave this one to you…wishing you much luck! 🙂

    • TBM says:

      I love biographies! It is so hard to resist books, especially when they are on sale. It is a big project so if you have other stuff going on I wouldn’t suggest starting it yet. When you do though, I wish you luck!

  12. I am freakishly organized. So, I pretty much know which books I own.

    A bookstore closing down is always sad but rummaging through piles of books is so much fun isn’t it? My favourites are library sales. Nothing is closing down, only piles of books to go through.

    That first pile of books in the photo looks scrumptious! Wuthering Heights and Dracula are two of my favourites. I read Silas Marner last year. Jane Eyre I read as a kid. I really should try the two Classic Gothics from the pile, The Castle of Otranto and The Mysteries of Udolpho.

    • TBM says:

      I wish I was freakishly organized. I’m getting ready for a move and I was going through my stuff yesterday and I kept shaking my head. I would think, “Oh here that is, I’ve been looking for that!”

      The first pile of books are my summer project. So far I’ve read The Castle of Otranto and I recommend it. I’ll let you know about Mysteries when I complete it.

      It does sadden me when a bookstore closes down, but I wasn’t surprised when this one closed since I used to work for the company and I wondered how it stayed in business.

  13. Good for you! I have not kept some of my books through the years and regret it. A couple of years ago, I had a huge yard sale to downsize a bit and put many of my old ‘friends’ on a table. Each time someone bought one, a bit of me went with them – and I didn’t like it. Guess I won’t be doing that again.
    Now I have my ‘Mr. Kindle’ and take him everywhere I go. So convenient. I love him, but still love the feel of leather and pages against my fingertips!

  14. TBM says:

    I’ve also given up some books and I regret it as well. I love to hold a book! And to this day, I still haven’t tried a Kindle, but I think I’ll have to break down at some point.

    • I grabbed a bunch of books that I didn’t think I’d read again and sold them a couple of years ago. My regret started when I was having a conversation with someone and the book came up. I wanted to reference something, but I didn’t have the book any more!!

      Then I decided that I really wanted to re-read a series, but I’d given it away and I can’t even find in-print copies…

      The worst, though, is when I loan a book out to someone who never returns it. These tend to be books I really like…

      • TBM says:

        This has also happened to me. I’ve either sold some books or traded them in for store credit and then later down the road I regretted it. And I have lost a few of my friends to people I’ve lent them to. I can feel your pain.

        Now I try not to lose or give away my books. I know it is selfish, but I love to have books and I love to be surrounded by books.

        Can you find the series in a library?

  15. I have the same problem. I never used to, but I think I’ve just reached my threshold. I still remember every book I purchased before a certain date, but anything after that is a bit of a blur (especially if I haven’t had a chance to read it yet).

    So, I latched on to the same solution. I put everything into SpaceJock’s BookDatabase. It worked really well for a while, but it installed weirdly so I can’t find the system files to back it up (I’ve looked everywhere and even done a filename search – I know what the files are supposed to be because it installed properly on my other computer). I started thinking about all the work I was doing whenever I bought new books going to waste if my laptop ever dies. It killed my enthusiasm for the project and I stopped updating it.

    I’ve been thinking of just doing a regular Excel spreadsheet, but I haven’t gotten the nerve yet…

    • TBM says:

      I am putting mine into an Excel spreadsheet and I am saving the list onto my external hard drive. Once I finish I will have to try real hard to keep the list up to date. I won’t lie to you, it is a lot of work, but I’m hoping that I’ll get a lot of use out of the list in the future.

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