David Weinberger is wondering how people sort their books. My books have gone through several iterations of organization but right now they are sorted this way:
Cookbooks are in the kitchen. Phone books, and misc. reference (e.g. hikes in Maine, birds) downstairs, on the shelf with the pens, scotch tape, and take-out food menus.
Reference books about writing, and nonfiction books I consult from time to time (Writer's Market, Coaching the Mental Game) are on my desk downstairs.
Magazines: in the little den off the kitchen where the dog sleeps. The stack grows. I should admit defeat and toss the unread ones.
Living room: my roommate's bookshelf contains her CDs, her books, and a few of mine. The books I chose to put down here are those that seemed like they might be nice to to page through and look at while in the living room. They include some big picture books (the atlas, The Art of Illumination, two volume set of guide to wildflowers of the US, Envisioning Information, high school yearbook, a couple of children's picture books) and also books that can be opened up and dipped into briefly: short story collections, Grimm's fairy tales, collected letters of John Steinbeck, poetry of MacLeish, Rumi, Rilke, Neruda. Because it might be nice to read a poem or a story while you're down here waiting for something else to happen.
At the top of the stairs: the big bookcase holds my collection. Books are arranged by size and shape, and are stuffed in somewhat hither and yon. They are loosely grouped by topic -- nonfiction on the bottom shelf, "classics" or "serious literature" on the middle shelf, alphabetically, and then "modern fiction" or books that I've read but haven't decided whether to keep or not, or haven't yet read, on the top shelf. Occasionally I'll swap a book for another one because I think the change will make things look more interesting. I won't buy another bookshelf, and don't wish to get rid of more books, so I squeeze things in without regard to category. (Just finished Gone With the Wind, which should be on the second shelf, but there's no room for it, so on the third shelf it goes until I get rid of something from the second shelf. I think I'll get rid of the tiresome Anais Nin, although that doesn't make enough room.)
Outside of my bedroom, in the hall by the window, I have a couple of apple crates that I've turned into bookshelves, with houseplants on top. There are photo albums there, a thesaurus, a couple of children's books, and a bizarre collection of other books. Persepolis and Maus are there, plus some memoirs (Lamott and Tobias Wolff), and then miscellaneous nonfiction books. Maybe the organizing principle is that thes are more "private" than the books on the bookshelf at the top of the stairs. There are books about meditation, buddhism, sex, astrology, and a lifetime reading plan. There's a history of Portland, Maine and a book about insects. It's not clear why the books that are there are there. But that's where they are. I think it's a repository for books I'm not sure whether to keep, although Lamott and Wolff don't belong there if that's the case. It makes no sense.
In my bedroom: the bookshelf is for journals, and a few books about writing. Piled on the floor next to the bookshelf are the books that are "on deck" -- that I intend to read very soon. There are about 12 books there. The truth is I rarely start my next book from that pile. But the pile represents my good intentions about those books. I'm going to read them very soon. On the floor next to my bed are the books I am currently reading or don't want to admit that I have abandoned. There are currently three there. On my bedside table are two books that I have abandoned but am pretending to still be reading. It is my practice to read a book as I am falling asleep and then tuck it under the empty pillow beside me until the next night. That's how some of the books that I am reading ended up on the floor -- they got knocked out from under my pillow. Since I just finished Gone With the Wind I am going to pick up one of the books that wound up under my bed and finish that one up next.