I used to organize my books autobiographically: in this way I could see how I went from The World According to Garp (the oldest book in my current personal library —few books survived the purge of my first personal library [made up of comic books, and books by Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, and John Irving —most of my reading came from the public library and the school library, so though the Wizard of Earthsea was one of my faves, it didn’t enter my library until years later, the same goes for Dune, The Catcher in the Rye, and many novels by Agatha Christie]—, a purge that was brought about my move away from home at 18) through Chronicle of a Death Foretold to Unbearable Lightness of Being, Bright Lights, Big City, and Slaves of New York (these last two from my artsy undergrad phase where I spent my time either in the painting studio trying to become a painter, or at the radio station where I was constructing the soundtrack of my life), to Pedro Páramo, Confabulario, Hasta no verte, Jesús mío, and Albúm de familia (from the time when I was living in Mexico City, painting outside on the rooftop of the house where I was living, riding the metro to a soundtrack of Depeche Mode, Cure, and Pixies —thanks to care packages of tapes sent by friends from California— and reading Mexican literature in café’s and parks) to …y no se lo tragó la tierra, Bless Me, Última, Maitreya, Las novelas ejemplares, Nazarín, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Oficio de tinieblas, The Name of the Rose, House on Mango Street and Woman Hollering Creek (my early years of living in Santa Barbara, reading through the MA list and diving first into Chicano/a and European literature), to El mundo es un lugar extraño, Registro de causantes, De alba sombría, Tijuanenses, El agente secreto, La luna siempre será un amor difícil, to Callejón sucre (the period as I was getting more into literatura norteña and gearing up for writing my dissertation) to Drown, City of Glass, Por favor, rebobinar, El delirio de Turing, Sueños digitales, Estampas del valle, Canícula, The Sheltering Sky, A hora da estrela, and Revolutionary Road (the period, post-dissertation when I decided I was going to be a scholar and rediscovered creative writing instead, and my marriage went to hell), to Take the Canoli, On the Road, the Global Soul, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, the Feast of Love, Llamadas telefónicas, Abril rojo, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, to The Hours (marking the period of travel after my divorce), to Around the Bloc, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, A Poetry of Remembrance, the Book of Unknown Americans, Lord Fear, Wandering Time, and, most recently, Notes on the Assemblage. How does one go from John Irving to Juan Felipe Herrera? My formerly autobiographically organized personal library showed me a way.
My books have been out of order for a long time, but I am slowly reorganizing them. Not in autobiographical order —did I read Alice Munro before Jayne Anne Phillips? Or was it after?— and not alphabetically. Right now they are in groupings by author, so my books by David Foster Wallace are beside a collection of stories by Rubem Fonseca, my books by Elena Poniatowska are beside Paul Auster, and Italo Calvino is near Jorge Ibargüengotia. The groupings are arbitrary, but someday they may fall into order.
Currently, my library is an assemblage of the readings of my life.