Ghost In The Shelves: Categories

You can have the best, most soul-searing books in the world, you can have works of profound literature and deep scholarship and they won’t do anyone any good if you can’t find them. We here at the Haunted Book Shop are greatly in favor of finding things. We’re just crazy about it, truth be told. Finding new books, finding old books–my favorite memory of my job at the store so far is finding a book a woman read thirty years ago but she couldn’t remember the title, and then finding it on the shelves (Run With the Horsemen, by Ferrol Sams, if you wanted to know what book.)

The thing that really helps with the finding of books are our categories. Say you’re a history reader–well, what sort of history are you after? You’ve got local history, then state, then national, military, and world history. Looking for a kid’s book? Well, how old is the child, because we break up children’s books by age. We sought to make sure people could find a few shelves of what they wanted, rather than a wall of books and a cheerful “It’s in here somewhere.”

I like to think it helps exploratory browsing. Everyone who reads has things they prefer to read but sometimes the cosmic rays align and you’re interested in a new author or a new subject. You could want to give Stephen King a try, or maybe you’ve always heard Agatha Christie’s name mentioned but never read her. Maybe you’re in to buy a copy of Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for a summer reading list and Tolstoy catches your eye. Or you love time travel stories, but looking through a huge section of science fiction to find these is daunting–here we have a small shelf set aside for those. For whatever reason, if you want to try something new, we’ve made it easy to find.

If you browse our second floor, you’ll notice the place is an ode to genre fiction. There’s timelines and charts about how the English-language genres formed and what books were instrumental in that process. Genre and writing and how people handle and express those ideas and concepts are always changing, and even in our own lifetimes we can see shifts. The stuff that comes up over centuries is downright amazing! Many moons ago, I was reading a school textbook in class (I’d do the required reading and then some, go figure). The bit was a reprint of a letter Benjamin Franklin wrote to a friend, and he was discussing how he’d read a story which reproduced the speech of the characters in its entirety, and he marveled at how immersive quotations and, essentially, quotation marks was. Can you imagine how much someone to whom dialogue is mind-blowing would feel about the narrative devices that get used today? And the books are still around so we can trace them.

To this end, we break every section down into sub-sections, several of which are common across most of the store, like a local authors shelf, or a classics shelf. In some genre sections certain authors will have their own shelf, either for their enduring popularity or because they’ve just written that many books (as you might expect, Stephen King has quite a lot of space in our horror section. It’s good to be the King.)

Typically, in most of our genre sections, you’ll find the following sub-sections:  classics, local authors, new releases, staff recommendations, author recommendation, and anthologies. But this can’t cover all possibilities, so each genre has some that are specific to them.

So, for the sake of example, here’s a breakdown of our science fiction sub-genres and examples of what each contains, and why we gave it that space:

Classic Science Fiction: Several works of Jules Verne, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (which also has space in horror, but some books fall into more than one genre), H.G. Wells, and Frank Herbert’s Dune.

New Releases: A spot to showcase the new releases of the past few months

Isaac Asimov and Rad Bradbury, both noted authors of classic science fiction, share a shelf. If the shelf was large enough I’d put Arthur C. Clarke’s books in there with them and they could be the ABCs of Science Fiction.

Philip K. Dick, a prolific author with a staggering number of adaptations of his books, also gets his own shelf.

Space is our ‘main’ science fiction category. Space is big. Really big. Mind-bogglingly, unbelievably big.

Retro Science Fiction features science fiction pulp novels from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Get your fix of rockets and ray guns here!

Military Science Fiction is also an extensive subgenre, with authors like John Ringo and David Weber having decades of writing behind them, and there’s people who want those.

LGBTQ Science Fiction, written by LGBTQ authors. Their unique life experiences means some very different answers to the questions science fiction asks.

Alternate History SF what if aliens made contact in the 1930s? What if Congress had gone through with a plan to release a breeding population of hippos into the Mississippi River (yes, it’s a real thing they considered)?

Near-Future SF is set in a recognizable present (at least when it was written) with one or two things happening to change things up. Like the Jurassic Park novel.

Post-Apocalyptic SF if we mess up with the world and crash civilization, how do we go on?

Time Travel is, of course, one of the classic “what-ifs” of human speculation.

Humorous Science Fiction because sometimes we need a laugh

Anomaly is when it’s a normal world with one single strange thing there that doesn’t belong.

Cyberpunk features a world with near-total integration of technology into society, with corporations often taking the place of governments.

Trans-humanism focuses on science fiction featuring people human technology to, essentially, move beyond being human.

Some of these categories are small, with ten books in there or less, but we felt they were distinct enough, interesting enough, to warrant their own little space and isolation. Every now and then, we get someone who gets their interest piqued by Anomaly or Alternate History and they find something new to read.

TIP: If you’re wondering where a specific book might be you can always ask the staff, or you can also look it up on our website–most of the books will have their location as the first line in their description. So, for instance, if you’re wondering where we shelved Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, you could pull out your phone, navigate to our website and search for the title and see where it is!

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