Combining Categories | Newberry

Combining Categories

So we had this book come in, which aims to prove scientifically that human beings are designed to fall in love with the wonders of nature. Not more outrageous than the thesis of other books: the problem is in which category it belongs. Psychology? Science? Nature? Sociology? Anthropology?

I put it in Nature, which struck me as the major focus of the book. But there is no guarantee I won’t change my mind and move it.

This latest donation has been doing this sort of thing for a week. These books blur the lines between Math and Philosophy just for starters, but then start fudging the boundary between Philosophy and Science. The history of philosophy is there along with the philosophy of history, books of games and books on game theory…it has us all out of sorts.

But we will be resolute. Over the years, any number of atheists have questioned the divine guidance behind our categories. There was the lady (I hope she attends this year) who glared at me as I walked through Room 1. She pointed at the signs and demanded, “Why are Mathematics and Science separated? Don’t you regard Mathematics as a Science?”

I forget what I said to her, but I was quietly grateful that she had her back to Anthropology and Archaeology, which are also both sciences. Combining categories is a real hobby among our customers. Other categories we might not have today if we had paid attention to all our unpaid advisors include

GRAPHIC NOVELS: I know this is the first year we have this category, but we did have some helpful people at one Book Fair who went around and pulled the graphic novels out of Mystery, Science Fiction, and Biography, and put them into the Children’s section. (Because they’re comic books, right? And comic books are for kids.)

COOKING: “Those are all How To Cook, aren’t they?” the man demanded. “So put them in “How To”.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE: I’ve had three or four people over the years suggest that most of these teach you How To Speak Italian/Japanese/Croatian. (But to put these in How To, we’d have to divide them according to which ethnic groups talk with their hands, now that we divide How To into How To (Head) and How To (Hands).)

MYSTERY, ROMANCE, SCIENCE FICTION: “It says right on the cover that this is a novel! Why don’t you have it in Fiction?”

SHOW BIZ: The fact that we separate books of plays from books about performing in plays is completely bewildering to some folks. I usually tell them it’s wrong to put books on Comedians in Drama, and then I run.

CHICAGO: History of Chicago should go in History, Guidebooks to Chicago should go in Travel: why confuse people by pulling these all together in one place and mixing them together? (This confuses only the customers—and there’s one every year—who look at this section and ask where the sections on Albuquerque or Miami are.)

Photography should go in Art, Military History should go in History, Military Fiction should go in Military History (“because the same people will read both”)…sometimes I wonder why we didn’t follow the suggestion of the person who said “Why don’t you just put them all in alphabetical order by title?”

Then I remember. We’d have to set aside three rooms just for the ones that begin with “The”.

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