Field Guide for Bookspotters | Newberry

Field Guide for Bookspotters

We’ve had another birdwatching donation. You can always tell the library of a busy birder: there are field guides to birds of the East Coast, birds of Central America, birds west of the Rockies, and so forth. A very useful part of these reference books is the help they give, through pictures and descriptions, in telling different breeds apart: how to tell a yellow-bellied sapsucker from a red-eyed night owl, say.

It occurred to me that the same sort of field guide might be useful to novice Book Fair customers, or Book Fair fans with only a couple of years of experience. We have had questions about the natural habitats of certain species of book, so here are a few notes for telling the difference. (I suspect you will find both night owls and sapsuckers among the crowd of fellow customers, but you’re on your own there.)

ANTHROPOLOGY/SOCIOLOGY: Might as well start with a difficult one. I don’t know how more academic practitioners of these fields identify themselves, but to SOME degree, the difference is in the setting. If the people discussed own cell phones and live in an urban setting, it’s Sociology. If the people being studied live in a rural setting of low technology, the book will be found in Anthropology. True, there are books about the anthropology of the corporate office, or the sociology of ice fishers, but there are always exceptions. (Book hunting secret: if you look both places, you cover all possibilities.)

TRANSPORTATION/TRAVEL: This is simpler. If it’s about where you’re going, it’s Travel. If it’s about what gets you there, it’s Transportation. A train ride through the Rockies which mainly discusses the scenery is Travel; if it’s about the locomotive and the year these new dining cars were invented, and the Rockies appear in the background through a window, it’s Transportation.

NATURE/GARDENING: A book about what you’ll see if you walk into the forest will be found in nature. A book about what you’ll see if you plant these and water them on this schedule and kill the right bugs is going to be in Gardening. Almost ALL books about animals, wild or domestic, are in Nature, but when it comes to plants, the ones which require your intervention (tomatoes or weeds) are Gardening.

DIET BOOKS/COOKBOOKS: This is more difficult, since a lot of diet books include recipes. We are taking the line that anything with more than, say, half a dozen recipes belongs in Cookbooks. Diet books which don’t involve themselves in actual recipes go into Health, along with all those books on counting calories or carbs. Mysteries which include recipes are still sorted into Mysteries.

DRAMA/SHOW BIZ: A book of plays is in Drama. A book about staging plays is in Show Biz. AND a book about the author of the plays is in Books & Authors. Shakespeare and Shaw are simply too big to squeeze into one category.

CLASSICS/LITERATURE: For this Book Fair, any book covering the glory days of Ancient Greece or Rome goes into Classics. Yes, Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist is considered a “classic” but it goes into Literature. We can’t afford to use “classic” in that manner: to some people, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is a classic.

HISTORY/ARCHAEOLOGY: If a majority of what we know about a civilization had to be dug up, it goes in Archaeology. Almost all the books about the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Sumerians, and so forth are to be found in Archaeology, along with more specific books about excavations in Egypt, the Ohio Valley, or Athens. History tends to deal with societies which were literate, and could write their own histories. (Except for Ancient Greece and Rome; see above.)

HUMOR/POLI SCI: There are people who think politics is funny, but others find it tragic. That’s why it has its own category.

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