Bookworms generally shelve their books by the author’s last name. That’s traditional and follows what they do in libraries and bookstores. But what about anthologies? They collect stories from many different writers. My public library files anthologies in the non-fiction area, organized by the Dewey decimal system. I’ve known bookstores that put all the SF anthologies at the beginning or end of the science fiction section alphabetized by the last name of the first editor. I’ve also been to bookstores where they filed the anthologies together with the other books so Isaac Asimov’s fiction would be right next to the anthologies he edited of other writers’ works.

I’ve been wondering what is the best way to shelve my anthologies so I can easily find a short story from memory. I now have five shelves of science fiction anthologies, which might cover as many as 2,000 short stories. I can always go to and look up a story and it will tell me all the anthologies that have reprinted that story. But I like the idea of exercising my brain.

I’m terrible with short story titles. I’m better recalling authors, at least the major writers because I can recall authors by the feel of their stories. I’m even better at remembering a sense of what decade a story was written. I also have a vague sense of when various anthologies were published. Conklin in the 1940’s and 1950’s, Moskowitz and Knight in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and so on.

I’d love to shelve my anthologies by the years the stories were first published, and that would work if all anthologies were annual best of the year anthologies. Wouldn’t it be great to read all those years when Bleiler/Dikty, Merril, and Asimov/Greenberg overlapped (1956-1958)?

What I ended shelving the anthologies that collected 19th-century science fiction short stories first, and then books that had stories before 1939 when Asimov & Greenberg began their annual series. Then I shelved the other annual series in the rough order in which they first appeared. Unfortunately, most of the modern annuals I own are in my Kindle library.

Then I shelved the famous retrospective annuals that began appearing in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I put my small run of F&SF annuals together. Finally, I shelved the theme anthologies.

I haven’t gotten the order perfected yet.

My anthology collection is far from complete, and mostly odds and ends I’ve been able to snag here and there. I hate that many of the books have white labels from online booksellers or white labels on the library discards.

I’m guessing most of the 275 stories from the Classics of Science Fiction Short Stories list are on these shelves. I’ve read 119 of the 275, so I have a long ways to go.

James Wallace Harris (9/12/18)


7 thoughts on “Shelving My Science Fiction Anthologies

  1. I don’t have proper shelving in my cramped and poky little house, but I have a rough idea where every book is. As for individual stories—well, I made an index of all my anthologies and author collections which runs to over 7,000 entries. Plus, I have at least 2,000 more in magazines, also indexed. It was a hell of a lot of work, but now it’s easy to find stories. You should do the same. Your collection of physical anthologies is to drool over. 2,000 stories isn’t all that many. You should list them!


  2. Because I already have so much information in my head, I don’t need a strict alphabetical arrangement. If I had my way, I’d arrange my anthologies by category. First and upper left, I’d put The Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthologies, and a few others that make authoritative attempts to collect the all time best stories. Next, I’d shelve award anthologies and best of year series, in order of the start date of each series (except for the GREAT SF STORIES series—that one would be shelved as if it had started in 1939/1940). Only after those would I arrange the remaining anthologies by editor.

    But, in real life, space is the overriding consideration. My books tend to be housed by shelf size!


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