Cages for Books and Seagulls

The library catalog said the Rita Mae Brown book (“Sneaky Pie” mystery) was on the shelf, but not as far as I could see, so I complained to the librarian, thinking it must have been improperly shelved.

“I’m sure it’s here,” she said. “Did you look in the mystery section?”

“What mystery section?”

She pointed. “We’ve put all mysteries along the far wall.”

                                                                        image by mohamed_hassan on

I found the book, but I was disturbed by the incarceration of mysteries. I started wandering and noticed they’d also captured and caged romances. It’s where I found “Gone with the Wind.” Like so many novels, there’s a strong love story in it, but what about the war that drives the entire plot? (Yes, I complained to the librarian.)

Putting books inside cages is harmful to the reader who wanders the stacks, who discovers wonderful books despite category. They look for a good read, not a good niche, and if they don’t know their next good read isn’t in “general fiction,” they’ll never know the book even exists.

Sure, there are times when we have a yen for a feel-good cozy or a romp through the 18th century, or maybe we’re in bed with a cold and think a medical thriller might be just the thing. If so, your best place to go is GoodReads where they have lists for all kinds of books.

Separating books into type and genre has been an increasing compulsion of publishers that’s spread to the libraries and on into places where they review books. We are all prone to missing books we might have loved.

I know a seagull that nearly perished because there was no cage for him, not even the big one of general fiction.

“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach received 18 rejection letters, mainly because publishers couldn’t figure out where it belonged or who its audience might be. They didn’t have a cage for that bird. Finally, Macmillan said to hell with this, bought it, and its sales have been historic.

We can find animals in all types of books. (Hurray!) Sure, publishers and reviewers will continue caging them, but do we care? We already know animals can take prominent roles in everything from “serious” fiction to lightweight mystery, from hauntings to romance, from history to science fiction. Like Jonathan, they’re free-flyers, and so are we, the ones who are drawn to books with animals in them.

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