I love having house guests. Love it so much, in fact, that I am always trying to tweak the guest facilities. The last addition was a pen and stationary pad for the bedside table. And I’m currently considering adding a power strip.
Then there’s the stack of books that sits beside the bed in the guest room. If I have time, I try to tweak this collection for each new guest, to offer something that appeals to their interests. For some people this is easy; for others… not. But here is a list of the criteria I use to arrange my guest room reads.
- No more than five books.
Five is really the maximum number that a person can mentally sift through all at once. Try for more, and people will ignore them, because nothing jumps out as the One, the One Book They Want to Read.
- Make sure no two books are very similar.
You can include two mysteries, as long as they’re from very different sub-genres. Or two histories as long as they’re of very different eras. But in general, each book you offer should stand on its own, as a sterling example of the best you could find of its type.
- Include 1 or 2 “Bathroom Reads.”
These are books that you can pick up, read for a while, and then put down with no sense of disappointment. Anything episodic is good. Some of my favorites are Miss Manners books, or Calvin & Hobbes collections.
- Include some fiction and some nonfiction.
Fiction is the bulk of my library, but I know I can turn to authors like Bill Bryson or Malcolm Gladwell for good, widely appealing nonfiction. And of course, I have a staggering glut of books like this for any writer friends who come calling.
Those are my basic rules for organizing my guest room shelf. It’s a fun task I get to do right before company arrives; after the sheets have been washed and the floors have been scoured, I get to comb through my library and try to pick out just the right things for my friends. Which leads me to my last rule:
- Don’t push it.
Nobody wants to be quizzed about their reading habits. Just select the books, and then shut up about it. If the stack was disturbed at the end of the visit, you’ll know you’ve done a good job.