In 1993, Armenian-American artist Nina Katchadourian devised an unconventional way of extracting meaning from books. She began running her eyes over entire bookshelves, whether in private homes or specialized collections, and pulling out titles that seemed to suggest a story. She would then group these in a cluster that hinted at some self-enclosed tale. And the Sorted Books project was born.
Nina K’s project recognises the untapped potential of all book collections. Readers are invariably gluttons for stories: oral narratives, family anecdotes, tall tales, local gossip; we will accept all with gratitude and then go out looking for some more. Why, then, must the storytelling power of a book be thought finished with the last page? Sorted Books is also an exercise in biography. These clusters, Nina argues, represent a cross-section of a library’s holding such that they not only “reflect that particular library’s focus, idiosyncrasies, and inconsistencies” but also shine a dappled light on the particular book owner and their journey.
With this thought in mind, we at Torchlight decided to sort some books of our own. Here, you will find micro-tales from the bookshelves of illustrators, teachers, writers, librarians, and more. In these photos, personal histories collide with design and particular tastes mingle with chance acquisition.