Wednesday, July 18, 2012

An Historical Fiction Research Library (in the making): A Guided Tour

Recently author Diana Gabaldon gave her readers a blog tour of her research library. While I wish I had the capacious shelves she does (and the avid readers!), my research library-in-the-making is admittedly quite a bit smaller. At present, it's scattered about in smaller sections organized in a manner that makes sense to me, but might not be readily apparent to the casual observer. 

There's my main bookcase (photo at left), organized roughly by subject.

Top shelf: Native American Tribes
Second shelf (l-rt): North Carolina; Plantation-related subjects; General 18th century Life

 Third shelf: Oversized General 18th century subjects; clothing; warfare; trades

Fourth shelf: Slavery and Race subjects

Small Bookcase
Top shelf: 18th Century Herbals; Naturalists; Food; Medicine; Cooking
Second shelf: Scottish historical subjects (a good half of those are pulled out and elsewhere); miscellaneous

On the side board: Books I've read for recently completed manuscripts & books I'll need for upcoming edits on completed manuscripts, so I want them quickly to hand. 

On the desk: (l) books of interest yet to be read, but no pressing need. (rt) Books I've read for the current novel in progress, but want to keep near to hand. 

Another stack of books of interest I hope to get to one of these days.

Current research I'm working through. These books tend to wander from room to room as needed.

In the upper cabinet of my desk: Writing craft books.

The chair where I keep books that need to be sorted, shelved, or returned eventually to the library. 

I have lots of other shelves of books (all my fiction, and more nonfiction), but these are those that pertain exclusively to my 18th century research and fiction writing. Go ahead and read the titles if you want. I don't mind. Just click for a larger view.

Do you have a research library? Do you keep it tidy and organized, or a bit haphazard like mine? See any book that piques your interest?


  1. Love your shelves, Lori!! They're more picturesque than mine! I spy some Thom and Eckert - ah... Makes me want to comb through the rest of your stuff! Bliess:)

    1. Visiting each others libraries sounds like fun. Give us a tour of yours on your blog if you'd like. I'd love to comb through your books too. Nothing so grand as a library!

  2. Anonymous9:21 AM

    Nice collections of books, Lori! Are those your CDs? That would be a fun tour, too. :)

  3. Most of the CDs are Brian's, and I couldn't even tell you what many of them they are. We have some divergent tastes in music these days! The few I have I keep stashed in other places where they won't get swallowed up by his. :)

  4. Beautiful shelves, Lori! Mine isn't nearly as organized nor as extensive, but then I'm writing in a contemporary setting. My biggest find was the Georgia foster parent manual on line. It now resides in a 4 inch binder on my desk.

    1. I was telling a fellow historical writer today that I may need to choose a story next that isn't quite so dependent on major past events for its plot, just to give my poor brain a little break. The WIP is the most heavily reliant on historical events that I have to research and get right than any story I've ever written. It's a great challenge, but it's also been a very taxing year, creatively speaking. The End is in sight however. At least of the first draft. This one will need a lot of layering. And more research. The library is growing by half a dozen books as I type this (meaning they are in transit from booksellers far and wide).

  5. I love how you've organized your shelves. They make sense to me and they look lovely. I have two large bookcases and several wall shelves in my office. None of them make as much sense as yours and definitely do not look so picturesque. But now I have something to aim for if I ever get time and some help in reworking my office.

    Thanks for the peek into your book life.

    1. I suppose I look as books as objets d'art. Better than knickknacks for decorating. :)

      Have you seen the movie INKHEART? In that story there's a man and his daughter who can hear the voices of books whispering their stories when they walk past a shelf. I'm glad I can't hear that literally, but looking at them with all their spines turned out around me, on nearly every available space in this room that is my office, feels like being surrounded by agreeable companions.

      Or co-conspirators. :)

  6. Wow! I absolutely love your learner's approach to research. I would really like to embrace it more myself. Not the most detail-oriented person but I recognize how important research is to story. Love the visual look at your research!

    1. Thanks Samantha! And thanks for the "follow" too. :) I've often wondered if I'd done all this research for college, what sort of degree in history I would have by now. Am I working toward my Masters yet? :)

      Although story comes first, and character too, there's no getting around the need for extensive research for writing historical fiction. I started researching 18th century history in 2004, and have looked at it as though I've been enrolling in course after course; the books I write are my exams, my thesis, and whatnot.

      I hope I pass!

  7. I love seeing others' bookshelves! I've posted photos of my To Read pile, but hadn't thought of sharing my research. We could start a blogfest!