Ten Books

This exercise can be done by one person. The purpose is to explore how many different ways you can categorize, classify, and order a data set.

Choose 10 books (paper, not digital) at random from your personal library. Lay them on a table and explore as many different ways possible to organize them into patterns, clusters, and hierarchies. For example:

  • one pile or group of hardback books, and one pile or group of paperback books
  • one pile of fiction, and one pile of non-fiction
  • laid out in order, from the smallest number of pages to the largest number of pages
  • in order from the lightest in weight to the heaviest
  • in order of copyright date
  • from the most worn out to the most pristine
  • in clusters of single and multiple (two, three, etc.) authors
  • in order of probable resale price at a used bookstore
  • from what you’d like to read over and over to what you’d most likely never read again
  • in clusters of illustrations included (non-illustrated, photographs, line drawings, color plates, mixed, etc.)

Exhaust a variety of additional ways to organize the 10 books. Then write an analytic memo reflecting on the exercise and how this simulates the way researchers might explore and analyze a set of qualitative data.