"A Winter's Tale," Mark Helprin's fabulous book of magical realism set in New York at the turn of the century, which features a consumptive heroine, a magical flying horse, and a gang leader who is a "color junkie, " is catalogued as follows:
Irish Americans -- Fiction.
Reincarnation -- Fiction.
Supernatural -- Fiction.
Burglars -- Fiction.
Upper West Side (New York, N.Y.) -- Fiction.
Nowhere do you find a hint of the book, and none of these are intuitively obvious.
Zorba the Greek is cataloged as "Love of life--fiction" and "Elderly men--fiction." It's a good start, but shouldn't there at least be a "Greek Islands--fiction" entry?
These are the Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication (CIP) categories, which the LoC kindly prepares so individual libraries don't have to reinvent the cataloging for each book. This save time and money and makes cataloging consistent from library to library. Fiction is difficult to classify, obviously, but somehow we're missing the heart of the book.
My solution, which might need some refining, is to have a category, "Must read this book." "Fabulous." "You'll kick yourself if you miss this one."
"Unforgettable books--fiction." Then the question is, who gets to decide what is unforgettable? I'm sure we could work something out.