post off: how do you arrange your bookshelves?


Survey time, bookworms: How do you organize your tomes? Chronologically? Alphabetical by author? By genre? Have you made your very own card catalog for your personal library? (If you have, let’s be friends.) Mary T. artfully arranges her books by spine color — she says it’s not that hard, but also wants to point out that is not her home in the photo above! The effect can be absolutely gorgeous, but I don’t think I have enough tasteful orange-covered books to achieve the soothing result. Personally, I have two big bookshelves. The one in the bedroom is full of my absolute favorites and un-lend-able signed copies (close to the bed for easy access on sleepless nights). The larger bookcase in the office carries the rest, organized by genre, with the biggest shelf filled with Stephen King only. Sound off: How do you arrange your bookshelves? –Katie D.

Photo courtesy of Flickr member Chotda

From our partners

Mine are in no special order, although shelf height does dictate where the taller and shortest volumes end up. I have cataloged our entire collection into It assists me when I’m looking for gifts to give to other children (what’s that book that we love by that one author?) or when I’m buying for my own children (do we already have this?). I love the look in the photo above, but I do not think my collection’s spines have the right color distribution to pull it off.

Mine are by height, basically. Top shelves are little paperbacks, middle ones are trade paperbacks and small hardbacks, bottom are Harry Potter, garden books or other massive hardbacks. I find this looks neat while still allowing me to find stuff pretty easily. I think sorting by color is nice in theory but in practice I think it would drive me bananas. Also my books are not all as prettily colored as those pictured above.

I also clean out my bookshelves every couple of months as our local bookstore will swap me used books for credit (which means a stack of old books I wouldn’t re-read turns into a much smaller stack of stuff I will read) so they are pretty pared down in general. I don’t like keeping books unless I LOVE them and will read them over and over. I have a stack sitting in a canvas bag in my closet just waiting for the weekend so they can get traded in. So that really helps keep things streamlined.

A large portion of my book collection is used for reference, so I organize my books first by subject matter so they’re easy to find, and then by height because I’m anal (then chronology if there’s a series).

T Bone

I organize my books into two categories. Books about dinosaurs and ‘choose your own adventure books’. It’s a system thats worked so well for me over the years.

I’ve seen tons of decorating magazines where the books are perfectly arranged, the colors look great and all is happy.
1. What happens when you have twice the amount of books than can fit on your bookcase?
2. What if the majority of your books are black and white?

I’ve resorted to partial arranging, and partial stacking in a large pile against a wall in my living room (this is what happens when you live in a Manhattan apartment!)

My books are arranged by genre, and by author within genres. We covered the 15 foot wall in our dining room with Billy bookcases (with height extenders). I currently need to rearrange and make things more attractive, but for me the primary goal is to be able to grab whichever book I’m looking for instantly.

I have 3 floor to ceiling bookcases. Fiction, non-fiction and reference. Fiction and non are arranged alphabetically by author and reference is arranged by subject (gardening, craft {sub: sewing, millinery, knitting, etc.}, design) then author.

I’m a freak, but I’m a happy and organized freak.

The color-coded books look really stylish! We feel like we’ve seen it somewhere before though? Did it come from a magazine?

–Celebrity Digs HQ

As much as LOVE the color coordination in the pic, I don’t think I have enough books yet to pull off that look. So mine get the old ‘tallest to shortest from left to right’ regimen for standard books. I do like to place one random “stack” per shelf, either beginning, middle or end just to break up the lines. Usually the stack consists of travel books and/or classics- the two genres I use/read most often.
Reference have their own shelf on the bottom, however I have an exquisitely beautiful old Reader’s Digest dictionary with 2 or 3 language dictionaries included- 6 inches thick of pure, beautiful words! That’s usually front and center.

Mary T

I posted a photo here: (We no longer live in that cool house!!) You’ll see that we had built-in shelves to work with, and I didn’t have nearly all of our books in there; we were renting for a year and I left a lot of boxes packed. But what I did have out, I found that arranging by color, while we didn’t achieve the fabulous affect in the photo with this post, really helped unify the area so it didn’t look as crazy to the eye. I like books, but I find it hard to decorate around them — they always end up looking too chaotic to me.


Katie’s my soulmate : ) I have a Stephen King shelf, a Neil Gaiman and a few other faves shelf, a classics shelf and so on. We had planned on doing built-ins this year to make way for more books and my husband’s dream t.v., but we all know how that story ends.

Megan B.

We’ve got ours arranged by height kind of- but we have all of our fancy art books and collectible hardback editions grouped together in a glass-doored display shelf. When I was a single gal/bookstore manager, my books were of course, arranged alpha by author.

I arranged my neighbor’s bookshelf by color. Each little square was filled with books of a similar color spine. Here is the result. Click image to enlarge:

Unblogged Bits for Friday, 25 September 2009 | ***Dave Does the Blog

[…] post off: how do you arrange your bookshelves? – By fiction genre, alphabetical by author. Non-fiction is grouped thematically. […]

Fiction: alpha by author, with anthologies at the front.

Nonfiction: grouped by subject, no particular subject order, except that reference are grouped together on the most reachable-from-my-desk shelf (I’m an editor, and I grab the same several books many times a day). Within the subject areas, sub-subjects are grouped (e.g., within “travel,” all the books about my local area are together), then it looks like I’ve defaulted to arranging them by size.

Comp copies of books and journals I’ve worked on: All together on some inconvenient high shelves, arranged by size. I’m starting to run out of space for these and am reluctant to let them go since they do come in handy once in a blue moon, so until I buy another shelf and move them to another room, I’m starting to stack them vertically so I can fit more in.


This question and conversation has been around. Here’s another post on the subject of book displays.

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