For book lovers, your bookshelf is a sacred space — it’s where these treasured possessions rest when we’re not using them to visit another world for a while. But if your books are randomly placed, not only can they be difficult to find, but it may not be as aesthetically pleasing, either. I asked people on Facebook how they organized their shelves, and I got a surprising amount of responses. Here are five ways to organize your books.
1. The obvious, alphabetically: This is the most common way to organize. While bookshops usually sort by the author’s last name, you may find it more appealing to organize your books alphabetically by title. If you do this, you’ll never have to spend forever scanning the shelves — it will always be where you need it. Also, there’s something very satisfying about alphabetizing your collection. You get to know it again, and taking care of your books brings a sense of pride.
2. By genre or topic: This can be as broad or as specific as you want. It often can help in addition to alphabetically, especially if you have a lot of different subjects. I like to separate fiction from nonfiction, and I like to keep poetry and graphic novels on their own shelves. However, depending on your collection, it may be advantageous to be even more specific. Perhaps you have a TON of novels. Why not group them into sections of mystery, romance, essays, etc.?
Here’s Bracken’s method: “By topic, then generally by date of the topic. Most of my books are non-fiction, so I have a section on presidents, with the presidents in order. A section on wars, with the wars in order. A section on religion, with the specific religions clustered together then arranged in a weird combination of date and subject matter. It’s almost like I’ve made my own Dewey Decimal System.”
And here’s Joanne’s: “I go first Topical > then Author because Jake and I have such disparate and varied reading tastes between us that doing just one sort was…not helpful. We have a science section, history, classic lit fiction, adult fiction, and juvenile fiction (which is most of the fiction in our house tbh because I devour kids books) and comics (which is mainly Archie and Pokemon atm) and then of course reference books…and textbooks…”
3. By size: A lot of people choose to organize their collections by size, which offers a more aesthetically pleasing look. You could go from biggest to smallest, or use larger books like bookends on either side. It’s a solid method, and if you’re a visual learner, it may even be easier for you remember what the book looks like and pick it out that way.
Here’s Amanda’s method: “By size! Tallest on the left to smallest on the right. Then also smallest on the top to tallest on the bottom (ie old school small paper back books on the top shelf to like coffee table books on the bottom).”
And Claire’s: “Size! Smallest on ends going to bigger in the middle! This probably only works because I have a super loooooong shelf that runs across an entire wall but it looks v cool.”
4. By color: Again, quite the aesthetically pleasing option. A lot of people prefer this method for visual memorization as well. Plus, it can just be super cute.
Here’s Elissa’s response: “Color man. I’m all about that ROYGBV aesthetic.”
Be careful, though, because it may make the situation worse, as Crissi wrote: “ I totally want to do color, because it looks so cool. But I’m not that organized, and I’ll probably never find any of the books I want to read again.”
5. Chronologically: This is a great way to organize certain subjects, like when Bracken mentioned history books. It may be a more difficult option if you’re organizing novels, but it can be a fun way of learning more about your collection and deciding what to read based on the time period.
Bill uses this method, in addition to the first: “Generally date of when it was written but within that by author.”
I’d love to see your wonderful bookshelves! If you have an amazing setup, email a photo to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have additional methods, please share in the comments. Happy organizing 🙂