The Best Way to Arrange Books

When I was a kid, I lived in an old farmhouse. My room had a chimney running through it. By the time we lived there, the chimney didn’t work anymore, and we didn’t have a fireplace. I had three bookshelves surrounding my chimney, and I didn’t really have a method or arranging my books. I just stuffed them in wherever.

As I got older, I still just put my books wherever, but I also had a shelf of my favorites, some of which are still my favorites today.

That haphazard way of arranging books lasted until I moved to Texas. We had moved three times previously, and my Ikea bookshelves were in pretty rough shape. I wanted a real library with real wooden bookshelves.

I had never unpacked all my books in any of the places I lived. I just never had the shelf space and wasn’t even sure how many books I owned. (I’m at 1,770, in case you’re curious.)

With that many books, there’s only one way to deal with them. I had to go with sections and alphabetize within section.

My largest section, by far, is fiction. I have all short story anthologies shelved separately. I have a shelf for memoir/ biography, several for psychology texts, a shelf for graphic novels, and then a couple shelves of mixed nonfiction. That mixed shelf has an eclectic mix of paranormal phenomena, mythology, gardening, home repair, and pretty much anything that wouldn’t fit on the other shelves.

I’ve seen people talk about shelving by cutesy things like color or size, and while that might be, in some ways, more aesthetically pleasing, I have all the happiness I need just by seeing all the books I own, unboxed, and in one location.

How do you shelve your books?

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7 comments on “The Best Way to Arrange Books

  1. Lea Christensen says:

    I shelve alphabetical, mass market/trade paperback/hardcover, read vs. nonread, and classics are separated…pretty much everything else is mixed in.

    • doreeweller says:

      I think the read vs. unread is a good idea. I always have books on my shelf I want to read, but forget about them/ can’t find them when I’m looking for a book. This year, I separated out a bunch of books I’ve been wanting to read. So far it’s helping.

  2. scr4pl80 says:

    Wow, that’s a lot of books! I don’t have any order, just try to keep things visible but I don’t have nearly as many as you. I’ve seen some people actually cover the book in colored paper so they have a rainbow effect but they can’t see the title of the book. That seems crazy to me, although they like the “surprise” of picking a book to read.

  3. Well, to quote you, “I [have] never unpacked all my books in any of the places I [have] lived. I just never had the shelf space and wasn’t even sure how many books I owned.” However, those books that are in bookcases are arranged according to size (large to small), and those of each size are arranged alphabetically by (usually) author, or by title if the author isn’t listed (as in anthologies, or comic book collections or graphic novels where one writer is rarely listed on the cover).

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