How To Organize Your Book Shelves

Kelsie Foreman
Aug 26, 2020

If you’re a big reader, bookstagrammer fan, or library obsessed, you know how important book shelf organization truly is. How else could Hermione have found a book about the one and only Nicholas Flamel in the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts Library during year one of their wizarding education? Or when Matilda Wormwood needed something special to read to get away from her horrible parents? Both of these characters heavily relied on an awesome book organization system, and if you love to read as much as they do, why not get your shelves in order? Doing so will make your book shelf even more accessible so that you can find something right when the mood strikes.

Here are a few ways to organize your bookshelves.

Alphabetically   If you reread old stories often or have neighbors and friends looking to borrow books frequently, organizing your bookshelves via alphabetization is likely the best option for you. You can choose to separate them based on the title or the author’s name. Personally, I find that separating by the author’s name is often best, after all, it’s what libraries and bookstores do so it is easy to find something when needed.  However, there are a few downsides to organizing your books alphabetically. For one, it isn’t the most visually appealing layout, though it is the layout where books are the easiest to find. Additionally, it can get tricky to add new books to your shelves if they are already alphabetized, particularly if the shelf is already full. If you choose to organize your books in this manner, make sure that you leave space on your shelves for future additions. 

Alphabetically

If you reread old stories often or have neighbors and friends looking to borrow books frequently, organizing your bookshelves via alphabetization is likely the best option for you. You can choose to separate them based on the title or the author’s name. Personally, I find that separating by the author’s name is often best, after all, it’s what libraries and bookstores do so it is easy to find something when needed.

However, there are a few downsides to organizing your books alphabetically. For one, it isn’t the most visually appealing layout, though it is the layout where books are the easiest to find. Additionally, it can get tricky to add new books to your shelves if they are already alphabetized, particularly if the shelf is already full. If you choose to organize your books in this manner, make sure that you leave space on your shelves for future additions.

By Feeling   Are you one of those readers who choose their titles based on emotions? If so, it might be a good idea to arrange your books based on the kinds of feelings you had while reading them. This might seem like an intense task, so I recommend you begin by sorting books into common emotions such as happiness, sadness, fear, anger, longing, love, and more. After the books have been separated this way, you can organize them further by alphabetizing or colorizing, it’s completely up to you.   Though it can be tricky to send a friend to find something on your shelves if they are organized in this manner, this is one of my favorite ways to organize books because it’s incredibly personal, just as your shelves are. Plus, the next time you’re feeling a little down and desperate for a pick-me-up, you’ll know right which shelf to go to. 

By Feeling

Are you one of those readers who choose their titles based on emotions? If so, it might be a good idea to arrange your books based on the kinds of feelings you had while reading them. This might seem like an intense task, so I recommend you begin by sorting books into common emotions such as happiness, sadness, fear, anger, longing, love, and more. After the books have been separated this way, you can organize them further by alphabetizing or colorizing, it’s completely up to you.

Though it can be tricky to send a friend to find something on your shelves if they are organized in this manner, this is one of my favorite ways to organize books because it’s incredibly personal, just as your shelves are. Plus, the next time you’re feeling a little down and desperate for a pick-me-up, you’ll know right which shelf to go to.

The To Read List   I love to go to secondhand bookstores and purchase 10-15 books at a time. If you, like me, are always looking for something new to read, try arranging your shelf based on books you have and haven’t read yet. Depending on the number of unread books you have on your shelves, it might be a good idea to differentiate the ones that you haven’t read by placing them horizontally. Keep the ones you have read stacked vertically.   Again, the need for a specific way to organize the books you have read versus the ones that you have not will depend on the number of books in your collection that you have not read. And as always, you can organize both the have read and the have not read sections alphabetically or by color if you’d like to take your shelf organization to an entirely new level. Psst…you might be appalled if you saw just how large my “haven’t read” pile currently is...

The To Read List

I love to go to secondhand bookstores and purchase 10-15 books at a time. If you, like me, are always looking for something new to read, try arranging your shelf based on books you have and haven’t read yet. Depending on the number of unread books you have on your shelves, it might be a good idea to differentiate the ones that you haven’t read by placing them horizontally. Keep the ones you have read stacked vertically.

Again, the need for a specific way to organize the books you have read versus the ones that you have not will depend on the number of books in your collection that you have not read. And as always, you can organize both the have read and the have not read sections alphabetically or by color if you’d like to take your shelf organization to an entirely new level. Psst…you might be appalled if you saw just how large my “haven’t read” pile currently is...

By Color   This is perhaps one of the best ways to organize your books if you are looking to create a visual statement, though it can be one of the most exhausting to pull off. To effectively organize your bookshelf based on color, I recommend splitting books into color categories based on the color of their spine. Once you have your books paired into colors, take it a step further and group the books in that color category based on how dark or light the coloring is.   After you have divided the books into your color groups, display them on your shelves in descending order so that it creates kind of an ombre look. If you want your shelves to truly make an impact in your home decor, this is absolutely the way to display them!   However, it should be mentioned that if you elect to go the color organization route that you cannot choose to simultaneously organize them with a second method such as alphabetization. This will ruin how the colored spines are displayed. And though this might seem like it would be a hard way to go back and find an old book to read, if you can remember the cover, things are usually pretty easy to find! Plus, this organization method makes your shelves totally Instagrammable! 

By Color

This is perhaps one of the best ways to organize your books if you are looking to create a visual statement, though it can be one of the most exhausting to pull off. To effectively organize your bookshelf based on color, I recommend splitting books into color categories based on the color of their spine. Once you have your books paired into colors, take it a step further and group the books in that color category based on how dark or light the coloring is.

After you have divided the books into your color groups, display them on your shelves in descending order so that it creates kind of an ombre look. If you want your shelves to truly make an impact in your home decor, this is absolutely the way to display them!

However, it should be mentioned that if you elect to go the color organization route that you cannot choose to simultaneously organize them with a second method such as alphabetization. This will ruin how the colored spines are displayed. And though this might seem like it would be a hard way to go back and find an old book to read, if you can remember the cover, things are usually pretty easy to find! Plus, this organization method makes your shelves totally Instagrammable!

By Genre   Divide up your favorite books based on genres like fiction, nonfiction, mystery, young adult, reference, true crime, and more. After you have split up your reads by genre, feel free to further alphabetize them or even colorize them (though you’ll have to create a rainbow on a shelf by shelf basis).   In some cases, organizing by genre can be more intuitive than just plain alphabetizing, especially if you are super familiar with the kinds of genres on your shelf. Additionally, this is a great way to organize your shelves if you determine your next read based on your desired genre.   However, if you choose to organize in this manner, it should be noted that there will be a lot of overlap in your organization. For example, you might find that several of your books overlap into different categories. To avoid these kinds of organization conundrums, I recommend putting them into large groups based on the four main genres (fiction, nonfiction, mystery, fantasy...these are only a few examples. Your shelf may vary) and then organizing them into smaller, niche categories from there. 

By Genre

Divide up your favorite books based on genres like fiction, nonfiction, mystery, young adult, reference, true crime, and more. After you have split up your reads by genre, feel free to further alphabetize them or even colorize them (though you’ll have to create a rainbow on a shelf by shelf basis).

In some cases, organizing by genre can be more intuitive than just plain alphabetizing, especially if you are super familiar with the kinds of genres on your shelf. Additionally, this is a great way to organize your shelves if you determine your next read based on your desired genre.

However, if you choose to organize in this manner, it should be noted that there will be a lot of overlap in your organization. For example, you might find that several of your books overlap into different categories. To avoid these kinds of organization conundrums, I recommend putting them into large groups based on the four main genres (fiction, nonfiction, mystery, fantasy...these are only a few examples. Your shelf may vary) and then organizing them into smaller, niche categories from there.

In Small Spaces   Finding yourself overwhelmed by the number of books in your small home but don’t have space for yet another traditional bookshelf? Try replacing your headboard or footboard in your bedroom with hollow bookcase shelving, instead. Additionally, if you have a corner in your home where your two walls meet in a really funky way, it might be a good idea to install some shelving between the two sides of the wall. When you’re running out of space for more books, it’s important to utilize every space that you could possibly have.  Another thing to remember when organizing books in small spaces is that you don’t always have to stack your books vertically. Feel free to stack your books horizontally, vertically, with the spines hidden, or even a mixture of both. There are no limits in terms of stacking your books, in fact, the more creative, the better!   Whether you elect to organize your books alphabetically, by color, by genre, or something else, your book shelves are bound to look seriously amazing after a little organization. And not only will your shelves look incredible when following these methods, but they’ll make your shelves more accessible for you and your friends as readers. After all, books are always meant to be shared. 

In Small Spaces

Finding yourself overwhelmed by the number of books in your small home but don’t have space for yet another traditional bookshelf? Try replacing your headboard or footboard in your bedroom with hollow bookcase shelving, instead. Additionally, if you have a corner in your home where your two walls meet in a really funky way, it might be a good idea to install some shelving between the two sides of the wall. When you’re running out of space for more books, it’s important to utilize every space that you could possibly have.

Another thing to remember when organizing books in small spaces is that you don’t always have to stack your books vertically. Feel free to stack your books horizontally, vertically, with the spines hidden, or even a mixture of both. There are no limits in terms of stacking your books, in fact, the more creative, the better!

Whether you elect to organize your books alphabetically, by color, by genre, or something else, your book shelves are bound to look seriously amazing after a little organization. And not only will your shelves look incredible when following these methods, but they’ll make your shelves more accessible for you and your friends as readers. After all, books are always meant to be shared.

How do you organize your book shelves? Take a photo of yours and share it with us on Instagram @bookclubdotcom

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