The OF Blog: How do you organize books on your shelves?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

How do you organize books on your shelves?

I've spent much of the afternoon today finishing up the reshelving/rearrangements of nearly 500 books.  My arrangement style can be seen in a couple of photos of roughly 1/3 of the reshelved books:

There are patterns to be found here, of course, even though I rarely shelve all of an author's works together (even 2-3 together does not a complete collection collation make).  There is a reason why the books in the second photo are shelved the way they are.  Can you pick out the reason?

Also, I find myself curious about the collections of those who are reading this post.  If you have links to photos to share, please feel free to link them in the comments.  I, for one, would love to see how others go about shelving their books.


Eric Rhoads said...

Non-fiction I organize by subject time period from Classic to current. Some thing such as Loeb's classic and Penguin's classic I organize separately by title. Fiction I organize by author.

Shaun Duke said...

Honestly, my shelves are organized somewhat chaotically because of limited space. I own more books than I probably should, so I separate everything by general size (MM, trade PB, and hardcover/large PB), genre (non-genre, genre, history, criticism + philosophy, etc.). From there, it's all doublebacked shelves, side-stacking, etc. etc. etc.

Alphabetical by author, of course :P

John E. O. Stevens said...

My shelving is pretty disorganized, partly because I have a bad habit of stacking rather than shelving. The mantle of my useless fireplace has about 200 books just stacked up on it, and there are teetering piles all over the living room and the office. When I do organize, it is merely by subject. I do wish to improve my system but my collection grows endlessly and I always feel behind in corralling it.

Larry Nolen said...


Sensible organization method, one that I would use if I were still in grad school and needed my subject books on hand.


The thought of double-stacking rarely crosses my mind, in part because of the large number of hardcovers/leather-bound/tradebacks that are too big to allow this to occur, at least not without breaking some shelves (which has happened in the past).


I don't include it in photos, but there are stacks on top of virtually all of my 15 bookcases. Very few piles on the floor now that these larger, sturdier shelves allow me to shelve roughly 100 more books than before.

I will note this about the second photo: it is organized, minus alphabetical/category labels, in a fashion similar to how I would do it for research.

Kip Manley said...

Fiction (largely speaking) by author; nonfiction (and select fiction) by subject or working group—

With comics, it's either by (primary) creator, or by title, depending on how it comes to mind, and also whim.

Art books are usually by size.

bibliotropic said...

Right now I'm shelving books wherever they happen to fit on the bookshelves, because I have more books than I have room for at the moment and I can't really be picky about where I put them. If I can get a couple of new bookcases, though, I usually keep my books shelves by author. Not necessarily alphabetic order (though that would make things easier to find...), but at least everything by the same author is grouped together. Series together, with hardcover books coming before paperbacks, and paperbacks placed from largest to smallest.

Hélène said...

Have you ever read Perec's Penser/Classer : there's a chapter about the necessity /impossibility of organizing books which is funny and soooo true!

jane said...

fiction - sorta alphabetical, double stacked. Apart from the bigger ones. But I am currently working my way through all of these and taking most of them to the second hand shop - just don't have the space in this day of the kindle.

non fiction - - according to how often I need to look at it! (the middle shelf here is fiction - but is my still-to-read shelf!)

Макс Смирнов said...

It is a good idea to make an electronic catalog of your books (but it is better to organize the shelves first). I am using All My Books program that is available at In my catalog I can lookup the book and it's location easily.

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