organizing books

by Jessica White

Rows upon rows, shelves upon shelves: whether tens or thousands, everyone who has books stores them in some manner — organized or just randomly tossed in a pile. If you’re like me — and since you’re joining the March of Books, I’m guessing you are — you probably don’t get rid of your books. And with a large stash of books comes the need to keep them somehow, whether in boxes or on shelves or tables.

I love books — seeing them, feeling them, smelling them, reading them, sharing them! Books are more than just words on paper; they are a tactile and aesthetic journey. The journey doesn’t start when you open to the first page; the journey begins when you see the book for the first time, waiting for you. If a book is sequestered away in a dark dusty corner it is sure to be overlooked, but that same book is certain to be picked up if it’s front-and-center for all to see.

Through much of high school and college, I worked in a library. In spite of that, I’m rather, shall we say, unconventional in my book organization.  No Dewey Decimal system for this ex-librarian! For me, it’s purely a matter of things looking well-organized.  And it’s all about…height. That’s right! My books are organized by how tall they are; outside to inside, left to right. Of course, even within this seemingly nonsensical chaos there is a deeper method at work. Each genre, topic or author is given their own space, whether it’s a shelf or a whole bookcase; and each new grouping starts with another tall book.

I have five bookcases in my house: two in our living room, one in the dining room, one in our bedroom, and one in our kids’ bedroom (and even with all that I still have books in boxes). Our living room contains all of the books about food or drinks. They are just waiting to be grabbed from the shelf, to be opened and a recipe devoured! The dining room contains all of the books pertaining to our hobbies (quilting for myself and home-brewing for my husband), as well as the reference and family books. Children’s books are in the kids’ rooms. Beside our bed is all of our parenting, Christian studies, devotionals, Bibles, and other favorites. Whatever room you’re in, the books you need are right at hand.

Another method, perhaps even more unorthodox and chaotic than my own, is to organize by color. A friend of mine has a wonderfully large bookcase, allowing her to create a rainbow from her books. I don’t even want to know how long such a project would take to complete, but how fun to create a wall of art from the (intact) spines of books! I’ve even seen the color idea taken to another extreme: bookcases that are built in various shapes, using books as paint, creating mosaic images.

As with anything, there are always those who are much more traditional in their book-keeping and follow a system of letters, whether alphabetically by title or author. But where is the fun in that?! I spent more time than I care to mention just looking at how differently people store their books. The internet is brimming with hundreds of methodologies in book organization. How infinitely interesting to not only talk about books, but how they are displayed!

How about you?  Is there rhyme or reason to your book organization?  Where do you store your books?

Jess is a mom to 4 kids, 2 and under. When not feeding babies and changing diapers she loves spending time with her husband, quilting, reading, and writing.


  1. Great concepts ladies! I too arranged my bookshelf at home to look like a rainbow – but it wasn’t nearly that good. Now I just go by author. πŸ˜‰

  2. Oh … I have HAPPY memories of my bookcases over the years! My books are arranged by topic at the moment – fiction, biography, prayer, etc. The books of some authors, who have written about multiple subjects, are scattered all over my bookcases according to topic. I think I have the most fun arranging my biographies according to the time in history when the subject of each book lived. It’s a lot of fun – and it means I can find the book I want, when I want it, which I love! And … I love the up-and-down look of the books on my shelves as tall books and short books keep each other company.

  3. A subject dear to my heart. πŸ™‚ I have spent way too much time playing around with how my books are arranged on a shelf. Currently mine are organized by genre (then height) But I LOVED the rainbow bookshelf…Great post, Jess!

  4. I also forgot to mention that I organize by color (as is evident by the picture above haha). I decided to try something new when we moved. Prior to color I organized by genre. I will say that I don’t have a hard time finding books. Oddly enough I seem to know what color almost all my books are. The other day a friend wanted to borrow The Hunger Games so I sent Marcus to get it, I simply told him it’s in the black section. I think this way is easier for my husband haha

  5. Such a fun post. I love seeing how people organize their books! When ever we move unpacking my books and arranging them is my favorite part.

    1. It’s a good thing that you enjoying doing that, considering how many times you guys have moved πŸ™‚

      Thanks again Sadie for letting me highlight your method.

  6. When my books were unpacked, I arranged them by author, height (had to put short books under the shelf support), and category. I had a shelf with my “classics” which were mostly older, more distinguished books, children’s books were in my closet, textbooks and non-fiction in the tall shelves, and a Christian Life section. The choice of shelf also depended on how easy it was to access so my favorites were always close by!

    1. Sounds like we’re of the same mind! Now that I think about, I think my height thing also came about because of the metal brackets holding the shelves on the wall πŸ™‚

  7. I have to admit, I adore shopping in antique stores where everything is organized by color. But when it comes to my books, I want to be able to find them–and readily! So I organize by general categories (Children’s, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Christian Life, etc.), then by author, and then by title. πŸ™‚ (My grandmother was a librarian–that might explain some of it? ;))

    1. I think you can definitely credit your awesome organization to your grandma πŸ™‚ I like being able to find a book fast, especially to reference something.

  8. I think I’ll have to try organizing by color, that is lovely! πŸ™‚ right now all my books are categorized by topic, and then by Author.

    1. Go for it! You can always go back to your original way….and if nothing else. They’ll at least get cleaned in the move-about πŸ™‚

  9. My sister-in-law uses the color scheme and I. love. it. At my house, however, its different because, well, *whispers* my books don’t actually fit on my bookshelves.

    I do, however, keep a shelf, just like my Mama did when I was growing up, of all my favorite books. You know, the ones that you read and re-read and re-re-read. It’s not until about the fifth re-read that a book makes it onto that shelf. And just looking at them makes my heart sing. πŸ™‚

    1. My books don’t end up on a shelf until I’m done with them either. I suppose I could have a “To be read” shelf, but what would be the fun in that. Plus, I might get more overwhelmed by the pile if they were all together.

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