How Do You Sort Your Bookshelf?

Posted July 12, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 24 Comments

I was thinking about my bookshelves lately, I have a few of them and I never seem to have enough room for all the books on them. Should I cull books I am never going to read? I don’t feel comfortable with culling but sometimes it needs to be done. Does anyone else have a problem with culling? Or does any one know of a way to get over this fear.

However what I want to talk about is not culling. I was wondering how people organise their bookshelves? Do you separate non-fiction and fiction, sort by author, titles, genre or colour? How organised are you? Do you regularly resort your bookshelves. I’m terrible; there is no consistent order for any of my books. I do have a bookshelf in my bedroom that has mostly my TBR books but it is not in order either.

I’ve often thought about sorting my bookshelf but I prefer it this way. I like the sense of adventure I have when I go looking for books, going from one bookshelf to the next trying to find a book. In all honesty, I just like looking at my books; I tend to look at all the titles while in bed and wondering which books I should read and what I would think of them. I just like browsing the shelves and seeing what I have, sometimes I forget I have a book and it is a thrill to find it. So I want to know what people do, is there a benefit to organising a bookshelf?

24 responses to “How Do You Sort Your Bookshelf?

  1. Violet

    It’s much easier to find books when they’re sorted. I alphabetise fiction, but I also sort the books according to whether they’re classic novels, literary, or contemporary fiction. Non-fiction is sorted by subject and era and shelved wherever I have enough space to fit the collection. Art books are a bit of a problem because they’re so big. I tend to just put them alphabetically on the bottom shelves and hope that the cat doesn’t decide to use them as a scratching post. Of course, every time I buy new books the shelves need re-arranging, but I tend to just shove new books in the ‘get to it later’ bookshelves and then have a major re-shuffle every few months. That sorting by colour thing that some people do looks nice, but I could never find anything if I did that. It already takes me long enough to decided which room a book might be in. I’m thinking of going through the whole lot and assigning them a numbered place in my Booko database, so then I’d know for sure where to find them, but that would take forever.

  2. frellathon

    I’ve purchased and put together some excellent book shelves recently I was convinced that I would put everything on nice and neat and in alphabetical order instead I did what I always do. Ohhh look a book and space on the shelf put it on and be glad it fits which is what ended up happening anyway

  3. How to sort my bookshelves is a question that keeps me up at night. I separate fiction and non-fiction. Beyond that it is a system only i can decipher. I usually group all the books by one author together and i have all my books from a specific country together. Then i also have the shelves of books that haven’t been read yet. Go with whatever feel right to you. As for culling, I recently have developed the love of giving books to people. No one leave my house without a book.

  4. cat

    I mainly categorize as read and to be read. I have a large IKEA shelf and use it as a room devider. So one side of the shelf is filled with read books (there’s another shelf containing read ones only) and the other is stuffed with my TBR. This way I can always see which books are yet to be discovered – or sorted out.
    Since I know my bookshelves by heart – I know Wolf Hall sits next to some Christoph Marzi books and that 2 of my Jonathan Safran Foers are over on the livingroom shelf while the third is on my bedroom devider shelf – I don’t sort them in a more strictly manner, although there are bits belonging together I wouldn’t separate (like all my Tolkien books). It’ a personal library after all, so only I need to get by with it.

  5. Karen ( bookertalk)

    If only I were that organised! My books are randomly housed in various bookcases, my efforts at categorising having failed miserably because husband has his own way of organising. The shelves where I keep my TBR books is a bit. Ore logical – I group them according to the project they represent. So all booker prize winners are together, all classics club books are on the same shelf. At least that’s a start.

  6. I really ought to organize my shelves. I think about it now and then, lol. Right now, whenever I look at my shelves I never know what I’m going to see or find or decide to read. It’s an adventure! 😉

  7. Kaylee E

    Every now and then I get a burst of energy and decide to organise my shelves. What actually happens is I take every book off my shelf, get exhausted by the sheer size of the task, give up and take a nap. Ha. I have a very loosely organised system where non-fiction is in one shelf and my fiction are over the large full-wall set of shelves I have, but basically when it comes to finding a home for new books, they go where ever there is a gap.

    I end up doing a cull every year or so. It’s not a big cull, but it’ll either be books I bought second hand at charity shops (because OMG $2 MUST HAVE) and will never read, or books I read and really didn’t like or know I won’t read again. But I probably only shave off 20 or so books at a time. It’s a gradual process.

  8. I have some thoughts on easier culling. I, too, agonize over this. I know I have to make room, but it’s so hard to do. This spring I stumbled upon a way that made culling MUCH easier. I took all of my books off my shelves, and I mixed them up so they weren’t sitting with books of their genre. Seeing my books out of context made all the difference for me. I was able to disassociate them and really look at each book as an individual. Seeing them with their comrades on their shelves makes me want to keep them with their comrades on their shelves. Maybe this will help you and maybe not. Thought I’d share.
    As for arranging my books, it’s an arrangement that would only make sense to me, but it’s based on (1) read vs. unread, and (2) how much I enjoyed the book if I’d read it–five -star books are at the top of the bookcases, and threes are at the bottom (I don’t hold onto ones or twos). But some genres reside together: poetry, classic fiction, cookbooks, decorating books, and children’s books.

  9. Ryan

    I have fiction and non fiction separated. Fiction is done alphabetically by the author’s last name. I’ve tried to keep the non fiction organized a bit more; history, biography, politica, etc. The I alphabatize by the author’s last name.

    I do occasionally cull books, but not often, and almost never that many.

  10. Rob

    I’ve been on the lookout for some new bookshelves lately. I have these two cheapo shelf units that I’ve had to start double stacking on, and I just moved a few months ago and now have more room to replace or expand on that.

    It’s a mess right now, though, but it started out by being grouped by genre and author, although not alphabetical as that involves a little too much upkeep the way I stack my books.

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