Question: How Are Your Bookshelves Organized?

Posted January 29, 2015 by Carmel in Question / 116 Comments


What originally started out as a straightforward add five new precious’ to my shelves this past weekend turned into a lengthy bookcase overhaul because of course, any open spot simply wouldn’t do. #1 came in search of me hours later wondering where the heck I’d disappeared to, and after my failed attempt at explaining to him why I’d been at it for an entire afternoon, I decided that it’d make a great question seeing how surely I couldn’t be the only person this has happened to. Right? RIGHT? *pauses for reassurance*

Bookshelves come in many shapes and sizes, even if you’re primarily an eReader; I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m equally fussy when it comes to maintaining my GoodReads and Kindle accounts. But, I’ll get to that in a minute. We live in a small house, so regrettably I’ve had to limit myself to one six shelf unit. I call him Billy. I’m pretty sure that no one would be able to figure out my system without an explanation because I’m not an ABC kind of girl, although some of my long time blogger BFFs might have a decent shot at it.

Series need to stick together, as do titles by the same author; however I also have a shelf that’s JUST for werewolf books, another for signed copies, not to mention my Kelley Armstrong shrine. My favourites need to be at eye level, so that I can easily admire them whenever I walk in the room, I have a to-read ARC section, and a donate box in the closet. My virtual system is similar, with the addition of audiobooks, my wishlist, novellas, and my various review queues.

I never realized how wacky this sounded until I typed it all up. The Dewey Decimal Classification’s got nothing on me! I’m anxious to read your comments, so that I can confirm whether this is normal, or if I belong in a padded room. LOL!

How Are Your Bookshelves Organized?

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Carmel Signature

Owner, designer and main blogger behind Rabid Reads. Avid book reader, snowboard bunny, video gamer and Supernatural fan. I love all things paranormal, werewolves especially. Oh, and I’m Canadian, eh!

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116 responses to “Question: How Are Your Bookshelves Organized?

  1. Glad I’m not the only fussbudget about my books. Every section of available wall space either has bookshelves or DVD shelves. I read and Guy watches movies. All the movies. Plus we have 4 built in shelves.

    All my books are by author and series. Not exactly alphabetic but by author. i do mix my autographed books in with the rest but now I’m wondering if I should change that. Thanks a lot!

    I also have a donate pile but since I decided to only collect certain authors, I don’t give too many away. And I have a J. D. Robb shrine. ; )

    • If this post caused someone else to waste a whole afternoon reorganizing their shelves too then my work here is done. Hehe! Glad to hear that I am not the only one with a shrine to one specific author. ๐Ÿ˜›

  2. I’m apparently simple-minded. Um, wait…*sigh* Ok, I just organize by series first then standalones by same author. My Harlequins I organize by number. I have tons of book shelves, but in my office I have only so much space, so I keep my favorite series/books in there as well as most of my non-fiction and ARCs/TBR.
    A Voracious Reader recently posted…20 Questions ~ Answered

    • Simple is good! At least you’re never faced with the “where should THIS one go” dilemma like whenever I have a book that’s part of a series AND signed. Does it go on the signed shelf, or with its brothers & sisters?

  3. I have several book cases, and I’m not ABC either. I have hardbacks together by series and author. Same with paperbacks. Then I have some that have come in and I don’t have room for them, so they are stored on their side above the nicely stacked copies, if they don’t fit into my system. I need another book shelve, but hubs won’t let me. ๐Ÿ™

    As for ebooks, I have collections on my kindle. Read, To-Read and Someday. Read is pretty self explanatory. The To-Reads are either free or purchased books that I know I want to read. Someday are books that were free and I will get to at some point. Books that I buy knowing that it will be next in the queue, don’t even get filed, they just stay in the main part until I read them.

    I don’t think you are crazy at all, at least not for the way to keep your books. Other ways, certainly. ๐Ÿ˜›
    Melanie recently posted…Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

    • Geee thanks, Melanie! That sucks that DH won’t let you have more room for novels. Sounds like it’s a sore spot in your relationship. LOL! Too bad the Audible app doesn’t come with a organizational system. I could use one.

  4. I am very OCD when it comes to my bookshelf. As you said, series and titles by same author must be together. Also, I have to have books with same height together. Genres can be mixed, I do not have problem with that. But my favorites must be the most accessible ones!
    Lucia recently posted…WAITING ON WEDNESDAY: Broken Juliet

  5. Pili from In Love With  

    Right now my shelves are in a bit of disarray and many books are packed in boxes… BUT once I move and get all settled and my library room is done (faints of happiness at the thought) I will start the process of shelving my books in my own kind of system that is NOT ABC either!

    I’ll have my Jules Verne collection in one shelf, the the Star Wars Expanded Universe entire collection over a pair of them, then books in Spanish on one side of the room and books in English in another. Fiction separated from non-fiction, books that are not part of a series set by size, then a shelf for unread standalones, another for unfinished series, and another few of finished series!
    Pili recently posted…Sorteo (Giveaway!) de Una Noche Oscura en Parรญs de Page Morgan!!

    • You’re going to have your very own library room!? NO FAIR!! It’s great (and kinda funny) that you already have a plan on how you’re going to arrange your novels once your new set-up is finished. Way to think ahead!

  6. Well, I have 2 sets of bookshelves. The main ones upstairs are sorted alphabetically by author. I try to organize them so that each shelf has a little free space to accommodate a new addition, but there are times I need to shift everything down a few books, which (of course) trickles down through all the shelves.

    The other set of shelves are downstairs, just off the living room. One is for signed editions and one is for print ARCS . . . both sorted alphabetically as well.
    Bob ( recently posted…Tough Travels – Law Enforcement

  7. I am horrible at organization. I have one shelve beside my computer where the books I need to review live. The the other ones I do try and organize by series and I kind of like to the same size books on the same shelf…if not then the tall books are on the end…I am currently in a major bookshelf renovation and I am trying to write down all the books I have and decide what I could donate to library or giveaway. UGH!!
    Stormi recently posted…Book Review: Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

    • Before I bought my bookcase, mine were scattered all over the place. It was such a hassle! It took a while for me to give them a proper home, and now I’m strongly considering adding a second unit. Who cares if the room shrinks significantly as a result. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. Good question. I have four bookshelves (3 at home, 1 at the cabin) only one of them is organized fairly well, I must admit. If I have the chance to, I would like them organized according to genre. Right now, they’re housed sporadically in one place according to READ and UNREAD. I’m hoping that one of these summers, my daughter would be inspired enough to organized them that way. Also, I wish I know how to organize books on Kindle.
    Joy // Joyousreads recently posted…[487]: Warlord by Lana Grayson

    • I’m lucky in that I don’t have your genre problem because I read strictly paranormal, so other than breaking them even further down into sub groups, they already go together pretty well.

  9. My bookshelf system doesn’t make much sense, but I can usually find whichever book I am looking for. I try to keep books by the same author together, but if not possible at least keep a series together. Just like you I have a whole shelf dedicated to Kelly Armstrong and I am having to pile books before the others now, because they don’t fit on one shelf anymore. I also have a richelle mead shelf, but rachel vincent books are on 3 different shelves.
    I have 2 big billy bookcases from IKEA and another one which is mostly for my boyfriend his books. The way how those bookcases work is that some shelves are so smal that only mass market paperbacks fit in there, so mass mark paperbacks usually go on those shelves. And with other books I usually just try to fit them in somewhere. Weirdly enough my favourite authors are usually slightly below or above the middle of the bookcase. Okay to be honest it’s not really a system, but I know were each book is, so that’s important.
    Lola recently posted…Lola’s Ramblings: What does a day in your life look like?

    • I didn’t realize that you were a Kelly Armstrong collector too. NICE! My guy has commandeered my bottom shelf which pisses me off to no end; one of these days all of his stupid Lord of the Rings novels are just going to disappear. No offense to LOTR fans.

      • Kelley Armstrong is one of my favourite authors and I just have to own all of her books in paperback or hardcopy, lol. Except for the subterrain press novella’s I only have 2 of those. Yesterday I pre-ordered the Otherworld sercret anthology! She’s one of the few authors whoms books I always pre-order and always in hardcopy format.

        My boyfriend has it’s own bookcase, makes it easier, although I sneaked some of my old high fantasy books in his book case as well.
        Lola recently posted…Lola’s Kitchen: Green Curry Recipe

  10. First, I love that you named your bookshelf Billy! That’s awesome ๐Ÿ™‚ With my physical books, I have bookshelves that have the top four shelves open and the bottom two closed in by doors. Only hardbacks are allowed on the top “seen” shelves and are grouped together by author and series…and also if I can fit that entire section on an individual shelf on it’s own or if it has to cohabitate with another author/series. If it has to share shelf space then they must be similar genres. All paperbacks are regulated to the closed shelves and various other cabinets around the house.

    With my elibrary. I used to be extremely meticulous in arranging it. It was read and TBR, both in alphabetical order by Author, then series. That took tons of time to set up and worked great. Until I started having issues with my ereader and got a new one. Then I just didn’t have the energy to set it all back up again. With the new reader I try to have the books that I want to read next on my home screen, with less urgent reads on the following screens.
    Traci recently posted…Blog Barrage & Giveaway ~ Craved by an Alpha ~ Felicity Heaton

  11. Mine is not in order much and it’s bugging me. I keep books in a series together. Since I had to move my TBR Jar books to a smaller shelf they are stalked three rows deep so I have to move them around to find books. But since these are books I don’t plan on keeping once I finish them then it’s ok. But my one shelf in another room of keep books they are arranged by author and series.

  12. I alphabetize by author’s last name, with series in order of release. I have different bookcases for hardcovers, ARCs, non-fiction, paperbacks, trade, and unread. My favorite hardcovers are on the bookcase in the family room and my to-read review copies are sitting on my buffet for now because I ran out of room. Think it’s time for another bookcase purge!
    Terri recently posted…The Stolen book review – an unexpected disappointment

  13. O Carmel, I am so much worse than you are. My house seems to have limitless room for books. Lucky me. There has been a post on I Smell Sheep blog last year about my bookcases. Downstairs are the thousands of books I still have to read. Sorted out by author, and then roughly in genre. On the upper two shelves, are the books I probably won’t ever read, as I can’t reach them without help from a friend (afraid of hights!) No, I can’t always find the book I want to read …
    When the books are read and reviewed, they go upstairs, where I have 5 bookcases sorted in genre, and there they are stacked per author. And I have a small favourites space downstairs as well, but those get switched every now and then.
    My best friend has her books rigorously on alpabethical order by author, and the books in series order. Of course every time she has new books, she has to make space between them.
    aurian recently posted…Karen Hawkins โ€“ The Prince Who Loved Me

    • Do you own any furniture other than bookcases, Aurian? I vaguely remember seeing that post last year, and I don’t think I realized at the time that you were the author. I’m going to have to give it a second look now!

  14. At first I wasn’t sure how to answer this question, do you mean my virtual bookshelves, my Nook bookshelf or my physical book shelves? LOL I used to be very OCD about my bookshelves, by series, by height, by author name…but over the past few years I’ve gotten so many books now I just try to squeeze them all into my 2 bookshelves until I get another one! My Nook and Goodreads, etc. are sorted in various categories so right now they’re a lot neater than my actual book shelves at home! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Lori recently posted…{Blog Tour} The Originals: The Rise by Julie Plec + Giveaway

    • I think every blogger reaches a point where finding somewhere to put ’em becomes more important than maintaining a clear cut system. It’s WAY easier to keep things straight on GoodReads because you never run out of shelf space!

  15. I don’t have many physical copies around anymore. I have given them away. The ones I do have though are ogranized by authors and series. However I have this giant stack of books ARCS and such that have been read that I really really need to give away and donate to the library.
    Heidi recently posted…Audiobook Review: Hellhole by Gina Damico

  16. I’ve always been fussy about my bookshelves. I have three large bookshelves and one large corner wall bookshelf. The bookshelf in the living room is where all the new books coming into the house that I haven’t read will go. They stay there until I read them and then they get separated onto the two bookshelves in the bedroom. The corner bookshelf in my bedroom is for signed books only. lol

    I separate the books into either series and author on one bookshelf or the other bookshelf is for single books that aren’t in series or that I don’t have any other books from that author.
    Mary Kirkland recently posted…Review: Petunia Skincare 1.0mm Derma Roller, Eye Serum and Anti-aging Serum

    • That’s awesome how your books progress from one bookcase to another depending on their status. I have an oddball shelf as well, but they are no less loved then the rest. Well, except for my Kelley Armstrong shrine of course.

  17. I’m always curious about people’s bookshelves. I don’t really have a system…too many bookcases, books, and not enough room! I try and move things around as much as I can so I can find books that I know I want to read soon, but I have SO many books I need to read that it’s difficult.

    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…Tear You Apart by Sarah Cross

    • It’s definitely challenging staying on top of ’em all, especially when you constantly have new titles coming in. Can you say book blogger problems? ๐Ÿ˜€

  18. I gave my shelves and boxes of books away years ago, and don’t keep any new physical books I get. Well, I have a few, but they are like coffee table books, certain research books I need, and stuff like that. I used to just make sure the books in a series stayed together. And I always had my hardback separate from the paperbacks.

    I don’t keep many shelves of GR, just a few that help me keep track of what needs to be reviewed and stuff. And … can you organized your kindle books?
    Christy recently posted…Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

    • I’ve been cutting back on the number of physical copies I keep over the years, but I couldn’t imagine swearing them off entirely.

      If you set-up a kindle profile, you can create various shelves, and organize your titles that way. I don’t use it much, but here’s mine if you want to have a peek.

    • Back when I used to work at a bookstore, I kept my collection in alphabetical order; however I’ve since gotten away from that, and have come up with a system that’s all me.

  19. Mogsy from BiblioSanctum  

    How are my bookshelves organized? Ummm…what organization? Let’s just leave it at that. They say a picture says a thousand words, so here:

    But hey, despite the chaos, I remember where every single book is “shelved” (or rather, shoved wherever it fits) and I never double up on buying any books because I know exactly what’s in my library!
    Mogsy recently posted…Book Review: Echo 8 by Sharon Lynn Fisher

  20. First they are based on what type of book it is, hardback, massmarket paperback, or the bigger paperback. Then it goes by genre on each side, and by series. I”m thinking I need to create another shelve on my wall. I”m running out room.

  21. I have 19 bookcases, overflowing. They are sorted by genre. In fact one book case is only cookbooks. Another bookcase is only craft books – knitting, sewing, quilting. Another is childhood series like the Black Stallion, Nancy Drew, and a bunch of Dickens books and all the Reader’s Digest from 1945 and 1946.

    Basically I keep them by genre and keep series together. I do have a special shelf for to-read stuff and the bottom shelf of my night stand is all the library books I have checked out( currently 13 books and several ebooks also). Luckily, now I have the Kindle, also overflowing.


    • Euuuh, are you sure that you don’t live IN a book store!? NINETEEN casesโ€”that’s insane….ly awesome! I don’t cook, so I can easily rule that one out.

  22. Well, my books certainly aren’t that organized! LoL But I also don’t really have that many, since I have one small bookcase. They are organized though, so I can totally relate to having to move everything around just add new books! Thankfully I’m really good at Tetris. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    But basically my shelves are organized like this…

    Top Shelf: In the back I have mass market paperbacks that I haven’t read yet, since they’re the only ones who fit upright on this shelf. Then in the front I have unread hardcovers on the left, unread adult paperbacks on the right, and the middle is a mix of unread paperbacks and read/signed paperbacks. I gotta have my pretty Lux series on display!

    Middle Shelf: The back row is primarily read books, and most of them are signed. I think the only ones unsigned are my Twilight series. The front is all unread books, hardcovers on the left and middle, young adult paperbacks on the right.

    Bottom Shelf: Mostly books that are too tall for the upper shelves and most of them are read and signed. There are a few unread signed books in there too that didn’t fit on the middle shelf. Also the rare ARC goes on this shelf.

    Most of the books on my shelves are unread, since I donate books after I read them unless they’re signed.
    Angie F. recently posted…Quick Reader Survey!

    • Wow! You really managed to do a lot considering the limited amount of space you have, and you weren’t kidding when you said that you were good at Tetris speaking of which, I haven’t played in a while. Time to boot up my Wii!

  23. I have been there- several times. Haha!

    My actual shelves are custom built (by my hubby as a gift to me) so that the cases are all the same size, but the shelves in the cases are not. Some are for mass market size, others trade copy and still others, large reference etc. So my organization is mostly by size though within this perimeter I do try to keep series and author together. This would be why I have my big peeve if I don’t have all the same for a series or author.
    Besides my shelves, I also have three bins of books in storage that don’t fit and hold books by separate genre.

    My virtual shelves however are organized by genre and a few other tags that break down the genre even more.
    Sophia Rose recently posted…Mirage Beyond Flames by Melinda De Ross #Excerpt

  24. Mine is divded up in a similar, yet wonky way. Series together, signed copies together, review copies together and the rest are by COLOUR! And then the ones that don’t fit on my bookcase are inside dresser drawers in a dresser the is fit inside my office closet. Yep… I have too many books. LOL
    Chrystal recently posted…Interview with Maggie King

  25. Your organization method sounds completely understandable.
    I confess mine is a mess. I’ve got the books sorted first by size/shape then genre, and when I plan to read them. I’ve only got 2 physical shelves though *whimpers* so I’ve got to pack them in there tight. As far as my digital books…they’re a dang mess. I’m such a bad book owner…

  26. OMG, Carmel, only ONE bookshelf?! I know ebooks and audiobooks are the thing now but still…! Although I live in a one-bedroom apartment, I have TEN in my lounge room and there are books on top of chests of drawers and bedside thingy in the bedroom! Oh, and some on the kitchen shelves and dresser! Thank goodness for ebooks, otherwise there would be no room for anything else!

    I have non-fiction and fiction and I’ve tried to keep all my New York City and Art Deco architecture books together. Other non-fiction is kind of organised by subject. As for fiction (UF, SF, SFR, PNR) I’ve tried to keep series and authors together, but not in order. Alphabetical is just plain…boring LOL!

    • If I wasn’t married, my books would have probably taken over my house long ago. Luckily hubby keeps me in check (mostly). It sounds like everywhere you turn in your apartment there’s books! How lovely that must be.

  27. I organize all of my books by the author’s last name. That way series and all books by that author stay together. I have one of those big Ikea bookshelves which fits a lot and when I want to add a book I have to move all the books after it so it fits lol. If I know I’m going to get a bunch of new books I wait until I have them to organize because I could probably spend at least an hour at it too.
    Kelsey recently posted…Question: Blogging Routine

  28. I tried organizing them based on genre adult vs young adult and MG and then horror, urban fantasy, fantasy, epic fantasy, romance etc. And that worked ok but then I get lazy about making more space when I get another book in that cat and then just shove it in anywhere i can fit it.

    Right now my library is a mess because we had to move two big shelving units downstairs to make space in the library for my craft/office stuff as the current craftroom/office is going to be the new baby’s room and ahhhh its all a mess. I’ll use it as an opportunity to reorganize. But right now the idea of even trying to start is overwhelming. I’m much too tired.
    Tabitha (Not Yet Read) recently posted…Review: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

    • You shouldn’t be taking on a project of that size in your condition! And, you’ll be super busy once baby arrives. This summer sounds good, maybe. ๐Ÿ˜€

  29. My physical bookshelves are a hot mess, but my Goodreads shelves, and the collections I have on my kindle are pristine!
    Especially my Goodreads shelves are precious to me – I have all the books I’ve read, then I have my ‘might-read’ shelf, which is basically a wish-list. I have a TBR shelf, with all the books I already own, have pre-ordered or know I’ll get because they’re by favorite authors.
    Then, I have different genre shelves, challenge shelves, stuff for what I need for my own classes at Uni, stuff for the classes I teach, various degrees of hotness shelves, and on and on I go ๐Ÿ™‚
    I think our organization is really important – if not we just might lose track of all those books we want to get to one day.
    Have a fantastic Friday, Carmel!

    • I only started using GoodReads really hardcore for organization / tracking purposes last year, and it’s made things SO much easier. Like you said, I think it’s key that every blogger develops a system that works for them, otherwise we’d be buried in no time.

      Enjoy your weekend, Lexxie!

  30. Mary from BookSwarm  

    My house is pretty small — it’s a Southern bungalow, which means there’s a “heater room”, a room built to disperse the heat via transoms into certain rooms at a time. As HVAC systems have evolved since the 40’s, it’s not needed anymore so I turned it into a library, with three floor-to-ceiling bookcases. It’s lovely. (But I still run out of room!) And I organize sort of…mostly just by trying to keep my series together.
    Mary recently posted…Mini-Swarm Reviews: It’s a mystery!

    • I’m so happy that I haven’t had to move in YEARS. Hauling boxes and boxes of books was always my least favourite part of the whole process. Those things are h-e-a-v-y!

  31. Lol no doubt every bookworm has their own way of organising their shelves, and I definitely keep series and authors together as well (although I primarily organise my shelves based on book size so they look all pretty together, and I have a hardback shelf as well). Very interesting, I never thought to put my signed books on one shelf! Thanks for the idea Carmel!
    Jeann recently posted…Giveaway: Itโ€™s My Birthday and Iโ€™m Giving Away Books!

    • I’m starting to feel bad for asking this question. I’ve pushed several bloggers into reorganizing their shelves. Sorry to have created more work for you guys! My bad. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  32. I may have spent too many years working in book stores. My bookshelves are sorted by genre, and then alphabetized by the author’s last name. Thankfully, Goodreads helps me keep track of subcategories like werewolves, vampires, YA vs. Adult.

    Last year, I did try to separate out my signed copies, but the lack of order made me crazy. Within a few weeks, I was reorganizing my shelves again. Which reminds me…I think it’s time to shift my shelves again.

    Great post! ๐Ÿ™‚
    E.J. Stevens recently posted…February is for Paranormal Romance Q+A with Angela Addams + Giveaway

    • I hate when I purchase a book that I already own because I couldn’t find it. Such a waste of money! Having an organized bookshelf is a must to avoid duplicates.

  33. Christina from Christina Reads YA  

    “What originally started out as a straightforward add five new preciousโ€™ to my shelves this past weekend turned into a lengthy bookcase overhaul because of course, any open spot simply wouldnโ€™t do.” — This always happens for me, especially when it comes time for spring cleaning and I’m dusting off the shelves anyway. Then it’s like “should I organize my to-reads by genre or author name or maybe BOTH!?!?!”

    “Bookshelves come in many shapes and sizes, even if youโ€™re primarily an eReader; I donโ€™t know about the rest of you, but Iโ€™m equally fussy when it comes to maintaining my GoodReads and Kindle accounts. But, Iโ€™ll get to that in a minute. We live in a small house, so regrettably Iโ€™ve had to limit myself to one six shelf unit. I call him Billy.” — I live in an apartment I have on bookcase with 3 shelves. Sadly his name is not Billy. I don’t organize my Goodreads account if only because it’s daunting to look at it now and then go back and organize it. I wish I had kept it organized from the start.

    “Series need to stick together, as do titles by the same author; however I also have a shelf thatโ€™s JUST for werewolf books, another for signed copies, not to mention my Kelley Armstrong shrine. My favourites need to be at eye level, so that I can easily admire them whenever I walk in the room, I have a to-read ARC section, and a donate box in the closet. My virtual system is similar, with the addition of audiobooks, my wishlist, novellas, and my various review queues.” — Series, titles by the same author. Yes I do that. And the same for favorites (at my parent’s house, where all the other books I’ve stored are lol), definitely at eye level. And TBR in a separate area. No separate werewolf books or signed copies or KA shrine if only because I’m not a huge werewolf books (gasp sorry :O), and don’t have a lot of signed copies :(. Nor do I have a lot of ARCs – I give em away whenever I do, blog or library. Never enough books to get a giant box for the closet. I didn’t realize you could organize things virtually that well though! Kindle does that? Aside from like… creating collections?
    Christina recently posted…January Recap

    • I’m super unrealistic when it comes to estimating the amount of time a particular task will take. I always end up going WAY over. And, how dare you not LOVE werewolf books. You do realize who’s blog you’re leaving this comment on, right? ๐Ÿ˜›

    • If you only own a handful of physical books then there’s no reason to obsess about your set-up. Thank goodness that eReaders come with search functions!