Bookworms' struggles with organising bookshelves

By colour? Alphabetically? By genre? Is there any right way to organise your bookshelf?

multiple writers
10th March 2022
Image: Pixnio, Josh Smith, Neve Watson, Maja Mazur

Neve Watson

Image: Neve Watson

I’ve tried and tested many ways how to organise my bookshelves, but I always come back to colour coordinated. Don’t get me wrong, I used to have them alphabetically by author’s surname (I felt like I was in Waterstones every time I looked at my shelves) and that was fine, but I didn’t think it was brilliant. When the first lockdown began, I sorted through all my books and donated or sold the ones I wouldn’t read again and looked on Pinterest (a Godsend) for inspiration. Since finding a colour coordinated bookshelf, I haven’t looked back.

Of course, you’ve got to think which colour you’d like to begin with (my shelves start with green). I went as far as looking up a colour wheel and seeing the different gradients of colours and how they bleed into each other, and that was really satisfying, too, to watch my books go from a pale green into a deep one. I liked the idea more of just having a randomised green section though, with less order than a steady gradient.

It's just aesthetically pleasing to look at and I highly recommend it. As long as you don’t take issue with books within a series being in different places on your shelves if they aren’t the same colours!

Maja Mazur

Image: Maja Mazur

When I moved to England, I initially really missed my bookshelf at home. Thankfully though, I have no self-control and had a Waterstones close enough to grow a nice collection of books in a short time. In fact, soon, I will have to stack them on the floor, with my student accommodation clearly not expecting a bookworm.

I enjoy organising my books vaguely by their genre. The highest shelf, protected by a Lego Harry Potter Minifigure, is full of fantasy and crime with a touch of classic. But the one below is my favourite. And no, not because it’s the prettiest nor because it makes me look like a literary snob. No, I love it because it’s fully sponsored by my boyfriend - at least once, my poor purse had a rest. Lower there’s a small chunk of Russian bricks I pretend to have read, and some modern fiction with a random Polish edition of Dune vibing next to books in English. Sadly, my YA section is much less impressive here than in my family home but give me another few more months here, and it will dominate.

Image: Maja Mazur

I could pretend that it’s all but on the desk between dead lavender, still miraculously alive plants and squashed editions of The Courier, there’s a couple of books that didn’t make it to my bookshelf. Let the lonely Volume 4 of Heartstopper speak itself for my responsible book-buying habits.

Josh Smith

Image: Josh Smith

I love organised shelves. I love waking up alive even more. However, my life, my love and my lady is being lazy. Therefore, my shelves range from the impractically triple stacked to the Head Crusher 3000. I have beautiful books that have survived two World Wars and unless someone tells me to stop cramming them in diagonally, I can’t see them surviving the third.

I do deserve at least a crumb of credit for trying. Categories have emerged naturally: the Russians settled their own little shelf and started taking over their non-fiction neighbours once their stack reached the top. All of my epic poetry is pushed in a stack that is unobstructed — this is to assert dominance over my girlfriend when she walks in my room and beholds my Homeric, intellectual superiority. My shelf of new, to-read books is hidden in my cupboard, which averts any consumerist guilt.

We will call my method the Organic System. New Oxfam hauls crop up and spread like Japanese knotweed until a shelf fills, then ‘nature’ buys a new shelf and continues the spread. Ad infinitum. Well, not exactly. Ad until the bookshelf falls, killing me in my sleep, leaving nothing behind but a pile of mouldy paper-um. Perhaps it’s time to organise my shelves.

Annabel Hogg

Moving up to University, I sat squished under a flatpack bookshelf in the back of the car, sacrificing my lungs for the rainbow book shelf I've always wanted but never had.
Is there anything more satisfying than seeing your paperbacks and hardbacks arranged in glorious technicolour? Definitely not. I have one shelf of paperbacks arranged from red to black and then the same on the shelf above with my extensive collection of clothbound classics. I top my bookshelf off with fairy lights, plants and photos of my family and friends. When I get in bed on a night and stare straight into this little piece of my heart, I feel nothing but happiness. There is no greater feeling than stepping over to my beautiful rainbow and pulling a brand new adventure off the shelf.

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