Storing All Those Books

book stacks Recently, I sorted some of my bookshelves. Truth to be told, I mostly did it in order to procrastinate doing some other work, but when I had finished, I was really pleased: The books looked so neat, with many from the same publishing house standing next to each other, and next time it won’t take me ages to find a specific book. An added bonus, I unearthed my copy of Meg Cabot’s The Boy Next Door, which I had been hunting for the last two years and which I accused both my sister and my father of having borrowed and forgotten to return.

I was so delighted with the result of my sorting fit that I mentioned it the next day at the gym to an acquaintance. The woman smiled and said how pleasing it was to have one’s books sorted, adding that she was sorting hers by color. This left me kind of speechless, partly because my reaction was not a snotty “How can she?!” but a bemused “That’s rather charming.” Mind you, it wouldn’t work for my own collection, because there are far too many books. But really it doesn’t matter how you sort them, as long as you are truly pleased with the result, but for aesthetic and logistic reasons.

I sort my books like this: First I divide them into fiction and non-fiction. The fiction is then divided into literary fiction, genre fiction and children’s books. Literary fiction is sorted by country of origin, and then author’s birthdate. Genre fiction is sorted by genre and subgenre, then alphabetically. My romances and mysteries are shelved in two rows, because I have just too many to fit into my study otherwise. Here, the unread books go in front and the ones I have read in the back row of the same shelf, so that I can find them quickly.

With all these books, my study’s walls look very colorful indeed, and sometimes I wish for a working space with plainer walls (we have that in the living room). But guests usually find the room charming, and I am deeply grateful that I finally have the space to store everything close at hand without having to resort to boxes.

How do you sort your books? Can you store all of them on shelves? What’s your opinion of double (or possibly even triple) rows on a shelf? Do you try to keep one or several rooms (completely or mostly) book-free?

-Rike Horstmann

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28 Responses to Storing All Those Books

  1. Tee says:

    Since I get my fiction books from the library, I let the library do the sorting after I return them (smiley face).

    As to the non-fiction and reference books I keep on shelves, they’re sorted according to height and/or topic. Depends. I’m only talking three shelves here so it’s not a problem. When I need a book, it’s easily found no matter how it’s shelved.

  2. The print books, by author last name, but with a few exceptions – Heyer and Dunnett and Tolkein get shelves to themselves. I also have categories – the TBR is separate.
    For nonfiction, by category, roughly following Dewey and then alphabetically.

    It doesn’t get any easier with ebooks. I do it by author name, first name first, because many books come with that filename. With some books I have different versions, because I read on my iPaq, my phone and my ebookwise and they require different formats. I just keep them all in the same folder. So by author, then by title. So many ebooks come with rubbish metatags, so I don’t even try to use those, not until they get their act together.

    We’re currently having the house renovated, which includes lots of yummy new bookshelves. I’m storing the keepers on the above-door shelves, where it’s darker so it will help to protect the cheaply made paperbacks that fall apart after a few years. I’ve also got rid of a lot. It hurt, but I did it. Five boxes, to date. Books I’ll never read, but got as freebies or glommed and then decided I didn’t like them, books I have in ebook format, books I didn’t know I had.

  3. Katja says:

    By language first of all (German or English mostly)
    Then by subgenre (sort of, because Romance, Fantasy, SF and Crime are all lumped together )
    Then Author’s last name alphabetically or very seldom titles alphabetically (only for anthologies)
    Non Fiction: By topic and then subtopic, languages and authors are largely being ignored

  4. Willy-nilly, wherever they fit!

    I really need a system!

  5. Cindy says:

    I love this topic! I’m somewhat obsessed with the organization of my books. I seperate into categories of: non-fiction; non-romance fiction; category contemporary; contemporary; historical; and regency (my biggest group). Books within each category are alphabetical by author. I do doube and triple stack books on shelves, but I keep a list in Word of all my books, so I know what I have and can find books easily enough. My shelves are in my lovely big closet, but they still aren’t enough and I’ve taken over several drawers in our bedroom nightstands, dresser, and chest. Last month I finally gave in and bought a couple of those big plastic tubs that fit under a bed. All of these books are unread. I get rid of almost every book after I read it. My keeper stack consists of about 8 books that I may read again. And still I buy more books!

  6. Karen says:

    I have my TBR books on two shelves in a very overcrowded cupboard. In a hallway bookcase the finished books are in alphabetical order by author’s last name for single titles. For authors with multiple titles, they get their own vertical stack. It works pretty well. My ebooks (which is what I try to buy these days to keep the house from becoming a printed-material firetrap) are all on my ipod Touch and my Mac mini. I use bookpedia to keep track of them all.

  7. Ashley H says:

    All of my TBR books are in my Hutch, stacked from oldest up to the newest books I’ve received. Although that is starting to get full and I’m stacking them on a spare bookshelf in the bedroom lol. I have about half of them listed on LibraryThing.

  8. Linda says:

    I’ve been in the middle of sorting all my books for the past 2 weeks now. To date I have given my brother in law 12 carton of books to sell at the flea market (this is about 15years worth of books never sorted before just stored in bins).
    Now to the fun part of organizing what I’m keeping. 1st i’m sorting by author/series. Next is single titles by author.
    It is so nice to finally see some order in my bookcases..

  9. Margaret says:

    I group by author, but in no particular order. Sad really.

  10. Laura says:

    I have a built in book shelf in my living room that has all my hard cover books and ref. books. And then in my in-home office I have book shelves built in above the windows, and they are filed by authour. I have my go-to authors to read rather than book titles to go to when I need a pick-me-up.

  11. Rike says:

    Cindy, like you I keep a Word list of all my titles, and a several annotated list for my romances titles (like which authors to avoid in the future). Even with the list, I have acquired second copies at times …

    I am very close to buying an ebookreader. Keeping track of ebooks will be an entirely new challenge! (but one I’m looking forward to …)

  12. xina says:

    I organize my books, mostly, by size. I like the look of books on a shelf. I have several bookshelves that I have acquired over the years from Ikea. I also have a built in bookshelf in one room also in no particular order, but size. I’ve got a little alcove in the bedroom (sort of a built in office) where I stack books. I like it to look neat, but I don’t have any special order.
    Also, I have 5 plastic bins of books stored in the basement closet. I have gone through them over the past 2 years and have given away, sold quite a bit. I think I am at the end of my sorting. I really want to keep these books, for now and have been reading my older books lately.

  13. Mary Skelton says:

    “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth” – All I want for my birthday is bookshelves. My birthday is tomorrow and I asked my husband for a built-in bookshelf that will cover an entire wall. Right now, my bedroom floor is my book graveyard (although they do get resurrected all the time). I keep my pretty leather-bound books on nice shelves in the den. I have 9 stand-alone shelves in my playroom, two in my bedroom, one in my kitchen, a wall of shelves in my basement, plus my kids have shelves in their rooms and closets and I still have books lining the floor against every wall in my bedroom (not to mention the boxes of books that never got unpacked when we moved 7 years ago). The shelves in the private areas of the house are double and tripled stacked. So, when I get my shiny new shelves for my birthday, I will sort alphabetically by author. I just hope that they are big enough to get all of the books off of the floor.

  14. Lynn M says:

    I sort into fiction and non-fiction first. I pull out all of my TBR fiction, which occupies one wall of shelves. Also on this wall are my keepers. The rest of the fiction is sorted into youth/YA and adult fiction, then alphabetically by author. My non-fiction I group by topic and then sort based on height and what looks nice on the shelves.

    Three years ago we redid an upstairs loft area which we outfitted with basically wall-to-wall built in shelves. It’s absolutely lovely. I try to keep it looking nice and tidy, but after every trip to the bookstore I end up with a handful of books I need to fit in somehow. When the shelves start to look overstuffed, I know it’s time to cull out the ones I’ll never read again and make a trip to the UBS.

  15. Malin E says:

    I sort by fiction and non-fiction, and comic books. The non-fiction mostly belongs to my husband. After that, everything is alphabetized by author’s surname, and obviously in chronological order, or at least in order of series. The only exceptions are when a book in a series is too big to fit on the shelf that part of the alphabet is currently on, then it’s put on a shelf where it fits, as close to the other books it “belongs” with as possible.

  16. KTW says:

    I sort them by color. = )

    I’ve always wanted a rainbow library, but most of my non-fiction books are very plain. Romance novels have so far been the most colorful books that I own, although there seems to be a lot of pink and reds; it’s a lot of fun that way, and I don’t have to worry so much about correct alphabetization of authors and such.

  17. MELINDA says:

    PS – I LOVE AAR!

  18. Robin says:

    We just bought a house and for the FIRST TIME EVER since I was about 7 (nearly 30 years ago), I’ve got every single book out of boxes and storage bins. WHOO-HOO!

    OK, I’m still in the sorting stage so books are stacked everywhere. But I’m having a wonderful time getting reacquainted with all my old friends, some of which I haven’t seen in 20 years or so. Sadly, a few will have to be donated or gifted, but since we have a toddler in the house now, all the children’s books will be staying no matter what anyone else says.

    Pretty boring sorting system. Hardbacks separated from paperbacks. Non-fiction, fiction, and children’s. Then by subject/categories; then alphabetical by author and title. All series in chronological order.

    Every night I go through a few books at a time (much too slowly for some people). Can’t wait for chores to be done and everyone else in bed for the night. Beautiful, beautiful empty bookshelves just waiting to be filled. I’m having so much fun!!

  19. Jane O says:

    Let’s see now. English Lit, arranged by period and then alphabetically by author in the study, American and non-English lit by period and then author in the dining room, lit crit in the entrance hall, history (by area and period), philosophy (by author), and art history (by artist and period) in the living room, gardening and cookbooks in the breakfast room, romance and mysteries (by author), dictionaries, grammar and usage manuals, and currently needed reference books in my office by author, whatever we are currently reading in piles on bedside tables, and whatever doesn’t fit in boxes in the attic.

    We all find it impossible to get rid of books.

  20. Carol B says:

    I love organizing my romance books. I have under the bed storage tubs that roll. I alphabetize by author then by title with the spines facing up. One of my favorite parts of my day is picking a book out on my way to bed. As for the rest of our books (my husband’s, academic texts, etc) they are on our bookshelves according to height. Funny, I don’t get too excited to search through the bookshelves :)

  21. Jean Wan says:

    Oh man. Depends where we can put a bookshelf, really. But generally by fiction/non, then by genre/subject, then by author with some exceptions. We need a library like in Beauty and the Beast.

  22. RobinB says:

    I’m a former librarian, so one would think that my books would be extremely organized. One would be wrong, especially when it comes to my fiction TBR’s. Most of my nonfiction is in bookcases, hutches, etc. arranged by size. Every few years, I go through books I’ve read, and take a bunch of them to the local library for the used book sale, but then, I buy more books! And, of course, friends and family like to give me books for birthdays, holidays, etc.! Last year, I rented a storage unit, and that has helped with SOME of the storage problem, but like others, I wish for a library like either the one in “Beauty and the Beast” or (better yet) the one at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. If you’re a book lover, and you’ve never seen the Trinity College library, I promise that you’re in for a treat!

  23. Sandy C. says:

    Non-fiction is separate from fiction. Non-fiction is grouped by subject, and that’s where the organization ends.

    Most of my fiction is romance, so any other non-romance books are shoved in with my single title romances, by author last name. My category romances are separate from the single titles, they’re sorted by line, and then book number.

    Because books and music are my passion, I have to keep both very organized, or I can’t find anything!

    Oh, and I have separate TBR piles:
    1. Books a friend loaned me.
    2. Books from the library
    3. Books I bought six months ago and still haven’t read yet.

    Wow, this is more complicated than I thought it was! Hmm. I just moved, and when I did I got rid of LOTS of books, but I now they’re taking over my bedroom again. I think they breed when I’m not looking!

  24. mingqi says:

    I don’t own many books and borrowed most of the books I read from the library…as for the books I do own…at first glance, it looks like a bit like a mess because the sections run against each other and sometimes i have to double-stack(?), but i do have them separated.

    i have one section of paperback romance, organized by author’s last name, then title
    one section of nonfiction-i try to organize by subject but mostly i focus on size.
    one very small section of hardback romance, organized willy-nilly
    one section of general fiction, organized willy-nilly
    one section of classic/literary fiction, organized by country (Greek, Roman, chinese, american, etc.)….though I did toss The Tale of Genji into the general fiction section because of space problems.
    one section of children’s/YA lit, organized by last name.
    one section of Georgette Heyer
    one section of Harry Potter.
    one section of Jane Austen and related Jane austen fiction
    one section of graphic novel series that I am still collecting
    one section of graphic novel series that I have quit collecting
    one section of miscellaneous funny books

  25. Irene says:

    I sort by alpha by author, series and then the book titles alphabetically alpha … i have books in my bedroom (the mbr closet has three bookshelves in it – who needs clothes when you have books ;). I also have about half my collection at my mom’s house (where i haven’t lived in about 25 years …

    Oh, and I have a commerically available database that can download to my iPhone so i don’t buy duplicates (I own about 1800 books so that is key;))

  26. LinnieGayl says:

    Fiction/nonfiction. Within nonfiction, by subject (eg., history, languages, reference, etc.). Within fiction, broadly by genre (mystery, sci fi, romance), and then within genre by author. However, while that’s my intent, I sometimes get lazy and just stick a new book that I want to keep in where it’ll fit on the shelves….hence, my yearly reorganize the books project.

  27. Nikki H says:

    Reading all these comments makes me discouraged because i need to reorganize desperately. Maybe I’ll start manana. Sign me, Scarlett.

  28. Kathy R says:

    I have a large walk in closet and sort them by author in alphabetical order. I also have a bookshelf in my home office with books that I want to read first. (let’s not talk about the boxes of books in the basement and the shelves of books in my piles of books in my son’s old room) Well I started out with good intentions!!!

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