Organizing Your Library: Make Your Books Love You Back

Readers will understand two things: you commonly form emotional attachments to the books you have read, and you may believe that to own a book, even one whose spine you’ve never cracked, means to somehow possess the knowledge contained within. Your voracious appetite for books bodes well with your brain; there’s infinite storage space up there. Your home? Not so much. Here’s how to please the literati and me when it comes to organizing a library:

Even though your titles may feel more like trophies, like babies, and the thought of parting with even one of them leaves you panic-stricken, part you must. Or probably must.  With a few.

The best way to manage your many bound pages is to create a set boundary for your books. Choose an area of space in which to contain your collection that is appropriately proportional to your home. If you live in a yurt, you’ll probably max out at around two titles. If the Royal Palace is where you call home, you can probably devote whole rooms to housing your published matter.

Whatever your dwelling, define the limits of your library. Fill those shelves to your heart’s content, but do not exceed that space. Out of room? Time to weed!

Options for handing the titles you’re ready to remove:

– Donate the books to a friend or a charitable organization.

– Try giving yourself financial incentive to shed those extra pounds of pages. There are many sites that allow you to sell your books online. One of my favorites is the Amazon Trade-In Store, because their process is so incredibly easy. You simply type in the title, identify that it’s the correct version, and Amazon provides you with a pre-paid shipping label. Send in the book, and Amazon will (usually) promptly process the transaction, and credit your Amazon account with the corresponding amount.

Being that you can buy most anything on Amazon, I’d say it’s a pretty fair deal, all in all. Of course, textbooks and coffee table books will generally fetch more than your average paperback, but if it’s something that you’re ready to get rid of, then any amount of money is worth more than a meaningless item taking up space on your shelf.

Okay, now that we’ve handled the hard part, it’s time to talk organizing your books.

Here are a few suggestions for ways to arrange:

– By subject. Optimal for ordering books you reference for work or hobbies. For example, “crafting,” “travel,” “religion.”

– By genre. Examples include, “fiction,” “non-fiction,” “essays,” “photography.”

– By color. The most visually appealing method, if not entirely an efficient system to enable finding books.

– By height. Books always appear neater when organized by height, as this maintains the visual line. Organizing by size can serve multiple purposes, as similar types of books are often equally sized. For example, photography books are usually large and tall with a hard cover.

The method which allows you to easily locate the title you’re looking for is the right one. I personally prefer form over function when it comes to bookshelves, and so I arrange all my books by color.

Finally, a few notes on display:

– Make sure all the spines are pulled forward so that they lie on a straight line.

– Keep the largest and heaviest books on the lowest shelves. These shelves are the least likely to sag under additional weight, and heavy books will hurt your toes far less if they fall from the lowest shelf than the highest.

– Try to strike the right balance between filling and over-filling your bookshelves. Packed in too tightly, and you won’t be able to pull out a single book, too loose, and they will lean.

– Similarly, strike a balance between styling and cluttering your shelves. Adding a few decorative touches will enhance the overall effect. Overloading your shelves with tons of tchotchkes will just make everything look a mess.

– You can also try alternating between vertical and horizontal stacks, which gives the shelves a very dynamic effect.

Alright my little readers, now it’s your turn. Go make magic on those shelves of yours, and do report back!

Image credits: Domino x2, Matchbook Mag, Design Sponge, Windsor Smith, Elle Decor, unknown, Elle DecorM Design, unknown, The Coveteur, Vogue/Minnie Mortimer



  1. I’ve had to do a massive cull of my books recently for space reasons + only ended up keeping books I *really* wanted (its crazy how much they accumulate over the years!). I like the idea of organising books by colour for a lovely visual effect and in neatly stacked piles – love all of your tips! xx

  2. livesimplybyannie says:

    They really do add up, fantastic that you streamlined your collection. I love organizing by color as well!

  3. Thanks for this post! I love books :)

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