Welcome to my third Bookending Spring 2020 post! I’m not following any of the given prompts today because I thought I’d share with you how I organise my bookshelves! I thought this was a really interesting conversation to start, because people have so many different methods of organising, and I’m a sucker for organisation. I’m going to talk about two different bookshelves here, my physical bookshelf, and my virtual bookshelf (my kindle!).
We’ll start with my physical bookshelf, as that’s where I have the most books. Now, a quick side note, I have more than one bookshelf, but I have one particular one that has my favourite books on that I keep the most organised. The other shelves I have are simply organised by how much I like/think I will like a book, going from top to bottom, with some shuffles to cater for longer series. My main bookshelf, however, is more complex than that! It has three shelves, and I also use the top as an extra shelf, and I have some climbing up the side (oops).
So there it is, I hope nobody is too horrified, it is a little messy! We’ll start on the top row of books, the ones perched on top of the bookcase, and work our way down.
On the left of this row of books, I have a few special editions. Some pretty clothbound classics, an old edition of Ulysses, and a first edition of 10:04 by Ben Lerner. After this, we get to my favourite books. If I enjoy a book, it gets the prestige of going on this top row. Once I run out of space going along, they’ll be at risk of being replaced by a new favourite. I’ve organised them by publication year, which I find helpful because it keeps my hardbacks towards the far end and means the middle of the shelf is quite level. It’s only in the last couple of years I’ve started to buy hardbacks, so most of my hardbacks are from 2018 onwards, and I tend to buy the hardbacks that I really want to read, and I actually don’t seem to have that many paperbacks that were recently published. I’ve been on a bit of a binge of buying older books, and then buying new ones when they come out, which means I often get hardcover. The one exception is The End of the Ocean, which I have in hardback because it was published in English in 2019, but it had been out in Norweigan for a while before that, and I go with the original publication date. Maybe I’ll make an exception and catalogue it as its release date in English, 2019, to keep the shelf less up-and-down. I do wish all books were one standard height!
The shelf below, the top shelf of the actual bookshelf, is all unread books. It’s two rows deep, and again, it’s organised by publication, so you can only see the newest books at the front. Behind are a few classics, and books up until about 1980.
The middle shelf is other books I’ve read. My favourites shelf at the top I’m trying to limit to post-1900 books, so here we have old epic poetry, Renaissance drama, and 18th and 19th Century novels. There’s also a few 20th/21st century books that I didn’t like enough to grant them a place on the top shelf. These are mostly books I’ve read for my university degree, to be honest. A few haven’t been read front to back (like the Bible and Paradise Lost), but I think they’re all really important texts, so I decided to keep them all.
The bottom shelf on the left is a small pile of short story collections (and one essay collection — Mystery and Manners), which I’ve not put away yet because they’re the texts for my current uni module, and I might still need to dig them out (though as I’ve written my assignment, I probably could put away the ones I’ve not cited). The other books on this shelf are a bit of a variety of read and unread, but this is my shelf for forms other than the novel. I did cheat a little, and kept my epic poetry, and early modern poetry/drama with novels, but I felt I’d rather keep all my really old literature together than separate it by form. So here we have really anything post-1900. It starts off with poetry, and again, it’s roughly categorised by publication, but I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate. Anthologies are a bit difficult to categorise, because it may be that a lot of the poems were published a long time before the anthology was published, but I think I tried to stick to when the anthology itself was published, which left the poetry itself a little out of order.
Then we move on to my autobiography section, which is organised by the last name of the author (I put Greta Thunberg’s book into this section, but I’m not entirely sure it fits. I don’t really have a better place for it though!). I have a tiny section for YouTuber books, which I have just put into height order. Finally, a couple of play scripts at the end.
There’s also the stack at the side, which is the overflow. These are my short story collections, starting with collections by a single writer at the bottom, and then progressing to anthologies. Then I have my individual short stories — my collection of Faber 90s, and The Lady in the Van, and then I have a few tiny nonfiction books. I really wish I had another spare shelf so my short stories and essays could have their own space, but sadly at the moment that can’t really happen. It’s also annoying that there’s not enough spare room on the shelf to eventually get rid of the double row on the top shelf — a few can go elsewhere, but there won’t be enough room to move all of them to the middle shelf or the top of the shelf. A new bookshelf would be very exciting, but I really can’t justify it. What I really need to do is go through all my other books and try to get rid of some to make more space on my other cases, but then I wouldn’t have those books in my room, which feels like downgrading them and I don’t want to do that.
My Kindle organisation is a lot simpler, partly because I don’t often read eBooks. On my Kindle, I simply create collections of folders, and put books into as many as is appropriate. I’ve titled my collections so they’re all at the start, and in the order I want them in. My collection names all begin with |>, which overrules any books with numerical titles which might otherwise try to creep in at the front. I then have numbers — 100 for fiction, 200 for non-fiction, 300 for poetry and 400 for eARCs, and then 110, 120 etc are genres. I’ll pop a photo of my kindle collections in below so you can see what I mean. My eARC collection is the only one that got pushed to the next page.
That took more explanation than I thought! I think I put too much thought into organising my books and it ends up being a bit of a home library, with it being separated by form and all. I do generally find this a pretty handy system — I know where my stack on unread novels is, and I can find books quite easily because I have a rough idea of when everything was published. Sorting by colour would completely confuse me, and I’m not a fan of sorting by authors names, because I always feel like books closer to the top indicates a higher level of importance. Eventually, I’m planning to shift my oldest read books to the top shelf, and then have two shelves of chronologically organised read books, with my favourites shelf remaining on the top. I have yet to decide what to do with the overflow. Beg for some floating wall shelves to stack along?
How do you organise your books? Let me know!