Controversy Ahead: Organizing Books


Brace yourself, we’re going to get controversial* here.

(*Delve into topics that no one is going to get too twitchy over because I am a certified conflict avoider.)

I won’t judge. Mostly because I’m about to confess to what I consider two of the most egregious offenses by a self-proclaimed reader. Confession is probably one of the best ways to keep from inappropriate judging…it’s a theory.

On to the controversy! Steel yourselves…

How do you organize your personal library? Alphabetical by author’s last name? By title? Dewey decimal your thing (and wow – that’s hard core)? By genre?

I don’t organize my library at all: no alphabets, no favorites, not even by size. Some of them I stand upright and others I stack in a tower. I started an Instagram account for my reading-related posts (@readwritenow) and noticed some other users assembling books by color. I’m not so artistically inclined, but I did pause to look at my shelves and organize a few by color in my head. Entertaining, but not enough to get me off my rump to try to sort the shelves accordingly.

Some of you are palpitating at the thought of a bookshelf so helter-skelter mix-and-matched that you’re thinking of giving me a piece of your mind which I’d be very glad to have except don’t expect that to be organized either. Some of you are laughing hysterically at the thought of even putting books away in any conventional format. You prefer the grab-and-toss philosophy.

The advent of the new year has put a notion in my head to consider shuffling a few books by genres- fiction, non-fiction, Bible study, etc. Right now that’s just a good intention….and we all know where those lead so I probably won’t be changing anything.

But I am curious, for those who do recognize some method for book-care and collection, about the reasoning behind your choice. How did you decide which method? Was it just the way someone you knew always did? Are you a librarian by heart (or choice)? Space constraints?

Did you make it through that turbulent and chaotic controversy?

Deep breath: here’s one more to wake you up this Tuesday morning. You’re welcome.

Do you keep every book that you purchase and read?

Even books you despise or didn’t finish?

I don’t. Sometimes this makes me sad. It significantly hinders my daydream of having a huge library with a rolling ladder, warm fire, and an oversized chair. Other times, and most recently when we moved, I’m okay with a small set of keepers. I keep the ones I really like. I keep the books I am most likely to return to for a second or third read…one of these years… Plus, I get really excited to have store credit at a used book store. Some books I donate to our library, some books I consign, some books I throw in the trash. Not many get the latter treatment, but it has happened once or twice.

Do you keep all books? Or do you, yes you who call yourself a “reader,” get rid of books (gasp)?

That’s about all the pot-stirring this conflict-avoider can do for one week. Whew. Time to go read a book….at least if I do that I can maintain the aura of a reader even if my decisions vis-a-vis the actual books may prompt some of you to question the accuracy of the title.

11 Responses to “Controversy Ahead: Organizing Books”

  1. Carrie Rubin

    The only organization my books have is my to-be-read shelves and my already-read shelves. But after that, all is fair, including mismatched heights, colors, and even some books laid flat on top of others. Horrible, I know.

    As for keeping them, I keep all my books until I run out of shelf space. Then I box up the ones I didn’t care for as much or that I know I’ll never look at again, and either give them away or take them to the used bookstore.

    • RebeccaV

      Oh yes, I forgot to mention the “TBR” shelf! I guess that does count as one small step of organizing them. Works for me!

  2. noextrawords

    I am a librarian by heart, by choice, and also by training, although not currently by profession. And I just organized my books finally in November after living in this house almost 2 years. By organized, I mean a very loose system: children’s books in the nursery, fiction and YA in the bedroom, nonfiction and collectible (because they are pretty) in the living room. They are very very loosely sorted and nonfiction has a few categories: baseball, Girl Scouts, travel. Also 3 boxes of books went to the used bookstore because, nope, if we kept everything we had somehow acquired we’d have drowned by now. I was going to try to count the books when we moved but I got depressed doing it…I’m guesstimating us at around 2500 books right now. A serious organization to a home library always feels like overkill to me, and gets in the way of new acquisitions. So cut yourself a break 🙂

    • RebeccaV

      Haha – it does seem like overkill and I have nowhere near 2500 books! So if a librarian through-and-through says not to stress it, I’m going to let it go! I think I am most drawn to the sort-by-category method if I were ever to attempt any such thing though. Thanks for soothing my anxiety! 🙂

    • RebeccaV

      Hi! I always enjoy meeting someone with similar interests! Thanks for stopping by! I’m heading over to check out your blog 🙂

  3. rslavoie

    Oh man. We desperately need to purge our books. I’ve always kept all of my books but it seems so silly especially if I don’t plant on re-reading them. There are a few that will be with us forever (Harry Potter, for example 😉 ) but now that we are adding books for Samuel it’s getting a bit ridiculous. I haven’t even considered organizing our books! Now I feel like I should just so I can properly purge them. 🙂

    • RebeccaV

      The hardest part for me was purging the girls’ library, but they had so many books they could never see what was there and so had no interest. Now we have room to shuffle books, pull them out, stack them and see them! We sent the others to a good home and made some librarians day with one collection. So all in all I think it worked out well.

      Plus, I mean, you guys don’t want to be moving all those books 😉

      • rslavoie

        hahha so true! I feel like Samuel’s Library is growing so fast which is AWESOME but I gotta keep an eye on his favorites as he grows up and just send others to places where they’ll actually be read ya know? 😉

  4. Book Club Mom

    I did just alphabetize my books, but I’m proud to say I didn’t separate fiction from non-fiction! My family thinks I have a problem with books, but I think it’s under control. I only keep the ones I really love!

    • RebeccaV

      Haha – seems like all the really good readers have family who think they are nuts. It seems completely reasonable to me to say “it’s under control” when you only keep the ones you love. That has become my standard as well…and my rationale.


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