Aug 31, 2016

Bookshelf Nerdery, or: in which I put far too much thought into shelf arrangement

White bookcase with Supergirl Pop figurine on top
Friends! I have a new bookshef, and I’m disproportionally excited about it. The last time I had new shelves to fill was when I moved into my current house, nearly four years ago. Part of the appeal of this flat was the fact that it had embedded wall shelves in the living room, which promised to give me all the space I’d need for a long time to come. I’m sure it won’t come as a shock if I tell you that it took me far less time than expected to fill them up, though.

Since then I’ve been trying to see the fact that I’d nearly run out of shelf space as a positive, since it really makes me think twice before I bring more books into the house. What eventually began to really bother me, though, were not the piles of books that started gathering on the floor — it was the fact that no shelf space meant that there was no rhyme or reason to how I was arranging my books. The piles were mostly made out of books I got at around the same time, and any attempts at thematic arrangement I had going went down the drain.

The most exciting thing about this new bookshelf, then, is that it gave me an excuse to start over. I knew it was going in the living room, where I spend most of my time when I’m at home; the vast majority of my books are in the spare room, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to move books that make me happy to where I can see them all the time. So I moved all my signed books and/or nice editions by favourite authors to the top shelf:

Top shelve up close: signed books by Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, Margo Lanagan, Kate DeGoldi, Patrick Ness, John Green, Jeffrey Eugenides, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, Frances Hardinge and Holly Black
(Kara is looking a little lonely. I might have to get her a friend before too long.)

The middle shelf has non-fiction that’s really important to me, plus a few books I haven’t read yet but think I’ll love when I get to them (this includes recent acquisitions by Maggie Nelson, Adrienne Rich, Rebecca Solnit and Eula Biss). Lastly, the bottom shelf is for the most part a TBR shelf — these are mostly books I’d like to get to in the near future, and I thought that perhaps keeping them in sight would make this more likely.

Middle shelf: Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Angela Davis, Maggie Nelson, Rebecca Solnit, Eula Biss, Adrienne Rich, Leslie Jamison, Cheryl Strayed, Tillie Olsen, Cordelia Fine, Hanne Blank, Laurie Penny, Howard Zinn, Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Sayers
Finally, all the space I freed up elsewhere allowed me to rearrange those embedded wall shelves. I can’t really do an Ideal Bookshelf for fiction in the same way I did for non-fiction because so many of my copies of life-defining books are still stored at my parents’ (this is the problem with the international moves, and also with an economy that makes it impossible to know whether you’ll stay somewhere long-term). Still, I wanted to see books that make me happy and that matter to me when I look up from my computer, so this is what I ended up with:

Shelf with books by Diana Wynne Jones, Frances Hardinge, Franny Billingsley, Margo Lanagan, Shannon Hale, Maggie Stiefvater, Rainbow Rowell

Continuation: Terry Pratchett, Patrick Ness, Erin Bow, Rebecca Stead, Emily St John Mandel, Kate Scelsa, Rita Williams-Garcia, E. Lockhart, Sarah McCarry
This exercise also made me think that I really need to get around to investing in copies of favourite books I don’t own. Can you believe there’s not a single Kristin Cashore in my house?

How do you arrange your home library? Do you shelve by theme, author, size, colour, or none of the above?

27 comments:

  1. Your comment about "investing in copies of favourite books I don't own" made me smile, as that's exactly what I was thinking when I saw Station Eleven on your shelf.

    Mine are arranged roughly by genre, so history (especially war and London), theology and poetry are out in the hallway; travel and classic fiction in the lounge, and crime, childrens and miscellaneous in the bedroom. I also have my TBR pile in there staring accusingly at me when I'm reading in bed :-). Enjoy your new shelves!

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    1. Thank you! And that sounds very organised! I wish I could do something more sensible with the rest of my non-fiction, but that would require more space than I currently have.

      Speaking of investing in favourite books, I went to a bookshop the other day and saw all these gorgeous new editions of Dorothy Sayers' mysteries and now I'm fighting temptation every waking minute :P

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  2. I'm a big fan of moving the books so that they make me most happiest/most bookish. It might not be everyone else's decorating-style (e.g. not only those who view books as clutter but those readers who do not but still bow to the pressure to shelve the 'important' books in more visible rooms) but life is short. Enjoy your new placements and all the happy/bookish feelings it brings!

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    1. Exactly - life is short, and maximising joy seems as good a shelving strategy as any :D

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  3. Bookshelves are always awesome no matter how they are arranged. I admit, mine are a bit messy at the moment and probably need some TLC.

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    1. You wouldn't want them to be TOO tidy, though, right? Messy bookshelves feel more real and loved :D

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  4. New bookshelves are heaven! I do mine fairly reliably by genre and then author name, but I have that luxury because I have massive quantities of massive bookshelves. I can never move again. I've expanded my bookish lifestyle to make it impossible that I could ever move.

    Your shelves look fab! And they are reminding me that I still have yet to read the new Binny book. When WILL it come out in the US?

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    1. Aww, I hope it does soon! It's so full of kindness and joy. And I'm envious of your massive bookshelves!

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  5. New bookshelves are always exciting! I don't really organize my bookshelves at all, which is kind of strange since I'm very OCD about organizing things like CDs (alphabetically) and clothing (by color). But I know where every one of my books are, so it doesn't seem necessary.

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    1. One of the things that had started to bother me before I got this new shelf is that I'd started to lose track of where everything was! I have a better idea now, but part of me still thinks I need a better system.

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  6. I organize like you do, mostly by genre or amount of happiness I get from books. I want to be able to see my favorites at eye level! I am also out of space though and have books in stacks that I want to be able to look at. It's time for a new shelf.

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    1. Yes, it is! It'll make you happy, you'll see :D

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  7. We also arrange by genre and then by author. I got a really big new bookshelf from my mother's house last spring, and filled it immediately with formerly double-stacked books. But, you know, we have most of the books we've ever purchased--we haven't moved for 25 years.

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    1. I often think about the day when I get to reunited my split book collection, which is currently in two countries. So much in my life needs to change before that can happen.

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  8. When I was reading this, I thought, "OMG--this is brilliant! Why did I never think of organizing my books this way?!!" But then it occurred to me that I "sort of" do. Most of the books in my shelves are books I haven't read yet. I've gotten really, really good (sometimes I think almost too good) at giving away books after I've read them unless they're ones I love immensely. And those books, the books that make me happy, are all grouped together. Their section is just so small compared to the overwhelming amount of books I haven't read (which are alphabetized by author). That's for fiction. Non-fiction are categorized by topic, with read and unread all mixed together. Anyway, HOORAY for new bookshelves! And HOORAY for having fun playing with all those beauties! 😊

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    1. Yes, you do! I love the way you organise your shelves. I thought the theme arrangement for the non-fiction was brilliant.

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  9. I was just thinking the other day that I am not quite like the people I associate with in life (except for my IRL reading groups, my blogging friends, and Goodreads.) Your post makes me happy that this is true! Book shelf nerds unite! I have several systems, though they are all alphabetically, chronologically, or subject matter based. If you look closely at my Google profile pic, you can see my main bookshelves behind me.

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    1. Book shelf nerds should definitely unite :D Also, I love what I can see on your profile picture. I never really had white shelves until I moved into this house, where the embedded ones were white. I picked white too for the new one so they'd match, and I love how the books stand out more.

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  10. I arrange my books by who will see them, since we have one shelf in each of several rooms. The living room shelves get the ones that I want people who come into my living room to see--the ones that I think define me as a reader, or that will start conversations or (I'll admit it) impress them. Watership Down lives here, my Miss Manners books, my collections of books about nuns and books by my late grandmother's favorite author, which I still collect. It's also where borrowed books live.

    Upstairs hallway gets the next tier; you see those when you come out of the bathroom, if you take a few steps to investigate. For someone who wants to look that far, you see groups by topic or author or whatever cluster they get (a shelf about mental illness; a shelf of books by Neil Gaiman; a shelf of favorite middle grade books), and favorites that I don't need to show off but that are close to my heart.

    Hidden away in the guest room are the weird, oddball books, ratty old paperbacks, books I used to love and am now somewhat embarrassed by (I still have all my Mercedes Lackey and my favorite romances from high school). These are on a bookshelf my father made for me out of scrap wood from the bed he built for me when I was 8 and the kitchen his grandfather built almost a hundred years ago that was torn out in a remodel when I was in college.

    I suppose it's kind of a snobby system, but really it's based on the books I'm likely to want to talk about. (There is also an element of size; the shelves are all different sizes and shapes, and there are a ton of graphic novels mixed in, so which trim sizes fit where is a not insignificant consideration.) I peruse people's bookshelves intently when I'm in their homes, and I have no problem with them doing so with mine!

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    1. I don't think it's snobby - one of the pleasures of going to, say, a new friend's house for the first time is getting to learn little things about them that haven't come up in conversation up until then. It's only fair to want to be in control of what you reveal to people in that way, just like you decide what to say and when in a conversation!

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  11. No Kristin Cashore! The horror! lol I really wish she would write something new... Or, maybe she has and I missed it because that does happen!

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    1. I knooooow! To make matters worse, I really don't like the UK covers of those books, so when I do get them I want it to be the US editions. I should have thought of that when I was in the US in July :P

      Also, I feel pretty confident that the Internet would have told me by now if she had a new book :P

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  12. Yay new shelves, that's alway such a good feeling! Love the way you sorted your books that are important to you and placed them where you look at them often! :)
    I don't have enough space and still need to double stack sadly, but I'm currently working on decolonizing my shelves so quite a few I've given away and I'm very excited about the new ones getting in.

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    1. yay! I can't wait to hear more about what you get!

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  13. Is there such a thing as being disproportionately excited about a new bookcase?? :-)

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  14. I've been paring down my home library something awful as of late; living in a tiny apartment will do that to you! I have about nine books, haha, not counting the library books. But they're still shelved alpha by author for fiction and alpha by title for nonfiction.

    Buuut I still sometimes go to IKEA and sigh over their fancier bookcases and display cases.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.