How to Organize Books: 12 Clever (and Very Chic) Ideas

If you’re anything like us, you’ve really ramped up your reading during the pandemic. However, picking a book these days isn't always easy, thanks to your Amazon/Bookshop addiction (cue the major clutter bomb situation threatening to take over your entire living room). That all ends now because we’ve put together some small tricks to catalog your literature—no knowledge of the Dewey Decimal System required. Here are 12 great ideas for how to organize books.

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1. Arrange Your Books Alphabetically

For all the practical organizers out there, grouping your books in alphabetical order is probably your go-to. Whether you choose to go alphabetically by author or book titles, both the organizing and search process become less tedious when they’re as easy as ABC.

2. Organize Your Books By Color

When in doubt, turn to color. Maybe you don’t have the time to sift through and determine whether a book should go under fiction or fantasy, but you want to revamp your space quickly. Here’s an idea: just grab similar colors and put them together. Grouping by hue doesn’t necessarily mean you go monochromatic, however (as pictured here). You can mix and match colors to create an aesthetically-pleasing, ultra-Instagrammable shelf.

3. Sort Your Books By Collection

This one’s a particularly great option for fantasy readers since this genre of books often comes in batches. In other words, save yourself the trouble of finding seven different spots for all seven books from the Harry Potter series and just give them their own section. That way, if you ever feel like reading a specific edition, you can just pick it out knowing the rest of the collection is safe and sound.

4. Create A Section For Each Writer

Maybe your favorite author never wrote a series, but their books spanned different genres. Instead of splitting their life’s work into different sections, just keep them all together by grouping the books by the author. (That way, The Color Purple doesn’t randomly end up next to Macbeth.)

5. Classify By Genre

Your reading tastes span various genres. So why not keep all your romance novels in one section and your mysteries in another? Not only does arranging books by genre showcase just how well-read you are (bring on #ShelfieSunday), but it’s also highly helpful for when you’re chasing a particular feeling.

how to organize books
Yoshihisa Egami/Eye Em

6. Designate Areas For Each Reader In The Home

The problem: Your kid picked up your copy of 50 Shades of Grey thinking that it was a book about colors, and you had to have a very awkward conversation about boundaries (of all kinds). The solution? Arrange your books by reader to mitigate all confusion...and keep mom’s novels at the top. But this approach isn’t limited to those with children. For those with spouses or roommates, having designated shelf space also reduces opportunities for arguments.

7. Separate Your Hardcovers And Paperbacks

Hardcovers generally take up more room than paperbacks so separating the two makes it easier to create space. Hardcovers also tend to be a bit more durable than paperbacks, so you may want to consider placing paperbacks on the upper levels of your bookshelf where curious fingers (or paws) can’t do too much damage.

8. Create A Section For Books You Haven’t Touched

That pile of impulse purchases is yet to have its pages turned so how about keeping all your pending reads in one section of the bookshelf so that you can easily grab a copy whenever (if ever) you get the urge to dive in? Bonus: Having that stack looking at you daily may also motivate you to get a move on it.

9. Play Around With Book Size

Arranging your books in size order is quick, foolproof and highly satisfying. You could place all your heaviest copies together and then your lightest, but if you’re afraid that one side of the shelf might buckle or you just want to create a more dynamic-looking shelf, play around with the sizing. Mix the bigger/heavier copies with the smaller/lighter ones and see how it turns out.

10. Show Your Faves Some Special Treatment

Books tend to have a lot of emotional pull so it’s only right to put your all-time faves in a separate space than the rest (please step forward, The Center of Everything). Also, if you’re an avid collector and would like to get rid of some of the copies you’ve hoarded but aren’t attached to, it’s helpful to create a section where your friends and family can pull from without reservations.

11. Don’t Be Afraid To Display The Cover

The only time we condone judging a book by its cover is when you’re trying to separate the eye-catching from the dull. Some covers tend to be more illustrious than others, so grouping them together ensures that you get that little jolt of excitement every time pull one out.

12. Separate Books By Country Of Origin

If you’re a bibliophile, odds are your tastes not only span different genres, but they also feature works by authors from around the globe. Showcase your worldliness by separating your books based on the country in which they’re set, such as keeping your American literature in one space and English in another. Or perhaps you have some novels by Nigerian authors in your arsenal or some fancy French translations? Assign a space for each category and enjoy the process of looking at your collection in an entirely new light.

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Stephanie Sengwe

Resident Hufflepuff, Beyonce historian, self-proclaimed tea sommelier

Steph is a native of Zimbabwe who is both enamored and genuinely baffled by the concept of silent letters. From 2020 to 2022, she served as Associate Editor at PureWow covering...
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