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Inside the Blogosphere: How Do You Organize Your Library?

In this latest edition of Inside the Blogosphere, the irregular column in which I ask bloggers from across the internetz to respond to a personal question, I delved into book organizing styles:

As an avid reader, you probably have scads and scads of books. How do you like to organize them? Category, title, author, ebooks only, or some mix thereof? Explain your organizational system for books, (or lack of it) and why it works for you.

And the responses – some of which include picture proof – run the gamut of ideas:


John DeNardo @ SF Signal: In an ideal world, all of my books would be kept together in one huge library that had a perfect reading chair that was perfectly lit. It would be featured in Better Homes and Libraries because it would rock that much. Every book would be able to be easily retrieved from a shelf. The large majority of the books would be organized by author, with books comprising a series ordered accordingly. I would have special sections for favorite publication collections (like the SF Masterworks series) and another section for SF/F reference books (like The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction). And there would be much rejoicing.

But this is not an ideal world. Instead, I have way more books than shelf space so most of my books live in boxes. The majority of those that aren’t in boxes are the ones I want to get to soon – a roster that changes every time new books come in. The picture you see here is but one to-be-read-soon stack. I still reserve shelf space for certain collections (like the SF Masterworks and SFBC omnibuses) and for some books I’ve read, but only because my OCD prevents me from doing otherwise.


Elizabeth Barette @ Hypatia’s Hoard of Reviews:Our household library exceeds the contents of some school and small-town libraries I have visited. At last estimation, we figured about 10,000 volumes and that was a number of years ago, so it’s considerably more now. We use layered organization…

By room, books are sorted into broad categories.

  • Back bedroom: 3 cases covering stage magic, erotica, magazines, and graphic novels.
  • Library/music room: 15 cases covering fantasy and science fiction, poetry, anthologies, men’s adventure, mystery, horror, and some unsorted books.
  • Kitchen: 8 shelves, all cookbooks and food-related stuff.
  • Public bathroom: 2 shelves covering the coven library of Pagan books and some unsorted books.
  • Dining room: about a cubic yard of unsorted books.
  • Living room: 3 shelves of books on entertainment. Most of the many shelves in this area are full of DVDs, videos, and other media materials.
  • My office: 7 cases covering linguistics, gender studies, Paganism, mythology, plants & animals, science, writing, reference, gaming, history, and miscellaneous nonfiction.
  • Upstairs: 2 rooms lined floor-to-ceiling with built-in bookshelves containing a portion of my parents’ library, plus some stacks of unsorted Pagan and miscellaneous nonfiction books.

Those are the rooms with significant bookmass. There is probably at least one book in every subcompartment of this house.

Sectors managed by my partner Doug are more methodically organized than those I arrange myself. He organizes about half the back bedroom, the library room, kitchen, and living room; I do the rest. Fiction is usually sorted by genre, then alphabetized by author’s last name. Within authors, it may be chronological where feasible, or something else. Series are usually organized by copyright date and/or story chronology. Nonfiction is sorted by genre, then subtopic. Within subtopic, I think books are often alphabetized by title. In my sections, sometimes I clump nonfiction books by the same author. Some sectors, like cookbooks, are broken down into specialized subtopics — we have subcategories like “cooking reference,” “general-purpose cookbooks,” “specialty cookbooks,” “by food type,” “by ingredient,” “by ethnicity,” etc. Basically we try to keep together the books that we will often search for as a batch. Some books, such as the cookbooks and all the nonfiction in my office, are located where they are most often used. Others are just stored en masse where there is room.

Doug tends to search very logically. I start with a logical organization and then imprint a mental image of it, so my search is more visual and intuitional once the books are on the shelf. There are a lot of unsorted books in the house because I’m a reviewer, and stuff adds up.

What I would LIKE to do is get a lot of clip-on plastic shelf labels like libraries use for their solid shelves, which can be moved or relabeled at need, and use those to mark all the subcategories. That would make it a lot easier to find things. Generally, though, I like lining a house with books and being surrounded by them most of the time.

The attached photo is of myself (Elizabeth Barrette) taken by my partner (Doug Edwards) and shows one corner of the library/music room. Those are salvaged video shelves from a media store that went out of business, and they house the first two alphabetical sections of our science fiction/fantasy collection. They’re angled oddly because one of them is too wide to fit into the available wall space.

(c) Doug Edwards

(c) Doug Edwards


Ken @ Nethspace: Ahhh….book shelving and how to organize them. It’s both a constant struggle and a love of mine. With well over 1000 books (probably close to 3000) and somewhere around 12 book shelves in the house it can be a complicated struggle. I suppose that there are a few divisions that occur first, and they naturally have fluid boundaries. Are the books non-fiction, reference (such as Woodworking for the Garden), child rearing/pregnancy, academic (we are both scientists), religious, cooking, or kid’s books? Cookbooks (and we have lots) go in a shelf in the kitchen, and most of those others on shelves upstairs, kids books are in my son’s room, and I have a shelf with journals and other similar sorts of things in my office. Fiction books that are generally considered my wife’s or that I’ve passed off to her so she can read or are spy-thriller-horror types are shelved upstairs and in the bedroom. And we have a shelf in the guest room with books that we don’t care if guests leave with. But I don’t think you are really asking after those books – you want to know about my books, which are predominately SFF genre books.

Last year I got a bunch of Ikea shelves and took over one wall in the office. Of course it’s not enough (for example all Star Wars books are collecting dust in the top corner of a couple of shelves upstairs), books are often shelved 2-deep and I need more space, but I no longer have books in boxes (other than those waiting to go to the local used bookstore – currently only 1 box). And I have my own convoluted shelving system – it consists of six separate categories, each ordered alphabetically by author. And this doesn’t count random stacks on the shelf that usually consist of books I hope to read soon. The six categories are 1) hard back and trade paperback books that I have read, 2) hardback and trade paperback books that I haven’t read and were purchased by me or given to me (not for review purposes), 3) hardback and trade paperback books that were sent to me by publishers, authors, publicists, or other for the purpose of review, 4) mass market paperback books that I’ve read, 5) mass market paperback that I haven’t read and were purchased by me or given to me (not for review purposes), and 6) mass market paperback books that were sent to me by publishers, authors, publicists, or other for the purpose of review. I also have a few audio books around and some other large-format books and manuscripts that simply don’t fit well anywhere. This accounts for a massive number of books (probably near 1000) and it is growing (I typically receive between 3 and 8 books a week). I dream often of dedicated library – but I’ll have to win the lottery to accomplish that dream.

The photo shows my precious – now I just need to take over another office wall with shelves.

(c) Ken Neth

(c) Ken Neth


Angela Wilson @ Popsyndicate:How I organize: By genre. I also have shelves specifically devoted to books on writing and those I use for research while writing fiction. It helps a TON to be able to go right to the shelves to what I need. I don’t usually alphabetize them, because if I do, then I will go to the tome I want and “forget” the others on the shelves. Keeping them out of order forces me to look at titles. I always end up rediscovering books I’ve had for ages, but haven’t looked at in a while.


Greg Tidwell @ Omphalos Book Review: Because I live in a very small house with three other people, I switch this all the time. My main book cases are in my room. I have some of those really tall, wide Ikea cases, with the additional caps on top for more storage. In the top three shelves I have my non-fiction books where I store things like Clute, Suvin, Advent books and the like. Below that I have all of my Easton Press books. Below that are paperbacks and anthologies. Over on the next case are hardback and trade paperback SF and F. All of those are arranged alphabetically by author.

Ive been wanting to get doors for the cases, but just have not gotten around to it yet. In the garage are all my old mags and a few boxes of overflow. Because of space limitation I trade books at local used book stores pretty frequently.


Steve Davidson @ The Crotchety Old Fan: Book organization.

At the current time I have approximately 3,500 books. With one or two exceptions, this literally includes every single book I have ever purchased with my own dollars and every single book I’ve ever received as a gift.

My method of organization has changed over the years, influenced by volume, interest, financial circumstance and living conditions.

I have, over the past half century, managed to get them organized in precisely the manner I desired only twice; once while still living in my parent’s home when my father built me seven 10 foot shelves. At first the books were placed vertically and organized alphabetically by subject, then alphabetically by author and then alphabetically by title.

Since acquisition did not half at that point, this quickly devolved into an attempt to stack them horizontally (according to the same subject/author/title scheme), followed by certain subjects relegated to boxes in the closet, followed by a tremendous cracking noise one night as the top shelf gave way in the middle and took all of the other shelves with it.

I then acquired a number of small wooden book shelves and made do. This haphazard scheme prevailed (punctuated by periods of storage in boxes, storage in garages, etc.

I eventually moved into a shore house in Florida and had one bedroom too many, so I quickly turned it into a library. I purchased a large number of sheet metal storage racks and arranged them like stacks in a library so that both sides of the shelving could be used (a total of 9 shelving units, each with five shelves, double-sided and each 48 inches long, giving me 360 linear feet of shelving.

With an abundance of space available, I was really able to get down to business; first, science fiction and fantasy, alphabetically by author and title (series were placed according to the alphabetic order of the name of the series); ‘special collections’ for A. Bertram Chandler, Robert A. Heinlein, Eric Frank Russell and a few others came first. These special collections include specialty publications (for example, fanzines with letters or contributed articles), special issue publications, magazines with stories, autographed works, etc.

Following the general SF&F stacks there were the pulp magazine stacks; these were followed by the reference section (texts on just about every science, heavy in astronomy, physics), followed by the military history section (official biographies, official histories, theory, training manuals, etc) and finally rounded out with the general fiction section, including everything from classics like Bronte and Dickens to modern spy thrillers from Clancy, Fossett, etc.

That had to be dismantled when the wife and I moved into our house in Florida and, while I had good plans for replicating it in a large walk-in closet, we ended up selling the house and moving. Just a few months ago (following a good 8+ years of living with books in boxes) I managed to get some shelving up – but really only sufficient to hold the SF and military texts, and at that in an entirelt unsatisfactory, double-stacked manner.

The next house will have built in bookcases.

I should also note that all of the books are placed in acid-free book bags and that I’m currently entering all of the titles, publication dates, cover artists & etc., into a database.

When stored in boxes, I was pretty heavy-handed with the mothballs – but Florida is not an environment that is safe for books – too many paper eating insects and molds and far too damp most of the time. Better to freeze them a bit than let them get eaten by tropical monsters.


Lise Andreasen @ ommadawn.dk:

(c) Lise Andreasen

(c) Lise Andreasen

I organize my books into piles. I am not attaching a picture of pile-of-books-I-will-analyze-review-or-work-with-some-other-way. I am not attaching a picture of pile-of-books-still-in-the-library-but-on-my-list either.

I have an electronic pile of books. Currently this is organized chronologically: first download, first read. But that’s only an approximation, as other stuff will move to the top of the pile as well. So, right now I am reading Asaro, because she will be attending a con in Denmark soon. I also have 2 cat stories lined up, for a cat project, that might happen some day. But other than that, I’m still catching up on stuff I downloaded in 2009. (Benford was later put in the 2010-pile.) The 1943 pile is not stuff I downloaded in 1943, but stuff from 1943, I am downloading for a project.

(c) Lise Andreasen

(c) Lise Andreasen

Then there’s the physical pile. As shown it’s organized into sub-piles. There’s the haven’t-read-King-in-awhile pile, haven’t-read-Agatha-Christie-in-ages pile, the books-I-bought-recently pile, and a pile of best-of-books I bought at one time (40 in all I think). Recently I finished reading the Harry Potter books, and installed the King books instead.

When I have spare time at my computer, I read electronic books and short stories. When I have spare time on my couch, I read books, that I plan to review, analyze etc. And when I am in bed, on the bus etc. I read for fun. Reading for fun comes from the physical pile. I construct a small pile with one book from every sub-pile, so I have a pile with a King book, a Christie book, a bought book, and another bought book. When one book is read, I take the next from the top of the small pile. When that pile is read, I construct a new one. Library books sneak to the top of either the couch pile or the bed pile, depending on why I loaned them.

Easy, right? :-)


Shaun Duke @ Survival by Storytelling: I try to organize my books by type and then by author (in alphabetical order). Because I have so many books, I’ve been forced to organize both by genre type (science fiction and fantasy, non-fiction, etc.) and book type (hardback, paperback, mass market). The result is that my shelves look a little hectic, and not just because I have far too many books to fit on the shelves. Needless to say, I need more shelves and a bigger apartment. Some of my shelves are stacked two rows deep and others are bending with the weight. The good news is that I just got a new shelf, so I’ve been able to relieve some of the burden. The bad news is that I’ll probably replace that burden with new books before December rolls around…

By the way, trying to organize by genre is a great way to learn a lesson about why the science fiction and fantasy genres are so incredibly ambiguous in publishing terms. You end up with books involving dragons and space ships, robots and magic, alternate history with King Arthur and talking animals, and so on. It’s impossible to categorize fantasy and science fiction separately without also creating an “ambiguous genre” section in the middle. And if you don’t believe me, try it. I guarantee you that your shelf will end up with a little fantasy in your science fiction.


Hagelrat @ Unbound!: How do I organise my library. Hahahaha. Ok, once upon a time my library was organised. I had all my series and authors all neatly lined up together but now, well, since we moved house i’ve moved my shelves a couple of times. Downstairs I have my Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and my signed books in the living room. In the dining room I have three shelves of cook books. Upstairs you can find some things grouped together, most of the biographies are on a shelf together, lots of series are in order on a shelf. Other stuff is dumped in piles or shoved on shelves anywhere. I double stack too so I don’t even know where everything is.

Enjoy my chaos.

(c) Adele Hagelrat

(c) Adele Hagelrat

(c) Adele Hagelrat

(c) Adele Hagelrat


Tinkoo Valia @ Variety SF: For electronic works, I’ve random filing combined with Google Desktop Search. Not quite good enough, & not even close to normal Google in quality of results & it keeps missing stuff I know is on disk for unfathomable reasons, but combined with normal Windows search & occasional folder browsing, it’s what I have.

For paper works, I have a space constraint & an agreement with the family – one floor to ceiling custom built cupboard, & 2 shelves in another brought cupboard. Whenever the collection spills over, I MUST make up my mind as to what I can get rid off, & then sell it off. Physical space limit is almost non-negotiable.

Within physical shelves, by rather personal groupings – computers, management, science, puzzles, fiction, & sundry stuff. No special place for sf within fiction.


Gareth @ Falcata Times: This is a pretty tricky question as I really believe that organisation is in the eye of the beholder. Generally I tend to make sure that all books by the same author goes in the same location for easy access in case a reread is required.

That said however, I live in a flat and don’t have masses of storage (although if Ikea or some other big place does furniture wants to sponsor me, come round and install wall to wall shelving for all rooms, I’m in, hint hint) and have to make do with wherever I can fit them.

I tend to keep my TBR lists better organised, they’re placed in one area of the home, organised by release date in order to keep them in a reasonable order as well as read at the appropriate time and get moved after being read to fit wherever I can (unless the authors already got an allocated area.)


Jvstin @ Blog, Jvstin Style: Organization? What is this word of which you speak?

Seriously, I have too many books to really organize them well, given space limitations. This has been doubly true since moving in with My Friends the Olsons.

I do roughly classify and store them as follows:

Fiction: This is almost exclusively science fiction and fantasy, or stuff that is very close to it (e.g. Jorge Luis Borges, Lewis Carroll).

Roleplaying books: I have plenty of these, ranging from a first edition D&D DMG to the latest stuff from Evil Hat, Chad Underkoffler, and the Forge.

“Reference books”: This is what I call non fiction that I like to dip in, and use ideas for games and writing and whatnot. Historical atlases, history books, a tarot book, a dictionary or two on mythology, and more. I also think of this as “browsing reading”, stuff to be gleaned and glanced over at my leisure.


Terry Weyna @ Reading the Leaves: Our library is a masterwork of organization. It has to be, because we have too many books for our space. As one friend put it: “You need more bookcases, but first you need more walls to put them against.” Every room, every closet, every cabinet is filled with reading material.

The living room houses mainstream literature in four bookcases. Biographies and criticism specific to an author are housed with the author’s work. Everything is in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. This collection continues in an additional four bookcases in the dining room, which also hold plays and books on the fine arts, including coffee table books. The kitchen has one bookcase full of cookbooks and books relating to food; the three other bookcases in the kitchen are a mishmosh of subjects, from feminism to travel to history. In the hallway is one bookcase with books on politics. The coat closet has a number of trade paperbacks from the literature collection.

The bookcase on the landing between flights of stairs contains my Notable Trials Library — lovely editions of books about actual trials, bound in leather, purchased back when all I ever wanted was to practice law.

The bookcase on the upstairs landing has books about books (like Nicholas Basbanes’ A GENTLE MADNESS) as well as comics and graphic novels. Most of the comics are in boxes in the closet in my study; the closet also contains mass market paperbacks of mysteries. There are five bookcases of mysteries, with some piled on the floor as well. The sixth bookcase in that room contains mysteries, true crime and books relating to the law. My window seat holds my Sherlock Holmes collection on one side and my books to be reviewed on the other. In between there’s a cat bed that’s only occupied during the summer months; at this time of year, Cordelia is lounging on the windowsill in the master bedroom. There are piles of the New York Times Book Review, Locus and other magazines on the floor; a pile of books I’ve already read and need to write reviews on, and books I’m currently reading. Oh, and one of the bookcases has piles of library books assorted by date, so that nothing will wind up overdue.

My husband’s study contains literary criticism, poetry, science and nature, religion and mythology, philosophy, books on writing and some history in nine bookcases. This room holds the special Emily Dickinson collection, because he’s a Dickinson scholar. We probably have 90% of the books ever written about Emily Dickinson. The first time we visited Amherst, Massachusetts, and visited Emily’s grave, I told her I meant no offense, but I was glad she was dead; otherwise my sweetheart wouldn’t have looked at me twice!

The linen closet holds more paperback mysteries, back issues of Locus and the New York Review of Science Fiction, and our collection of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Analog and Asimov’s are in the other cabinets across the hall, along with back issues of The New Yorker, the Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books, and other periodicals.

The piece de resistance, our best collection, is in the master bedroom: science fiction, fantasy and horror occupy 12 bulging bookcases. One bookcase mostly holds DAWs, beginning with #1 in the collectors’ series and going almost to 800. The closet in that room is home to the SF/F/H anthologies as well as a goodly chunk of the Star Trek collection. Anyone stuck in that room would have a lifetime’s reading without going past the door.

This makes us sound like we’re sort of insanely crazy about books, doesn’t it? Well, there are far worse vices, and we have none of those. But boy, do we love us some books.


Drew Shiel @ The Wizard of Duke Street: The question of how my books are organised is giving me some trouble, as they’re currently not, at all, and for the first time, I can find everything. The initial impetus here was that we moved house, and the tidy division of alphabetical by author surname, fiction and non-fiction (with non-fiction further divided in RPG rulebooks, cookbooks, natural world, history, college books, etc) didn’t pack neatly. So we put books in boxes where they’d fit. And then we hadn’t enough boxes, so we unpacked into piles of books in the new place, and brought the boxes back for a second run. Then we shelved them by the methods of “first book to hand goes into the closest gap on the shelves”. Then we bought new shelves, so everything got unshelved, piled, and reshelved at random. And then we moved the shelves, so that about half of them got arbitrarily moved around as well.

So they’re currently “where they landed on the shelves after we moved all of them”, which in some cases includes “behind a double row of other books”, and “where I saw it while trying to retrieve the cat from behind the TV”.

This annoys me, because I liked alphabetical-by-author, etc, but I’ve never been able before to go “In Death Ground”?Fourth shelf up beside the couch, between a bird book and something with an orange spine.” – and be right every time. This is, however, the method of finding things that my family has always used – my father can put a hand on any of the hundreds of tools in his workshop, regardless of whether he last used it ten minutes or ten years ago. So maybe it’s hardwired.


Patrick W. @ Stomping on Yeti: I don’t have too much of a system all though I tend to group books by author and loosely by subgenre. As you can see I have quite a few bookshelves although only one is on display to the public. That’s where I keep most of my hardcovers and my favorite books. Another bookshelf is devoted mainly to the SF Masterworks series and the third is devoted to Star Wars (in chronological order) and other paperbacks. I have misplaced books from time to time, especially now that the influx of books has increased rapidly due to review copies. I keep track of what I have and have read with LibraryThing (http://www.librarything.com/home/pmwolohan) where I can track all 1,100+ books I own. I love that site…

That’s how I do most of my categorization. I also keep a pile of 12 or so books on my nightstand that are in consideration for the next book I read. I like the books to line up on the shelf (I will even buy new copies so they will) but I don’t get much more OCD than that.

Below are 3 pictures of my 3 main bookshelves. Note the overflow.

(c) Patrick W.

(c) Patrick W.

(c) Patrick W.

(c) Patrick W.

(c) Patrick W.

(c) Patrick W.


Adam Roberts @ AdamRoberts.com How do I organise my library? The short answer is: ‘in my head’. I have many rooms containing many shelves upon which are very many books, but they are arranged on the principle ‘I think of a book, I know roughly where I can find it.’ That frees me up to arrange my actual books by, for instance, by size, by language, and especially by the colour of their spines. I have, for example, two dozen Library of America volumes, and when all shelved together they make a very satisfying long black rectangle on my shelves, a continuous wavering line of red-white-blue piping stitching them together. I must own several hundred orange spined penguins, and several hundred more in penguin’s other liveries (black; pale green) and massed they create aesthetically pleasing bars of colour. Gollancz’s various Masterworks series make useful patches of hue.

And this system worked for many years. But the number of books I own keeps getting larger year by year, and my brain keeps getting older, and increasingly I find myself spending quarter or an hour trying to track down a book I was sure was right there …

I haven’t yet got to the stage of buying multiple copies of books, though. Which is to say, my inner Memory Palace is still reliable when it comes to the question ‘do I own this?’ It’s just starting to break down when it comes to question ‘I know I have that book, but where exactly …?’


Ian Randal Strock @ SFScope: Organize? Organize?! When I was young, and had far fewer books, I organized them by topic (this case was fiction, those shelves were reference), and then alphabetically by author and then title (I was such the junior librarian).

Unfortunately, that stopped being feasible many years ago. Now, I organize them by size (the biggest book that will fit), stacked two or three deep, haphazardly, any which way on the shelves… and on the tables… and in boxes… and some on the floor….

Oh, to have the room to actually organize my books; that would be bliss.


Jared @ Pornokitsch: My wife and I have books secreted away in at least four different time zones, so organization is a serious problem for us. Even in our home, books have a tendency to wind up in odd places. The good news is that we’ve catalogued about 5,000 of them (using Collectorz’ Book Collector) over the past three years, so things have gotten a little better.

Our books are roughly housed by subject – given the double-shelving, this is a must. Beyond that, size matters – paperbacks get squashed together by publisher and all the awkwardly-oversized books are exiled to the landing.

(c) Jared @ Pornokitsch

(c) Jared @ Pornokitsch

It’s tough to share a photo of everything, so here’s one slice of my favorite shelf. After years of pining away for one, we finally got a glass-fronted bookcase this year (Ikea, but still…). Inside, we put all the books that have the most meaning to us personally – shown here are Robert Chambers’ The King in Yellow (a book it took me seven years to buy) and Rebecca Levene’s Cold Warriors (we’re in the dedication).


Scott Parker @ SF-Safari: Books have always been a part of my life. As a boy, I bought and read nearly all the Hardy Boys volumes as well as the adventures of the Three Investigators. All those books lined my shelves by category and in numerical order. As I branched out into science fiction, my first favorite author was Alan Dean Foster. I bought all his books and he had his own special section within the SF/F section.

As the years passed and I gained new interests (history; mystery), I obsessed over how my bookshelf looked. When we moved into my house nine years ago and built and wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookshelf, my wife’s only rule was this: that shelf should hold only hardcover volumes. On this set of bookshelves, I have the complete Oxford Dickens collection lining one shelf. Another shelf has most of the Encyclopedia Brittannica’s Great Books of the Western World. Other than these sets, the books are not in any order. Oh, well my wife’s cookbooks occupy one shelf but they are not in cuisine order. For the bookshelves in my writing room–where I keep my paperbacks, new and old and trade size–only one set is grouped together: Hard Case Crime. Some of these, the ones with the best covers, I mount on my walls and they act as art.

Somewhere along the line, I lost the interest in arranging the books on my bookshelves. I got to the point where I could look at my organized bookshelf, see the neat and tidy section, and know exactly what I had. That became boring. As a result, I started to just pile books, especially paperbacks, in random order. Some shelves have a double stack of paperbacks so I can’t even see all I have at one glance. I have a William Colt MacDonald western next to one of Hartwell’s Year’s Best SF next to a Pelecanos crime story. Yes, if I’m looking for a particular book, I’ll have to hunt for it. But my library has now become something to rediscover. It makes the safari of my reading life fresh and exciting.

Now, for my ebooks, I’m completely the other way. Obsessively organized by author, title, and genre. But that’s another post.


Chad Hull: I wish I could say I had a ‘library.’ I don’t think I own enough books to justify the use of the term. Due to my small inventory and general lack of re-reading books, I haven’t really had cause to organize what I have.

I also have a rather odd tactile memory. As long as I put a book in it’s place on a shelf, I know exactly where it is, what’s stacked on top of it, and the materials to it’s immediate left and right–no matter how much time has passed since I put it there. It’s an odd–and useless–gift that my family and friends like to test by moving things around when I’m out of the room and then asking to borrow a certain book.

So, I guess my system is to not have a system, but it works for me.


Bill Capossere @ Fantasyliterature.com: Well, I did have scads, but after donating about 1200 to our local library I’m down to a single scad (it’s amazing the purge an attic remodeling can inspire when you realize all those books you carried down three flights of stairs prior to the remodeling now have to get carried back up three flights of stairs). How are they organized? The short answer is PB or HC alphabetically by author for fiction and by topic/size for non-fiction. But really, how often is the short answer the full answer? So that would be alphabetically or by topic within the following groupings around the house:

  • attic office tall shelves: favorite fantasy PB
  • attic office short shelves: fantasy in HC and trade PB
  • attic office short shelves: fantasy PB, double-shelved
  • attic office short shelves behind computer (top): writing reference books
  • attic office short shelves behind computer (bottom): poetry
  • attic playroom tall shelves (right): favorite YA
  • attic playroom tall bookshelves (left): novels I teach
  • attic playroom short shelves (right): children’s and YA (dinosaurs, mythology, series, misc)
  • attic playroom short shelves (center): children’s non-fiction
  • attic playroom short shelves (center): non-fiction (religion, mythology, philosophy)
  • attic playroom short shelves (left) history (divided by time and region)
  • attic playroom short shelves (far left): continued run of fantasy HC S to Z
  • master bedroom shelves (top half): to-read books and partially-read story collections
  • master bedroom shelves (center): books to be used as research sources for upcoming writing projects
  • master bedroom shelves (bottom): comic books and graphic novels
  • spare bedroom shelves: literary fiction double-shelved
  • spare bedroom short shelves: to-read books with books to review on top shelf in order of publication date
  • son’s room: children’s and YA, especially current obsessions (now dogs)
  • family room shelves (right, top half): favorite creative non-fiction essay and memoirs
  • family room shelves (right, center) favorite poetry
  • family room shelves (right, bottom half) art books
  • family room shelves (left, top shelf): Tolkien, literary journals and anthologies my work has appeared in
  • family room shelves (center) favorite books of my youth that inspired or kept me reading, such as Danny Dunn, Mushroom Planet, Tom Swift, Reader’s Digest Best-Loved Books condensed, etc
  • family room shelves near front door: nice illustrated non-fiction oversize
  • family room built-in shelves (to be constructed next week): favorite literary fiction
  • My wife’s classroom: boxes of books I have taught and may teach again if I return to high school teaching
  • My friends’ bookshelves: all those damn books I lent out but don’t remember to whom but realized as I was transporting books out of the attic and saw how many I was missing, especially first books of series

It works because of the simple reason that when I want a book or need to shelve a new one, I know where they are/go, save for a few grey areas (“is this YA or not”, “If I loved book one but not the rest do I put it into the favorites group”).


Rose Fox @ Genreville:

*Gaming books and comics not shown, as Josh wouldn’t let me take pictures in his room.


Michael, The Mad Hatter @ Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review: Right now there is very little organization, which surprises me, but I can’t seem to part permanently with many books despite having close to 100 books on loan with various friends. I have high aspirations to one day own a dedicated library room. I can picture it now: Bookcases from floor to ceiling with nary a gap for a door or an occasional window. Until that day my collection will remain less than organized.

(c) Michael, The Mad Hatter

(c) Michael, The Mad Hatter

(c) Michael, The Mad Hatter

(c) Michael, The Mad Hatter

The majority of my books are on 3 bookcases with 4 shelfs each. The bottom two of which are double deep. The top shelves of each are the to-read books, which aren’t organized by anything other than size, but only to a point. One of the two are focused on SFF/F/UF with some review copies and the other I would call my non-fiction and literary stuff. The next level down is dedicated to collectible/favorite reads of all time. This includes my signed books and first edition hardcovers with books by Gaiman, Martin, Fforde, Abercrombie, Robbins, and Moore all sitting next to each other. A lot of my to-read review copies end up on top of these books for ease of reminder. The third shelf on that level is dedicated to travel narratives such as A Walk in the Woods and The Sex Lives of Cannibals that my wife and I love along with some travel related books. From there the collection quickly looses any sense of coherence with the bottom two shelves packed every which way and no read divisions except series books next to each other. Mass markets are stacked 4 piles deep in some spots. Again it is all about maximizing space. I’ve been lobby my wife to get another top bookcase for each case, but she hasn’t cracked yet. Plus there are the other 3 other bookcases which house mostly graphic novels (heavy suckers when together), cookbooks, and reference related stuff. Oh, just looking at that last one and I have made a small enclave of books on books in my office such as Books on Fire and The Book of Lost Books. Both are worth checking out if you are interested in what we have lost over the last two thousand years of written history. Plus I have two very large boxes of books in my attic, which are mostly college text I can’t seem to part with. I’m sensing a pattern here.


Ben @ Speculative Fiction Junkie: First of all, I should say that I successfully manage to keep most of my books on two bookshelves. While I will occasionally put a few in storage, most of my surplus goes to a local used bookstore. The reason for the two bookshelf limit is simple: I live in a relatively small place that doesn’t have a lot of extra space. Additionally–and maybe I’m totally off base here–I think there’s probably something psychologically healthy about pruning one’s collection from time to time.

On those two shelves I divide my books into two categories, which for present purposes I’ll call the “collectible” section and the “non-collectible” section. The collectible section contains mostly collectible hardbacks (which I wrap mylar protective sleeves around), signed paperbacks, etc. and the non-collectible section contains mass market paperbacks and other easily replaceable texts. Within each section, books are in strict alphabetical order by the last name of the author or editor.

This system works for me because, like any system that is alphabetically organized, it’s easy to locate whatever I’m looking for right away. Additionally, by dividing my book collection into the collectible and non-collectible I can more easily prioritize limited shelf space.


Kristen @ Fantasy Cafe: Ideally, my books would be organized by genre in alphabetical order by author with each series in order based on publication date. However, as an avid reader with scads and scads of books and not enough shelf space, this isn’t entirely practical – especially since my bookshelves are not all together but spread throughout two different rooms and are not even all on the same wall in these rooms. To conserve space, I have to double up on books with two rows when possible, and that requires putting books that are all the same size in the back so I often end up needing to separate any hardcovers/trade paperback and mass market paperbacks by the same author. So I try to at least keep authors and series together as much as possible, although I’m finding it harder to do so now that I’m also getting more random books in the mail. Truly, this drives me crazy, but for now I will have to settle for dreaming of having a library with all the space I need and being exceptionally organized when virtually organizing my books on Librarything.

(c) Kristen @ Fantasy Cafe

(c) Kristen @ Fantasy Cafe

The photo is one of my less chaotic shelves that I reserve mainly for hardcovers (and trade paperbacks if by the same author as some of the ones in hardcover).