QUIZ: What Does Your Book Shelving System Say About You?

When you are a book lover with a physical book collection, it becomes imperative to develop a shelving style. Everyone has their own methods, and there are strong proponents and detractors on all sides. My own shelves are a patchwork system made of binaries: read/unread, fiction/nonfiction, queer/not queer. It reflects what I am most interested in when evaluating my collection (“Have I already read this? Is it a story? Is it queer?”), but it’s also largely incomprehensible to anyone looking at my shelves for the first time. I have to guide them through it.

My partner has an equally large collection that is simply alphabetical by author. That’s it. It’s easy to find anything specific you’re looking for, but it’s not ideal to browse, in my opinion. Philosophy books bump up against schlocky sci-fi pulps — it’s chaos! Every shelving system has its advantages and disadvantages, and ideally, we would recognize that and let everyone do as they will. But in reality, we are mostly nosy and judgmental people — at least I am. That’s why I made this quiz to evaluate your shelving style. Answer these questions and I’ll decide how you organize your bookshelves and make baseless assumptions inspired by it! Scroll past the quiz to see all the answers, especially if the screen disappeared before you can read it all.


Cinematic Reader: You likely shelve your books by color, because reading is a visual experience! While you read, you probably have vivid, movie-like images in your head of what’s happening. You are likely an artist or enjoy crafts — maybe while listening to an audiobook?

Mood Reader: You shelve your books according to how they make you feel. The biggest thing you are looking for from a story is for it to be emotionally compelling. You remember the emotional impact of a book much more than the plot or setting. You are likely a romantic. You also don’t like having to stick to a plan: you’d rather respond to what you’re in the mood for at that very moment.

Traditionalist: You organize your books alphabetically by author, maybe with some subcategories. You may get annoyed with alternative shelving systems: this is clearly the right way to shelve books. You like to be efficient in your work life, and you even keep a strict schedule on vacation. You’re the backbone of society — but you should also cut loose sometimes!

Eclectic Reader: This is a nice way of saying you’re all over the place. Maybe you have an idiosyncratic set of categories you shelve books according to, or maybe you just let them pile up wherever. You are spontaneous and always entertaining, but you also might be a bit of a flake. You keep everyone on their toes, whether or not they want to be!