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A Modest Proposal for 7 Alternative Shelving Systems

Maddie Rodriguez

Staff Writer

Maddie Rodriguez is a freelance writer and communications specialist who earned her MA in English Literature from the University of Victoria by writing about The Age of Innocence and Gossip Girl (yes, really). When not writing, Maddie can be found reading or watching television; she has Too Many Feelings about both activities, and expresses them via expansive hand gestures or ALL CAPS (depending on how far away the conversation's other party is). Maddie and her fellow reader/writer partner live in Ottawa. They share their apartment with an ever-encroaching tower of books and two calamity-prone cats. Life is never dull. Twitter: @MaddieMuses

I hate to break it to you but there is no good way to shelve your books. Don’t say “alphabetically.” If you shelve alphabetically by author’s last name, you are very likely to run into a situation where you remember the book’s title but not the author’s name and have to fruitlessly and time-consumingly scan your shelves. BUT if you shelve alphabetically by title, then books in the same series are cruelly separated.

One popular alternative shelving system is by colour, which I suppose works if you are highly-visual and have a photographic memory for book spines but I suspect that is not that many of us. Another is by genre, but I think Book Riot’s own contributors’ passions for micro-genres prove that system to be unwieldy and debatable – If a book fits into two sub-genres, which takes precedence?

No, I am here to tell you that the alphabet is over and genre is played out. Luckily for you, fine readers, I have a compiled a few alternative shelving suggestions that I have, however briefly, considered employing myself.

Please note that if you are the kind of person who shelves your personal book collection in your own home according to the Dewey Decimal system I admire and fear you. Disregard all of this; you are superior to me in every way and I have nothing to offer you.

For the rest of you I humbly submit the following:

  • Food or drink product spilled/smeared on pages (most popular categories: red wine; chocolate; sriracha)
  • Ideal weather conditions for reading (“That one was amazing! It was so “Southern Ontario summer electric storm!”)
  • Likeness of cover model to your own mental (aka the only true and right) picture of the book’s protagonist, on a scale of 1-10
  • Smell (requires you to sniff each and every one of your books after acquiring a new one to best determine its place)
  • Geographic location of first read (works best if you just print out a giant map and stack your books in vaguely-continental-shaped piles on the floor)
  • Number of capital-F Feelings elicited by reading experience (most popular categories: too many Feelings; way too many Feelings; my god, how can there be so many Feelings?; I am dead of Feelings)
  • Esteem in which book is held by feline roommates (low = same regard cat has for everything [none], medium = book corners deemed ideal for face-rubbing, and high = very edible, book is riddled with holes)