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Parabolas, Colors, and Tattered Pages: Creative Ways to Organize Your Bookshelves

Rachel Cordasco

Staff Writer

Rachel Cordasco has a Ph.D in literary studies and currently works as a developmental editor. When she's not at her day job or chasing three kids, she's writing reviews and translating Italian speculative fiction. She runs the website, and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

A couple of years ago, Rioter Liberty gave you some fresh ideas for how to creatively organize your bookshelves. Because she was right, you know: alphabetical order is so passé!

Well, I’d like to add a few of my own ideas here, since the very thought of organizing things makes me salivate like a hungry bear. I mean, whenever I’ve had the opportunity to reorganize my bookshelves, I had to keep my smelling salts handy for fear I’d pass out from the fun-overload of deciding how to best arrange my literary lovelies.

So here goes:

Shape/size: shortest books to tallest books, or vice versa, or if you’re feeling feisty, short-tall-short to form a bell curve, or tall-short-tall for a parabola. Bookish eye-candy for the win, as they say.


Chronological order: there is just so much you can do with this! Allow me to offer three suggestions:

  • date written: so, for instance, you could have The Iliad all the way on the left, and The Martian on the right, with everything in between arranged according to the original copyright date.
  • date of events: yeah, a book might have been written last year, but if it takes place mostly in the 12th century (i.e. historical fiction) or whatever, go with it.  That’ll make for one interesting arrangement!
  • date when you bought it: I don’t know about you guys, but I can clearly remember where (and sometimes when) I bought some of my most cherished volumes. So if you have a photographic memory or something like that, do this. No one will ever be able to guess your organizational scheme (mwah ha ha).

Room decoration: your room with the green walls would only contain books with green spines. Your room with the blue and purple vases would only contain…you guessed it…books of the violet persuasion.

Best- to least-loved (or vice versa): Now, we all have books that we bought and read and wondered why we bothered, but nonetheless, there they are. Right next to the books we love most. And why?? Because we have been slaves to the alphabet! Break free from this unnecessary servitude and cluster all your favorite books in one bookcase/in one room and put the…others…in a different room (maybe the guest room?). I mean, it’s your place, so do what you want.

Number of re-reads: I’m a compulsive resolution-maker, though I don’t actually adhere to many of those said resolutions. One goal I set for myself a few years ago was to read The Magic Mountain once a year. Sadly, this has not happened yet. But if you reread certain books a lot, why not keep ’em all together for efficiency’s sake? (you’ll also be keeping the poor tattered books together so they can commiserate when you’re not looking…)


Most-likely-to-be-loaned-out to you’ll-have-to-pry-it-out-of-my-cold-dead-fingers: There are some books (like my collection of Thomas Mann novels) that I WILL NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES LOAN TO ANYONE. Sorry, just couldn’t bear not to know where they are at all times. With some other books, well, I’m a little less overprotective…


Any other organizational systems you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments!



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