Our Reading Lives

Why I Don’t Organize My Bookshelves

I’m pretty organized person and I’ve lived by the “for everything a place and everything in its place” philosophy of life. I hate it when my pens are not in neat rows and I can’t stand when shoes are all piled up on the floor.

But for an organized person, I hate organizing my books. If you were to come to my house and check out my bookshelves, you’ll notice there is no rhyme or reason as to how they are organized. Some friends recently came over and asked “are they alphabetical? Is it by genre? Color scheme?”

No, my books are just everywhere.

Granted, there is a small amount of organization. I do tend to keep the books I’ve read on a different case than the ones I need to read. I keep all the books I’ve read this year apart from everything else so I can see how I’ve done at the end of the year. I also like to organize the books by height so that they’re not completely out of order.

But aside from these small organizational methods I’ve used, my books are in no sensible order.

Recently, I moved to a new apartment and while piling on the books into its cases, I thought about why I do this. Why don’t I care what discernible order my books are in?

For me, it’s the thrill of the hunt. Whenever I go through bookstores or libraries, everything is exactly where you need it. You can find “Kepnes” under “K” in either a thriller or fiction section. It’s easy and reliable and will get you in and out of a store in a few minutes. That is if you’re looking for one particular book.

However, I’m a browser. I like spending hours in a bookstore going through its stacks to see if any titles catch my eye. I like to take that same philosophy when I’m at home. I like perusing my shelves for a particular book. I like seeing that book I read in college pop up while I’m searching for another book. I like the mental energy it takes to read the spines of every single novel to find the one I’m looking for.

The other reason why I don’t organize my books is because they’re my books. Some people organize their shelves by color. Others like to differentiate the books they’ve collected in a series with their stand alone. I like my books on the shelf. That’s pretty much everything I look for.

Some people may find my methods mad. They may think that books deserve to be placed on orderly shelves with pristine covers and a lending process for their friends. I like to see my books lived in. I like bending their spines and writing notes in the margins. Why? Because I love looking back at what I’ve read and seeing the person I was. I like to read passages and think back to where my mind was at when I wrote it. I love to chortle at my little “lols” because I found something funny.

My books are a series of memorable moments; each of them read at a specific point in my life and sometimes I like bumping into them every once in a while. It’s almost like seeing an old friend you’ve forgotten existed. When you bump into them on the street, you can’t help but to say hello and hear what they’re up to. I love doing the same with my books.

How do you like to organize your bookshelves?