Sorting the Stacks: Recent Photos of my Bookshelves

It took me three full days, but I finally reorganized my books. The piles in the living room were really getting out of hand and it was annoying to me how cluttered my collection was getting. On the first day of culling and sorting when most of my books had been pulled off the shelves and stacked into various piles around the house I wanted to give up, lie on the floor and cry. But I pressed on and am very happy with the results.

NYRB books and Fitzcarraldo editions

In a post a while back I discussed the conundrum of how one goes about organizing a large collection of books. Some do alphabetical, some sort by publisher and I’ve even seen a few organize books by color. I decided to go by nationality.

Top shelf are some German and French books, middle shelf is British lit and bottom shelf is American lit.

Well, mostly by nationally, I should say. I have a British section, an American section, a German section, etc. But I kept the Seagull books together as well as the NYRB books and a few other special publishers whose books I collect. I also have special sections dedicated to poetry, letters/memoirs, and essays.

Seagull books collection

This means that the Christa Wolf books are in the German section, except for her three books which are Seagull publications. So it’s definitely not a perfect system.

Persephone, Virago, and Classic Penguins

And the massive amount of classics books which are kept together have their own classification: Latin, Ancient Greek, Roman History, Greek History, Archaeology, etc., etc.

How do you sort your books?

33 Comments

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33 responses to “Sorting the Stacks: Recent Photos of my Bookshelves

  1. Looks brilliant – congrats to you, can you come to my house please?
    As you know I have a full collection of Booker Prize shortlisted novels 1969-2013, they’re alphabetically arranged except for a few larger titles.
    I keep Seagull, Open Letter, Fitzcarraldo, Archipelago, Dalkey, & Other Stories & Peirene Press by publisher.
    Poetry is Australian & “other”, but does have poetry shelves.
    Classics all together, roughly by era.
    The rest is simply chaos.

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  2. Excellent job, Melissa! Good for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I see an empty shelf there! Very nice, your Seagull collection makes me feel a little less self-conscious though I don’t keep mine together. When I move in September I will have an opportunity to consider revamping my system. At the moment I still tend to language and/or region and generally keep poetry and nonfiction separate. It all inevitable devolves to organized chaos in the end though!

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  4. I love this! I have fiction A-Z upstairs, with Persephones having their own shelves. Reference and books about books and language on the top landing. Iris Murdoch and Pretty Books around the bathroom door. Downstairs there’s biography and memoir, music, women’s studies, travel, quest books (trying to be the world’s best at Scrabble, finding all the people with the same name as you …) child psychology, essays and sport, poetry and drama.

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  5. My bookshelves are such a mess compared to yours. I’ve tried various schemes but the problem with all of them is that we just don’t have enough shelving so boys end up stacked on n top of each other.

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  6. They look beautiful. Great minds think alike, Melissa! I’ve also grouped mine by countries (with a big blob for Latin America or Scandinavia, though), but a few publishers and poetry are exempt from this rule. Within the English category, I’ve divided further into Classics, Modern and Contemporary, with a special section for Crime, of course.

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  7. I keep all my NYRB books together too (although my unread copies are on separate TBR shelves) – the spines look so pretty clustered together in that way!

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  8. Your books look lovely Melissa – I adore seeing pictures of other people’s shelves! My system is a bit random – loosely in categories and then alphabetical. Of course the Viragos are all together, and the Russians, and my Japanese authors for example. But then it gets confusing if I have e.g a Russian Virago – where do I put it? My Ivy Litvinovs are with the Viragos and my Kollontais with the Russians so there’s no real logic. And if I have a favourite author they tend to have a shelf to themselves. I would say it doesn’t really matter as long as I can find them, but I can’t always….

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  9. I’m sure it was hard work but the result must be very satisfying. I tend to organise my own books A-Z for fiction and by subject for non-fiction with subdivisons of period for history and location for travel writing. One of my favourite bookshops, Daunts, organises their stock by country. A great place to visit when returning from holidays for me!

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  10. Initially when I moved I did a geographical order to my shelves which has gone a bit but still have German French Spanish language together African Asian fiction together and the. A shelf of fitzcarrldo archipelago penguin

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  11. They all look wonderful. I’d love to stack mine in numerous, wonderfully idiosyncratic ways but at the moment they are all shoved on any old way to get them on the shelves, and are stacked at the side of the desk in haphazard piles.

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  12. This is wonderful! I have a couple of dedicated bookcases with Virago and Persephone book and a few themed shelves, but otherwise my books are pretty randomly arranged. It’s nice to find something unexpected when I’m looking for something else, but as I’ve acquired more books it is taking longer to track down specific titles.

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  13. Love this system! I actually use a variation of it myself- I do it by nationality (Romanian, French, English) and then genre. Also, I sort my TBR separate from my read. Love the way your bookshelves turned out! Feeling those organizational vibes ❤

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  14. jamescraigvickers

    Your reorganized shelves look great! I recently started to shelve and also to store my books by publisher where ever possible: NYRB, Archipelago, Penguin Black Spine Classics, etc.

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  15. Just noticed you used the same shelving bracket system I have!

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  16. I tend to change the system for organising books in my house every twelve months. Nothing every fits quite right (I’m one Penguin Classic short for the shelf I’ve got them on). It’s fine though, every time I have to adjust things I find another book that I want to re-read!

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  17. I once organized my books mostly by color, some vestiges of which remain

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