November 10, 2017

The many ways to organize a bookshelf


There are plenty of advantages to being a true book lover. For me, it’s not just the intimate relationships I may build with an author, or a particular character, but also the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of dollars I’ve saved by using the books themselves, and whatever bookshelf Ikea is currently billing as a college dorm essential, as pieces of design and aesthetic proclamation. A book lover knows that however they organize their books, it may speak volumes about who they are as a person… and gives them a free pass for whatever decorative limitations they might have.

At Quartzy this week, Thu-Huong Ha lists some charming ways to arrange our most prized possessions on shelves. From the classic alphabetic, to the more honest “intention-based” design, to the unnecessarily complicated “internal logic within sections,” Ha run a full gamut of methods.

Ha begins by considering A Little Life author Hanya Yanagihara’s opinion on those who go chromatic. Yanagihara’s home and library were featured in a Guardian profile this past August, in which the author declares, “Anyone who arranges their books by colour doesn’t truly care what’s in the books.”

She also cites Karl Ove Knausgaard’s preferred organizational approach: “by desire.” The famed Norwegian writer claims there’s no overarching method to his book-sorting madness, but he does organize the books he wants to read into three specific categories: id, ego, and superego: “On the floor by my bed there are heaps of books I want to read, books I have to read and books I believe I need to read.” [*eye-roll*]

The point is this: however you organize your books, just remember everyone will judge you based on it.



Alex Primiani is the associate director of publicity at Melville House.