Ways to Organize Your Bookshelf

Do you need bookshelf organization ideas to add visual interest to your home and bring order to your shelves? There is no one “correct” way to organize your book collection—you can sort it in a variety of ways, from arranging alphabetically to grouping by genre, color, to be read (TBR) and more. Check out these 14 ideas for organizing your bookshelves!

Alphabetize by Author or Title

A common method to organize your home library is to alphabetize your book collection! This is a straightforward approach to book organization—and for many people, it’s the most intuitive way to keep track of where your books are. Additionally, there are a couple different variations you could play around with. Arrange your books in alphabetical order by author’s last name or by title. You can also use this method in combination with other organizational methods to create the system that works best for you.

Group Books by Genre

Try putting books in order by arranging them based on genres like science fiction, fantasy, romance, historical fiction, and more. This is great for seasonal reading because it makes it easier to reach for fresh titles on rainy spring days, beach reads in summer, spooky books in the fall, and cozy stories to curl up with during winter. It’s also great for mood readers, since you can focus on whatever genre matches your current vibe. You’ll just need to make sure your book categories make sense to you, since most books can fall under several different genres. Once you finish organizing books by genre, you can also alphabetize them by author’s last name for further organization! If you own a lot of non-fiction books, try using the ten main categories of the Dewey Decimal System to help classify them—or use the Dewey Decimal System in its full form for more precise organization.

Keep Series Together

Are you the kind of reader that likes to consume an entire series from start to finish? One way to order your bookshelf is to group your books by their series. Especially if you have books by a prolific author with several different series, it might be easier to have your home library organization be based on series from left to right with any standalone novels at the end each section. Put series in chronological order or by publication date depending on how you plan to read them, so you can easily cross the titles off your TBR book list as you go.

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Highlight Well-Known Authors

Ever feel like you could have a mini library of an author in your collection? Some readers like organizing their bookshelves by author because of the visual variety of book size and design—but authors like Christie, Morrison, Sanderson, and more are so prolific that their books can take up entire shelves. Instead of unintentionally creating a theme or pattern in your home library, shelve these books in their own area!

Color-Code Your Shelves

If you want an organization method that’s aesthetically pleasing, consider organizing your books by color. Though this option isn’t for everyone, a color-coded bookshelf might actually help some readers find their favorites more easily—if you’re a highly visual person, you might be more likely to remember a book by how it looks rather than its title or author’s name. This system could also be a great choice for mood readers! Different hues are known to affect mood in unique ways and a color-coordinated bookshelf can help you pluck a book from the shelf no matter what frame of mind you’re in. Plus, a rainbow bookcase gives you a vibrant focal point in your home.

Line Up Books by Size

Another book organization system to consider for your home library is to sort your collection by size. Grouping books by size can be used to draw attention to things like larger books, special editions, or even artwork on your shelves. It’s also great for people who tend to think visually. One method for organizing by size is to put the larger books in the middle and other books in descending size on either side of the shelf. You could also line up your books on your shelf from largest books on the left to smallest books on the right—or the exact opposite. Or, if you have shelves of varying heights, divide your books according to where they fit best.

Separate Hardcovers & Paperbacks

Create a sense of visual balance in your home library organization system by separating hardcovers and paperbacks. This might mean splitting your books up between two separate bookcases—or it might be a question of which shelves work best for certain books, based on factors like size, weight, and ease of access. Paperback books are often lightweight and small in size, so they can fit on narrower, less sturdy shelves—while hardcovers likely need well-built shelves that support their weight and provide more room for taller books. You also may want to put large hardcovers on middle or lower shelves to avoid lifting heavier books at an awkward angle. As you divide your books, be sure to maintain equal weight distribution to avoid putting too much strain on your shelves.

Stack Books Horizontally

If you’re looking for a way to visually break up your shelves while still fitting a lot of books on them, try incorporating horizontal book stacks. By positioning some books vertically and others horizontally, you can introduce a layered look to your shelves. Horizontally-stacked books can also direct the eye to featured elements like a beautiful book cover, a piece of artwork, family pictures, and more. The way you stack books can also indicate the order you intend to read them, with the top of the stack being whatever’s next on your reading list.

Flip Book Spines Backward

One bookshelf organization trend that you may have seen in the past few years involves turning your books backward on the shelves, with the pages facing out instead of the spines. This unique bookshelf design idea is often chosen for its aesthetic benefits, especially by those who want their shelves to have a neutral color palette—like those with a minimalist or cottagecore home design style. Or you can use this trick to help keep track of your physical TBR by placing the books you’ve already read backward and the ones you still need to read forward, with their spines visible.

Use Unique Editions as Focal Points

While you can always spotlight your favorite books or covers in your home library, a way to keep your bookshelves organized while connecting to your home’s interior design is to feature special books as decor. Pull out books with your main color scheme, or that are different shades of your primary home paint color. Some publishers or booksellers might release a collectible edition of a series, genre, or author’s works, or republish them with leatherbound covers. Bookend each shelf or section of your home library with these editions for consistent, yet subtle, visual cohesion. Or consider facing your book spines backward to feature stenciled or painted page edges.

Place Books According to Usage

When it comes to personal library organization, you may want to take a book’s usage into account when placing it on your shelves. Not all books are for reading purposes—there might be some that you keep for decoration, sentimental value, or real-world value, as with rare books and first editions. Books that you don’t plan to read on a frequent basis can be placed on higher shelves. Still want easy access to these books? Begin building your dream home library and install a rolling ladder! Then place your regular reads on the middle and lower shelves where you can easily grab them. And if your home library includes kids books, you can place these on the lowest shelves so your kids will be able to read them whenever they want.

Create Your Own Bookcase

If you haven’t been able to find bookshelves that meet your needs, there are plenty of DIY bookshelf ideas that can make your home library a unique and functional space. Buy separate bookshelves and install them together against a wall for a DIY built-in bookcase. Grab a hammer and saw to build simple DIY bookshelves from scratch. Adapt everyday items like milk crates or storage cubes and put them together to form a rustic DIY bookcase. Or create multifunctional bookshelf furniture like a window seat with shelving, a coffee table with shelving underneath, or a reading chair with built-in shelving on the sides. Bookshelf furniture ideas like these can save space and give your living area a unique flair.

Install Floating Shelves

If you don’t have room for a large bookcase, or if your shelves have overflow, then installing floating bookshelves may be the solution for you! This is a great way to make use of vertical space, since floating bookshelves can be installed anywhere there’s available wall space—including in your office, kitchen, living room, bedroom, and more. Floating shelves also allow you to feature books throughout your home, with a main bookcase in one room and floating shelves in all the others. Mount floating bookshelves alongside your main bookcase to feature your favorites or give yourself easy access to whatever you’re planning to read next. Or display your books as artwork by installing invisible floating bookshelves, which will be completely concealed by the books.

Mix in Decor

Make your home bookshelves visually appealing and unique to your taste by mixing in decorations with your books. These additions can be a wide variety of things, including family pictures, artwork, vases, knick-knacks, memorabilia, houseplants, terrariums, miniature fairy gardens, and more. You can even include book nook shelf inserts, which are small, constructed 3-D scenes that open a gateway to another world. When choosing bookshelf decor, select items that will tie your book collection in with your overall home decorating style. Whether your home style is modern and minimalistic, maximalism, bohemian, or even a design aesthetic like dark academia—you can incorporate your book collection into your home design by bringing the appropriate decor onto your bookcase.

Create Bookshelf Themes

If you like to switch up decor throughout the seasons, change out your bookshelf decor, too! Use seasonal items to create themes in your bookshelves—like painted pumpkins and other fall decorations in autumn, or paper snowflakes and snowmen in winter. As part of the theme, highlight your favorite seasonal reads by facing the covers out so they serve as focal points on your shelves. Alternatively, if you organize your books by genre, you can opt for decor themes that match the genre of your books. For example, you could use candlesticks and artificial cobwebs for a horror bookshelf or dried flowers and paper hearts for a romance shelf. Although changing out themes can be time consuming, the amazing aesthetics created are well worth the effort for many readers.

Incorporate Baskets for Storage

Not every shelf in your home library needs to be filled to the brim with books. If you have enough space, putting storage baskets at the bottom of your bookcase or interspersing them throughout is a great way to add some extra home storage and visually break up your book collection! Baskets are a great library storage option to fill with blankets, bookmarks, notes, and kids books that may not fit well directly on the shelf—like cloth books for babies and board books for toddlers.


Need storage for books that don’t fit on your bookshelf? Extra Space Storage has storage facilities near you units that are perfect for storing books and other items. Find climate-controlled storage near you!


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