How to Organize Books

Organizing books has never been easier. Use these ten tips to bring order to your volumes.


1. Edit

Oftentimes books end up in messy piles because we don't take time to purge books that our kids have outgrown or that we no longer want. Pack up surplus reads and donate them to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or your local library's book sales. Eliminating the superfluous will give you more space for organizing your favorite literary works.

2. Custom Classification

Sort your books in a manner that ensures easy identification and quick retrieval. Sort them in a way that makes sense to you and your family. Group them by subject matter, in alphabetical order by author, by genre, or binding color. Move resources, such as field guides, hobby-related books, cookbooks, and references, to the rooms where you'll refer to them most often.

3. Give Every Tome a Home

You can't beat built-in bookcases when it comes to systematically shelving book collections, but they may not fit your budget. Happily, affordable options are available in an array of styles. Equip kids' bedrooms with capacious bookcases that keep their books centralized and are sized to make it easy for them to return books. Set bookcase nightstands in guest rooms to hold quick-read bestsellers; hang bookshelves in the kitchen to hold cookbooks; if you're a bedtime reader, include bookcases in the master bedroom to keep reading material close at hand.

4. Make Way for Books

If you're a bibliophile, you may have more books than you have room for. Fear not, there may be more book-storing room in your home than you think. Frame a window or window seat with wall-mount shelves; open the space beneath a staircase to create a library; or take the door off an underused closet and equip the interior with adjustable floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

5 Consider Size and Weight

Measure the tallest books you want to display and space shelves accordingly. Keep tall bookcases steady and standing by arranging your heaviest volumes on the lowest shelves. Move in streamlined tower-style bookcases that provide generous storage without taking up much floor space.

6. Create Pleasing Displays

Keep book-lined shelves interesting and visually balanced by arranging books in an upright fashion and in horizontal stacks. Use good-looking bookends to group books by topic or period; highlight collectibles atop a short stack of like-minded tomes; and include bins and baskets to corral raggedy-covered, well-thumbed reads. Feeling creative? Dress worn books in ready-made book covers or covers created from decorative handmade papers to enhance your shelf arrangements.

7. Think Outside the Shelf

When coffee-table books start piling up, use those piles to create noteworthy end tables or to colorfully add interest beneath tall-legged furnishings. Use stacks of smaller books as floor-set display stands or to give walls a literary lift. Use L-shape floating bookshelf wall brackets that disappear from view when topped with books.

8. Shop with Books in Mind

Buy dual-purpose coffee tables, bed frames, and benches equipped with shelves or cubbies and move in handsome bookstands to showcase ornately bound editions or a single volume opened to finely illustrated pages.

9. Compile Portable Libraries.

It's always nice to take the books you're currently perusing along as you move from room to room or between inside and out. Organize these volumes in totes, handled baskets, small book carts, or kids' wagons so they're ready to go when you are.

10. Try Simple Solutions.

Use shelf risers that let you place two rows of books back to front on one shelf; add spotlights, picture lights, or light strips to illuminate book titles and pleasingly set shelves aglow; and use labels or bookplates to make sure the books you lend return safely home.

BONUS: Get organized your way. Take our quiz and get customized storage solutions.

Learn how to decorate with books.


More Tips: How to Arrange a Bookcase
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