So Many Books…Part II

CONGRATULATIONS TO PAULA EMMONS! You are the winner of Linda Reilly’s book giveaway! Please contact: jessie at with your mailing address!

By Liz, still trying to organize these darn books before I bring the next truckload here!

So last week I told you all about my angst sorting through my books. Now that they’re mostly sorted (I still have one bookcase at the old place that’s only about half done), it’s time to figure out how to set them up in their new homes (the bookcases I haven’t bought yet).

This part is kind of exciting, actually. I mean, I get to organize my books. What writer/book lover gets to say that? Usually we have so many they become towering piles of possible injury if a breeze blows past in the wrong direction. But all the sorting and donating has left me with just enough that I can now…organize. Theoretically.

I know, stop laughing. I swear I can do this. I’ve actually given it a lot of thought. I mean, do I set up a true To Be Read bookcase, and organize those books alphabetically? Nah, that wouldn’t work because the books are different sizes. Maybe by order in which I want to read them? Probably not, because that changes daily depending on my mood. Plus, if I did a TBR bookcase and then had to move the books to the other shelf when done, I’d have one bookcase that would be overflowing and probably collapse, while the other languished with extra space.

Oh, who am I kidding – I’d just go buy more books.

So this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to do it by category, combining both read and TBR. First, I’ll have my self-help stash, with everything from Brene Brown to Louise Hay to the Crystal Healing Guide. That way, when I’m cranky or depressed or simply just losing my mind, I can go right to the place and figure out who best to help me. Wayne Dyer will always be at my fingertips, because he’ll be on the easy-to-reach shelf.  IMG_2282

Then I’ll have my cozy mystery selection, which is self-explanatory. I reach for these when I want to start a book and feel like I’m visiting old friends, or going to a new small town to make new ones. Then there’ll be my dark and creepy offerings – my Tana French and Dennis Lehane and Stephen King and all the other gut wrenching, frightening, psychological books that keep me up at night. I love this pile!

Then there’s the writer/research pile. All my books on how to write in all their post-it-noted glory. All my research books on the FBI and police and the mafia. My copy of The Artist’s Way. Basically, my working pile.


Then finally, there’ll be the miscellaneous pile. The copy of A Tale of Two Cities I’ve had since high school that I can’t part with. Lauren Graham’s new book, Talking As Fast As I Can, which is awesomely hilarious. My Joyce Carol Oates books. You get the idea.

I have no idea if this will work – I end up buying books and stashing them somewhere just to put them away with a promise that I’ll reorganize later – but I’m going to give it my best shot. Of course, I need to buy those bookcases first.

Readers, do you organize your books in any special way? Do I sound OCD? Chime in!

37 Thoughts

  1. The mystery books are in alphabetical order (although most of the “M”s have their own shelf away from the book case. The Star Trek books are in chronological order by series. Other books are more random.

  2. I always love to see other authors’ writing-craft shelves, Liz! You have some I don’t have (Elizabeth George, for one) and gaps where I have poison books and Leslie Budewitz’s Books, Crooks, & Counselors. Of my books, the best organized is my cherished Wicked Cozy shelf, my writing-craft shelf, and my historical resources shelf. The other fiction, all mysteries, is pretty much thrown together.

  3. The only organized shelves I have are: Salem books. Gloucester Books,, Civil War books (for future project) Bible research books (for future project) Writing craft books,TBR cozies/favorite cozies, All the rest is hodge-podge city! One good move was to have book shelves built in the “hall closet” just inside the front door, which we don’t need in Florida because we don’t have all those raincoats, boots, umbrellas and stuff we used in new England.It’s full of miscellaneous books but at least they’re out of sight and there when I want them.

  4. You have to start somewhere, I guess. Mine are filed by genre. For the mysteries, alphabetizing fell by the wayside years ago, because most of the shelves are filled three-deep. “Literature” is over there on the left. The big bookshelf by the door holds a combination of reference (particularly Ireland) and genealogy resources, with a bit of overflow in the hall, along with Irish fiction. And the TBR piles? Everywhere. Problem is, there’s no more room on any shelves. Dear writer friends, which of your books do I toss? (Or pass on to eager readers?)

  5. As it happens, I had to organize my bookshelves last year, when Bill and I finally untangled our stuff which was in two different studies. Mysteries are in series order and alphabetical by author, then there are craft books and reference books, signed books by friends, “favorite” books from adulthood and childhood and books by me.

  6. If that’s all your posted-noted up stack then I think I’m going to have to revise my self-assessment of how tidy I am from earlier. Those working books have so much love and care shown to them. My On Writing looks like I used it to defend myself from one of King’s monsters come to life. Ditto my Page by Page and Chapter by Chapter.

    Your whole shelf could be the Before picture in my writing journey, I have so many of the books and they’re so unabused.

    1. I think there’s something to be said for that, though, Aimee! I am a bit obsessive about my books and the shape they’re in. I HATE when I spill food on my cookbooks. Other people feel that means they’re greatly loved and used. I think it’s great yours have evidence that you’ve actually used them!

      1. I feel the same way about cookbooks. They’re so expensive. And pretty. They’re what food could look like, if someone other than I made it. 😉

  7. I’ve tried any number of times to organize the bookshelves in my house – by author, by genre. I’ve failed every time – I suspect because the other readers in my house (namely The Hubby) just don’t care. The only shelf that is organized is my craft book shelf. Probably because it’s all mine!

  8. I have one small bookcase in my office that is organized by category. Then there are stacks of unorganized books in my bedroom and on various shelves in our basement.

  9. I LOVE to organize my books! I do it at least once a year. I sort by category and then by colour of cover. OCD yes perhaps but so much joy from it!

    1. That’s awesome Sarah! I get overwhelmed if I just try to do it for the heck of it. The only thing that could get me focused on it and actually achieving anything is a move where they have to be packed up anyway.

  10. As a former librarian, I don’t think organized shelves are even a little OCD. They are common sense. Books are not useful if you can’t find what you need.Now, this does not mean I actually have organized shelves myself! We have bookshelves in most rooms of our house, and they are in really broad categories. Like, mainstream fiction here, and hardcover mysteries over there and husbands’ old SF papebacks in another room. Books about writing and my current research are in my tiny office. I sort of, semi-remember where everything is. it s possible I should just turn in my MLS degree. 🙁

    1. Hey, you can’t be expected to be perfect everywhere. Save the perfection for the job. As long as you have some idea where to find stuff, it’s all good!

  11. Mine are by genre and the fiction is alphabetized (what can I say? I’m a former librarian) and spread out on shelves in several rooms. Mysteries have their own room, shared only with books on audiocassette. Yes, I still have a cassette player in my car. Reference books are in my office but so are the shelves with books I’ve written, the romance shelves, the science fiction and fantasy shelves, and the not-mystery-or-romance historical novel shelf. And my office isn’t that big! I also have special shelves for books I had growing up, for books related to various Joss Whedon tv series, and for oversize art and costume books. I don’t alphabetize my nonfiction. Those books are either where they’ll fit or on the shelf right over my computer because I need to check them so often. I keep a dictionary and Brohaugh’s English Through the Ages there too. Aren’t you sorry you asked? Good luck with the organizing.

  12. I definitely need to reorganize my bookshelves and blend in the books that are in piles all over the house. I have one bookcase that has my non-mystery books–there’s not many of them. The rest are mysteries and are supposed to be in alphabetical order. I also have a few shelves that I keep my TBR books on. I’m not sure it’s the best way to organize but it seems to work for me.

  13. Well, AFTER donating, etc. those couple thousand books, I DID try to set up a system (including purchasing two more bookcases) for those that were left. Real life got in the way and I am FAR behind reading my way through the shelves.

  14. I laughed so hard at your quandry. At my age, I’m downsizing, considering how difficult it is going to be for my children to get rid of all this “stuff.” But I still have craft books, many the same as yours.

  15. Alphabetized the fiction and the nonfiction is almost done like a library system. History is by era! Sounds anal, doesn’t it?

  16. Any time I have organized my books, that last about three months. By then, I’ve bought enough new books that my organization doesn’t work any more.

    Good luck with yours!

  17. Liz, I don’t think you sound strange in the least! In my office I have several shelves of reference and writing craft books sorted by topic. The rest of the shelves are alphabetized fiction. I also have the requisite towering stack of TBR books and another couple of cases of books my children love.

  18. I tend to organize mine by category and author. Library books get put in a tote bag usually in order of when they need to be returned.

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