No filter shelfies: how do you really organise your books?
Alphabetically? By genre? A big pile on the floor?
The internet may be full of gorgeously displayed expansive home libraries, but what about all those shelves not chosen for public display? We asked some of the most hardcore readers we know – our fellow publishing professionals – how they organise their books. Whilst looks still play a part, fanatical organisation and basic practicality also feature highly. Here are the three main groups we identified.
These readers prioritise appearance over discoverability – but don't confuse an appreciation of books as physical and decorative objects with a superficial interest in their content. These displays are a labour of love; an outward expression of the sheer joy of books.
‘I spent an astonishing number of hours sanding, staining and polishing that wood. It makes me so very happy!’Louise, Head of Analytics
"My shelfie is in fact a reading corner (nook?). It's organised by genre, then size, then colour, and comes complete with a cocktail corner, weight loss inspiration and two optional companions! I must've looked at about a thousand different wallpapers before choosing these two – my mum helped me to put them up. I designed the bespoke shelves and my dad helped me to execute them well. I spent an astonishing number of hours sanding, staining and polishing that wood. It makes me so very happy!"
‘The compromise was to keep books as long as they look pretty.’Stella, SEO Content Executive
"I love books, including keeping the ones I've already read, while my boyfriend likes to cull things. The compromise was to keep books as long as they look pretty and so we ended up here. As soon as he saw the Picador Collection though, he suddenly wanted all of them . . ."
Order is key for this group. Some want to be able to find a book easily, others just possess a fervent interest in organisation.
‘I rearrange them obsessively every few weeks, and am seriously considering buying multiple copies of the books that straddle too many genres.’Emma, Video and Influencer Marketing Manager
"I only keep books I love, so my shelves are filled with books to recommend and lend to friends. I've always organised alphabetically, until a few months ago when I decided to have a go at organising by genre. Now I rearrange them obsessively every few weeks, and am seriously considering buying multiple copies of the books that straddle too many genres. I may have to go back to alphabetical . . ."
‘The idea of splitting up an author’s work makes me feel genuinely uncomfortable. I am aware that this is ridiculous.’Ellen, Website Editor
"I have quite an obsessive personality and am also a bit of a show off, and I think that’s reflected in my bookshelves. I find it hard to part with books, even the ones I don’t like: I’m quite an exacting list-maker and my shelves are a kind of physical spreadsheet of nearly everything I’ve read since I was eighteen. They’re separated into fiction, non-fiction, poetry and plays, and then alphabetically by surname within these groups. Part of me loves the idea of organising by genre or colour, but the idea of splitting up an author’s work makes me feel genuinely uncomfortable. I am aware that this is ridiculous."
‘I can probably find a book within thirty seconds.’Richard, Regional Account Manager for London
"I have six large sets of shelves, and my partner has a large collection too. Unsure why, but they’re separate although we have several authors we both like. There isn’t a particular logic to my way of shelving, apart from the fact I understand it. I can probably find a book within thirty seconds. Largely, books are by genre and favourite authors. The only way in which a book would be ranged by colour would be the large number of old orange Penguins, or white-spined Picadors. I'm almost getting to the stage when it’ll have to be one-in-one-out, but the local Oxfam, while being eager recipients of unused books, unfailingly tantalise me with interesting new additions."
For some, life is simply too short to worry about what order your books are in – or indeed, to wait for printed books at all.
‘I always have a book in my pocket.’Carol-Anne, Content Marketing Executive (aka the TikTok Girl)
"I love to read on Kindle because of how convenient it is to always have a book in your pocket. I also believe that it allows me to be less distracted and to read faster. I love the accessibility of it, with the ability to change font and size. I'm such a mood reader as well, so if a book isn't agreeing with me, I can just switch up and start a new one MID SENTENCE. Also I can buy and read things straight away, and pre-orders are delivered at midnight."
‘There's no structure, just chaos.’Sarah, Head of Marketing for Macmillan Children's Books
"I have three sets of shelves: my excessive TBR pile, my books I loved and will keep, and my cookbooks. There's no structure, just chaos. I only keep my very favourite books. It used to be for space reasons and now it's more philosophical: I don't want to keep things unless there's a good reason to. Although that's hard to believe from these cluttered shelves. The rest of my apartment is much neater than the bookcases would have you believe!"
‘The closest to organising I come is keeping my current read (and next up if there's space) in this holder on the pin board by my bed.’Alex, Digital Marketing Manager
"I used to do alphabetical, but stopped a while ago. The closest to organising I come is keeping my current read (and next up if there's space) in this holder on the pin board by my bed. I find it helps to motivate me to pick up whatever I'm reading. I used to have a pile of books, but that ended up being demotivating because I kept feeling like I was 'falling behind'. But goodness knows who I wasn't keeping up with. . . My ideal self perhaps!"
All of the above
Fittingly, our official archive achieves a happy medium between all three of these approaches.
‘There are a lot of books in the Macmillan Archive. . . 127,625 to be precise.’Elly, Archive Manager
"There are a lot of books in the Macmillan Archive. . .127,625 to be precise. We store our books on roller racking, mostly in boxes. As each new book comes in we enter it onto our database and then assign it a box number. Once a box is full we allocate it a space in the storeroom. So they are, to a certain extent, organised by publication year, but the size of the book also plays a part. Space is at a premium so we order them in a way where they are grouped by year but we can also fit as many books in as possible.
The archive is accessible to everyone in Macmillan and also the public. And it doesn’t just hold books, but also our company history records and editorial files which contain significant correspondence from well known authors like Muriel Spark and Douglas Adams. We also have many of the original illustrations featured in our books, going right back to the 1890s (Alice in Wonderland is one of our biggest collections)."