I buy more books than most people… on the long list of reasons I am your Library Stylist! But that doesn’t take away from the fact that my favorite Christmas gift from my husband every year is a collection of new books. He goes out of his way and hunts in our local independent bookstores for a handful of books he thinks I’ll love. It’s always fun, personal, and heart-warming on Christmas morning to open some fabulous new books that come with stories of what he saw in them, what he read or heard about them, or what just loved about the cover! There have been some legendary duds, some new life-time favorites (I had to apologize at the end of one Christmas Day when I realized I hadn’t looked up in hours after opening to the first pages of The Girl Who Played with Fire), and inevitably something I already own.
Part of this annual event is his ongoing (adorable) complaining that he has no idea how I organize my bookshelves. Every time he thinks he has it figured out, I move something, or switch sections, or flip the room entirely. Every year, I explain to him the latest methodology – which he declares incomprehensible – and so the tradition continues.
So, how do I organize my Library?
While there are many opinions, variations, preferences, and possibilities out there, I like to think of my shelves like one of those Word/Color posters – you know the one where you read the words and say the color, not the word (trivia: it is actually a psychological test for something called the Stroop Effect). Well, my Library is like that. In theory, all of books are arranged by author. But then fiction is split from non-fiction; series are in their own space; cookbooks live somewhere else; some groups of non-fiction get a separate space if they have a different use (i.e. the ones I use academically), and of course, my Top 10 are set aside.
The reason I find it entirely comprehensible, however, is that I also simultaneously think of my books by the colors of their spines/covers. If I can’t come up with an author’s last name, I skim for color and vice versa. For example, I have three shelves covering A-C of general fiction, but I know to skim for the color red to jump right to Christopher Buckley (Thank you for Smoking). Want to grab Fordlandía? Greg Grandin’s cover has that great watercolor of the town that pivots onto the spine. Area X is easy (thank you, FSG Originals, for that large, easy, red “X”). Now, of course it helps to know my subsets, but most of the standard bookstore fare is on one wall, and it’s otherwise easy to find the entire shelf stamped with Daniel Silva on every spine!
My organizational method certainly isn’t for everyone (and is, admittedly, less than coherent in some places), but I like to think that my intimate, physical engagement with each book lets me know them better and know how to find them; color, cover, author, title are all part of the whole experience. Get to know your books, inside and out!