Bookshelf Love

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We’re minimalists. We don’t have much “stuff” with one exception: BOOKS.

If you want to torture me, just take me into a beautiful bookstore and tell me I can’t buy anything. We once rented a house due in large part to one amazing room of wall-to-wall built in bookcases. I use the library often, but if I love a book then I want it for my very own so I can keep it forever, say hello now and then, and occasionally whisper, “my precioussss” to its wonderful smelling pages. Yes, I’m a nut. I know.

Our bookshelves were in dire straits. We really never organized them well when we made the big move from Texas and, in the messy fashion typical of our household, books were left in disarray…for two years.

Our bedroom bookshelves looked like this:

Mmmm. Nice. It makes sense for dinosaur pop-up books to go right next to The Iliad, right? Eek.

So on Saturday, Daniel took the kids to the grocery store (bless him!) and gave me some time to organize our many, many books and dust our dusty bookshelves.

Now, I’m pleased to say, our library is all lined up and organized according to genre: Non-Fiction Urban Homesteading and DIY, Philosophy, Literature (Ancient and Medieval, plus Tolkien because he just didn’t seem to fit in modern), Theology, Literature (Modern), Poetry, Non-Fiction on Writing, Languages, Plays, Liturgical Year, Children’s Books, Art History, Parenting, Botany/Nature, and Fiction (books we like but that just can’t sit on the same shelf with Flannery O’Connor and Jane Austen). The board books are on a low shelf where Lucy can reach them and all the Picture Books are in Benjamin’s room.

Then I reserved an entire shelf just for “pretty books.” Clothbound, old-timey beauty.

Ah. I feel so much better.

And in case you were wondering, those gorgeous clothbound classics with the beautiful designs are Penguin editions and you can find them here. I am obsessed with them.

Are you a bibliophile? How do you organize your books?

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  1. Christine says

    Haha! My bookshelves look like your “before” picture. We just have way too many books and not enough room, so for now, we’ll just have to leave them looking that way. We do have a separate bookshelf for my daughter’s books and for my cookbooks, but the organization is minimal from there.

    • Haley says

      More bookshelf space is a constant need at our house, too. Benjamin’s picture book shelf is always a disaster but I feel like it’s important that we keep them in his room so he has easy access. And I keep my cookbooks in a kitchen cabinet but I wish I had a shelf in there to display them because cookbooks are usually so pretty and colorful!

  2. says

    Ahhhhh! Those Coralie Bickford-Smith editions have been calling my name for so very long. I have book envy.

    Great job on the shelves…mine are more like your before ;).

    • Haley says

      Thanks, Melissa! I think if I all I got for my birthday and Christmas for the next 10 years was more of those Coralie Bickford-Smith editions, I would be oh so happy. I have Cranford, but I think my next Bickford-Smith purchase will be one of the other Gaskell novels.

  3. says

    I love it! I’m just the same way πŸ™‚ My husband recently realized it’s not a very good idea to let me go to a bookstore alone for someone else’s birthday present.. 45 minutes later and I haven’t even made my way past the first few aisles!

    I’d really love a dedicated bookshelf like yours! Right now, books are scattered throughout the house, on bed side tables, desk hutches, and the occasional too-small-for-anything-else built-in shelf. Like Melissa said above, I definitely have some serious book envy πŸ™‚ they’re just so pretty!

    • Haley says

      Thank you, Hannah πŸ™‚ These bookshelves were built-in closets that Daniel and my dad converted to book shelves. We have way more books than we have clothes, haha.

  4. says

    Our books were in disarray – or worse, still in boxes – until my sister came over and built us some bookshelves. I nearly cried with happiness when they were all assembled. I felt as though I had been ill and someone had given me a curative medicine. We have: children’s classics, books we have purchased but haven’t read yet, books about Christianity, books about Episcopalianism, Harry Potter and Diana Gabaldon, children’s vintage textbooks, books about Godly Play and Montessori, a shelf for the two “Betsy” series, and more than one shelf each for fiction, literature, and reference. Loved this post!

    • Haley says

      Hi, Lisa! Thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚ I’ve been enjoying your MBL posts. I have alphabetized some of the rows of our genre organized books and I think that will make books the easiest to find for us. BUT, I have a friend who organized books by edition (like all penguin classics with the black cover style grouped together) and it looked amazing. Also amazing is another friend’s book shelf that is organized by color to look like a rainbow. I just think I would freak out when I couldn’t find the book I wanted but I have bookshelf envy because they look like a work of art.

  5. says

    Too many cross country moves post college have made us downsize to just the essentials – so only about 3 bookcases. =) It must be because we have a toddler that we haven’t kept up with our past attempts at organization of the shelves – they look relatively neat, but lack any of our past organizational attempts.

    I just purged a bunch of books for our up coming garage sale – anything that I wouldn’t loan to friend or save for my kids got chucked.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one with a “urban homesteading” section and a love of cloth-bounds – one of my prize possessions are my mothers Chronicles of Narnia set and one day I’ll have her original green and red leather bound copies of LOTR and The Hobbit (oh how I loved being allowed to read from those when I was a kid).

    • Haley says

      Oooo, your Chronicles set sounds lovely. We have a pretty clothbound LOTR, Hobbit, and Silmarillion (nerd alert), but I’m not thrilled with our Chronicles. I got them super cheapeat a used bookstore though, so I can’t complain. But I kind of wish I had the paperback collection I read as a little girl (even though the cover art is dreadful) for the nostalgia. I cannot wait til B is ready for Chronicles as a read aloud. I read him some when he was a baby but I’m dying for him to experience going through the wardrobe!

  6. Briana says

    Those cloth-bound editions are gorgeous! I’m so tempted to print out little call numbers and go all out Dewey Decimal System, but I know how that would go. At the moment all of our bottom selves are empty since our 10 month old thinks it’s supposed to be her private reading nook and our 3 year old thinks he can climb it. :-/

    • Haley says

      I love the inevitable “taking every book off the shelves” game that occurs around 10 months! It’s one of Lucy’s favorites right now πŸ™‚ Sounds like our kids are almost exactly the same age.

  7. says

    We moved a couple months ago and I haven’t yet gotten around to unpacking all of our boxes of books yet. The ones I have unpacked looks very similar to your “before” picture though – I blame my 17 month old! Ironically, his books are the only ones somewhat organized, as he has his own little bookcase for his books.

    Before our move, our books were organized into Fiction, Non-Fiction, Cook books, Crafts/Hobbies, and Textbooks (organized by subject and placed in alphabetical order). I really have no idea why I put so much effort into organizing the textbooks though. I hope to someday get our books back into some semblance of order…eventually I’ll get there! πŸ™‚

    • Haley says

      I hate moving. We are the world’s worst unpackers. After being in our house for 2+ years I think we’ve almost unpacked everything, haha.

  8. says

    As a university student, my bookshelf has rather interesting organization:
    The handful of DVDs I actually own, large books to sell; books out from the library (ranging from St. Therese de Lisieux to A Mathematical Introduction to Logic), borrowed books, books for classes, philosophy books to sell; baking books, favorites (like The Omnivore’s Dilemma and East of Eden), C. S. Lewis, Borders classics (like Dr. Jekyll and Robinskn Crusoe). Within those “genres” they are usually arranged by size. The bottom shelf is reserved for binders, notebooks and folders with important things (think apartment lease). Not ideal, or containing near half of my book collection but it will all be together again when I ind myself a place more permanent.

    I definitely hear you on the pretty binders thing. I love beautifully designed covers. They make the experience of reading a book even more fun. πŸ™‚

    • Haley says

      Our books were always a disaster in college. I can’t tell you how many library books we thought we’d lost only to find them in the chaos later. And when we were working on our thesis projects, forget it. We were so disorganized. But it’s hard to be organized in a temporary space, or at least it was for us.

      They do make the experience so much better. I bought the clothbound Jane Eyre for my best friend (and then housemate, as well) a few Christmases ago and then promptly stole it to read for myself. It was a big bummer when I needed my own copy when we moved back to Florida.

  9. says

    Love your collection! Might have a little book envy as well… those fabric covered ones are lovely!
    My shelves are set up super similarly to your new set-up. The one major difference is we have paperbacks and hardbacks on separate bookcases. And, I then have everything mostly organized alphabetically by author’s last name. This rule only follows true with my books. My husband’s not so much, and definitely not the children’s books.
    I haven’t divided up my classic and modern literature as of now though Tolkien and C.S. Lewis have their own spot in our cases.

    • Haley says

      I like the idea of paperbacks and hardbacks on different bookcases. It probably makes them so much more aesthetically pleasing. Tolkien, as a said, has a spot with the medievals. I’m having trouble placing Lewis, though. Right now Narnia is in children’s books, The Discarded Image is in medieval, and most of his others are in Theology.

  10. Maria says

    Loving your blog! I think we’d get along well.
    My little ones were always unshelving the books when we had them on traditional bookshelves. I made a forward-facing bookshelf out of some 1×12 lumber, dowels, velcro and denim (I looped the denim over the dowels and fastened it with velcro…sorry this isn’t very clear, but it worked! This was BP –Before Pinterest). Once the kids could see the front of the books they stopped pulling them ALL off the shelves. I’ve seen some forward-facing rain gutter shelves too. Gotta love Pinterest!


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