What’s on My Bookshelf (and How I Arrange it by Color)


Like Anne, I if I come to your house, I’m going to be distracted by your bookshelves. I’m going to scope them out, in search of commonalities to my own stacks and new treasures.

If I see something like The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook, anything by Annie Dillard, or a biography I’ve been wanting to read, I will pester you with questions.  Or I’ll just grab the book and try not to ignore you.  Sorry.

If I see any of my favorites, you’ll have to pardon my exuberance.

Speaking of which, here they are–my most enjoyed and/or most frequently-referenced books.  And a bit about how I organize them.

Favorite Books on My Shelf

My favorites don’t usually get to hang out like this (see below for my usual organizational method), but today I got them together for a group pic.

Favorite Books1

Top: National Geographic Family Reference Atlas/Anne of the Island/Calm My Anxious Heart/The Well-Trained Mind

Left to Right: Bonhoeffer/Emily Post’s Etiquette/John Adams/Exodus/A Severe Mercy/God’s Smuggler/Surprised by Joy/Pilgrim at Tinker Creek/Girl Meets God/Taking Charge of Your Fertility/Sherlock Holmes/The Weather of the Heart/The Writing Life/Amazing Grace/Jane Eyre/Amy Carmichael: Let the Little Children Come/Bird by Bird/Jane Austen: The Complete Novels/The Chronicles of Narnia/The Hobbit/The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter

Left out: Brambly Hedge series/The House at Pooh Corner/Jack

How I Organize Them

(From a previous post, brought back in honor of today’s link-up)

When I was a child, my family owned hundreds of videos. Hundreds. I exaggerate not.

And in my nascent organizational neurosis, I cataloged them–first by genre, then alphabetically.

Looking for Abbott and Costello? How about The Hunt for Red October? (Our collection was heavy on 20s comedy and Tom Clancy).

Just ask me. I found great satisfaction in locating your film of choice within seconds.

My penchant for organizing has never left, but somewhere around ’09 it took a more aesthetic turn: I started arranging my heaps of books by color.

I probably saw the idea in a magazine and in an attempt to make the most of our limited apartment decorating budget, I began stacking our tomes in order of hue; first navy, then royal blue, then sky blue, etc.

(See? Neurosis, full-blown).

After the handmade moss ball/topiary that sits on our kitchen table, this is the feature of my home that gets the most attention. While the practice is not original, apparently it isn’t that common.

Lest you think it’s completely impractical, for the visually-oriented it works perfectly.

Because I generally remember the cover of a book, when Hubs is searching for another one of his bleak-looking economics books, I can quickly say, “America’s Great Depression? In the gray-ish section.” (Apropos, no?)

Is Jane Erye in the classics section? No, she’s hanging out next to Anne Lamott. But they’re both red, so it makes sense. Right?

Some might be confused by the juxtaposition of a duration of wonderful children’s books and a CIA agent’s memoir (see below). Me, I’m just bothered by the fact that I’m lacking a darker brown book to transition more gently to the black section.

Anyway. It works for us (me) and adds some visual interest to our numerous books shelves.

If you’re up for a little order-by-color on your own shelves, I highly recommend removing the book jackets. The spines are prettier naked.

What are your favorite books/bookshelf-arranging practices?

And check out other people’s bookshelves over at Modern Mrs. Darcy! 🙂


About Jenn

Jenn is a mommy of three and wife to her best friend. She enjoys good books, dinner guests, elevenses, and proper apostrophe use.

  • Love how you arrange your books by color! And I LOVE that hutch you use to store books. I have some of the same bookshelves featured on my bookshelf too 🙂

    • Allie, I got the bookcase at Nadeau–have you heard of it? It’s a furniture place that has great handmade imported stuff. Great prices for the quality.

  • brenda venable

    That reminds me, I need to organize our DVDs in a much more appealing fashion. I’ll send you the results asap. Many many hundreds for sure.

  • scott zarse

    I love playing with that moss ball.

  • Sarah Kerner

    It seems like lots of people organize their books by color! That would probably work for me as I’m a pretty visual person, but my husband would NEVER be able to find anything. (Of course, that’s pretty much the case anyway.) Visiting from the MMD link-up!

    • I smiled about the husband part–I wonder if that’s universal? 🙂 It is definitely the case with us.

  • Ana @ Lessons From Yesterday

    I don’t store books by color, but I love the fact that you feel you need a darker brown book between your brown and black titles! I also want to reach through the screen to look through that little blue book of famous British stories in your first picture–it’s great shade of blue. 🙂

  • I’m more of an alphabetical person…so I don’t know if the organizing by color would work for me, but it sure is pretty!!

  • I’ve always been intrigued by the organizing by color idea and I gotta say, it looks really good in practice! I’m so terrible at keeping up with any one organization method, the best I can muster most days is organizing by size.

  • I love this. And it really makes me want to come visit. And maybe rearrange my bookshelves by colour, they look really nice. I’m going to look up Nadeau, that hutch is really beautiful!

  • Yes! Mine are by color too! I haven’t done a post of mine but it looks a lot like yours–I even of Chronicles of Narnia in the black 🙂

    • Amy, I’m beginning to wonder if this method isn’t so rare after all :). It’s just that I’ve gotten so many remarks of surprise, I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one.

  • Tiffany Norris

    Love it! When I was an intern in library school, I was shocked that one of the sections of the library where I worked was arranged like this. It definitely works better in a home, I think!
    Ours used to be arranged by Dewey (again, librarian), but, with little ones running around and both my husband and me in school, it got to be too tough to maintain. They’re still loosely in order of subject, but I don’t mind a little rearranging.
    Going to post my pics tonight!

    • A library does this?! Crazy. Love that you tried to do Dewey at home! That’s awesome. 🙂

  • Amy

    I too arrange my books by color. My poor color0blind husband was not a happy camper when a little over a year into our marriage I surprised him with color-arranged book shelves. But, once he pulled out the books he wanted/was currently reading into his own special shelf, it got better. Now he just asks me where to find another book since I think of the book in terms of what it looks like so I know where it is. It’s a classic example of being surprised when your spouse doesn’t see the world like you, but if you negotiate it turns out pretty well.

  • I am also visually oriented and totally get your color coding method! 🙂 In fact, I remember the spine of a book by its color and can usually pick it out quickly. Speaking of visually oriented, we had a large group of people coming to our house that I didn’t know well and I asked my husband if it would be weird to give people name tags–because if I can see your name pinned to your dress, I’ll remember you forever. He said it would be weird, so we didn’t, but it would have helped me! I need that visual image. 🙂 Great post.

  • I love this- and especially thanks for the list of your favorites.! If you visited my bookshelves I have a feeling “much exuberance” would abound. I love seeing Narnia on everyone’s shelves. I didn’t realize it until I prepared for this link up, but we have a copy of the Narnia series on every book shelf in our house!

    • Amy, would love to see your shelves! And you never can have too much Narnia, right? 🙂 I pretty much want to live there.

  • I am reading Bird by Bird now. Love it 🙂 I agree with Allie, beautiful hutch! We have Nadeau here in Charleston. For some reason, I thought it was the one of its kind.

    • Oh, I love Bird by Bird! I bought it before I even had the courage to tell people I liked writing (let alone call myself a writer :)).

      Thankfully, Nadeau is all over! We bought our dining table there in Dallas and 2 years later bought matching-ish chairs in Chicago.

      You are living my husband’s dream there in Charleston. We love that town. 🙂

      • I’ll have to snoop around your blog more to learn how you went from big cities to Farm Town! We so love Charleston, although we landed here knowing very little about it. Look me up if you ever come to town!

        • The short story is my husband’s job. 🙂 I’m originally from Texas, but we’ve hopped back and forth between it and the Midwest for school and work.

          His parents retired to SC, so Charleston’s actually not too far off the map for us :).

  • I love how books arranged by color look, but as a former librarian organizing by subject is too ingrained! Maybe I’ll take the plunge and start with my cookbooks-they usually have such pretty spines 🙂 And I adore the fact that you’re wishing for a dark brown book to transition to the black section-you’re a kindred spirit for sure!

    • Moira, I can imagine the color thing being a bit much for a librarian–cookbooks sound good :).

  • Anna @ Come Hither and Stay

    The shelves look pretty! The only books I can manage to arrange that way are my cookbooks – somewhat – I’m just too much of a classic librarian I guess. But I do keep my clothes organized by the rainbow. And art supplies. And other things. It’s such a lovely way to make the ordinary beautiful.

    • Oh, you’re so right, Anna–it is just making the ordinary beautiful. I love that thought.

  • Mimi@stateofhospitality

    Several on your list are favorites of mine as well. But I have a question, what do you do with your book jackets? Do you store them? Throw them away? I’ve only taken a few of mine off because I couldn’t decide what to do with the jackets.

    • I used to keep them in a stack somewhere because it seemed wrong to just trash them…until the stack got fairly large and my purging tendencies took over :). So yes, they were recycled.

      I thought about doing some kind of craft/kids’ project that involved using them, but I’ve yet to come across anything that seemed worth the effort :).

  • Ali Jane

    Thank-you so much for sharing, I love your colour arranging! I’m now on a mission to see how many copies of your Narnia omnibus I can spot – including my own, I’m up to 3 so far!

  • Anne Bogel

    Annie Dillard! I knew I liked you. 🙂 (Although to be honest, I haven’t liked her recent works nearly as much as the earlier ones.)

    I love the way books look organized by color, but I can’t bring myself to do it to my own shelves. At least not yet. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your collection with us!

    • I think I’ve just read her older stuff actually. I refer to Pilgrim at Tinker Creek almost monthly :).

      Thanks for hosting the link-up! It was one of my favs.

  • KimberlyCoyle

    Beatrix Potter, The House at Pooh Corner…these need to be on my shelves immediately!

    • Yes! I enjoy few authors as much as them.

      I recently discovered Kindle apps that read Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin–with the original illustrations and British-accented narrators and everything. I just hope my three-year-old is as excited as I am :).

  • Love how you arrange by color! It looks beautiful! I arrange by genre, but color is definitely appealing to me! 🙂 Big fan of The Well-Trained Mind, and I see several other favorites on your shelves as well! This is a super fun link-up, and I loved getting a peek at your shelves! 🙂

  • Caroline Starr Rose

    A SEVERE MERCY! I might have over praised this book to, oh, 100 people or so. A few didn’t love it as much as I did (probably from my gushing). But how can you NOT be changed by just a gorgeous read??

  • Christy

    Jen.. you must fix the title .. it is misspelled!