What Your Book Organization Style Says About You

by Kaitlin Stainbrook

Every bibliophile worth her salt knows one thing to be true: You can tell a lot about a person by looking at her bookshelves. You might start by searching for your own personal favorites, like maybe Harry Potter (natch) or Pride and Prejudice (swoon). Then you pick up on other patterns among the spines. Is she a major Sarah Dessen fan? Does she have a small collection of cracked Shakespeare paperbacks from college? Has she dipped her toes into the awesome world of graphic novels yet? These are important observations to make — otherwise how else are you going to know what books you need to recommend? (And what books you might be able to borrow later?)

Of course, getting an accurate read on your fellow book-hoarder's preferences isn't just about the individual titles she's chosen to shelve in her home library (although that's definitely important, too). It's also about how she's chosen to display them. A bookcase with double-shelved books says something way different about the person who's organized it than a bookcase that's color-coded, for instance.

Want to see what I mean? To find out what your bookshelves say about you, keep reading.

Alphabetized By Author Last Name

You either currently work or used to work in a bookstore, and have learned the noble art of alphabetization. No mumbling the alphabet song under your breath to figure out if "R" comes before or after "S" — you have it down pat. It took forever to alphabetize all those books, but you were willing to put in the hard work and now every time you pass your bookshelves, you feel a deep sense of pride. When you set a goal, no matter how arbitrary, you don't give up until you reach it. Your dedication is partially due to being a workhorse, but you also just really like when things are straightforward, whether it's getting from Point A to Point B, having candid conversations, or even keeping your books in alphabetical order. Some people might accuse you of being boring, but you know what works. Why fix what isn't broken?

Books By Genre

Sure, you might get a little carried away sometimes, but you always have a grand plan and are willing to stick to it, no matter what. Does this mean you tend to make things harder than they have to be? Definitely. And are you super-stubborn? Oh yeah. But this just comes with the territory of being a book-hoarder, and you're ready to meet any and all organizational challenges. (As you've already explained to your friends, it's simple. Fiction and nonfiction have their own separate bookcases, and within those two categories you have books divided by genre or topic. Easy. Sort of.) But at least now you have the perfect excuse to buy more books: How else are you going to fill out your selection of titles about conjoined twins?

Rainbow Bookshelves

Some people stick to the established order of things, but that's not you at all. You're the creative type and love thinking outside the box. Who wants to be beholden to the boring old alphabet or divide books by preconceived notions of genre, when there are so many cooler ways to organize your home library? And although having The Hunger Games trilogy in three different places may drive your book-borrowing roommate up the wall, you love the attention (positive or negative) your bookcase gets when you have friends over. You've always liked being the quirky one in your friend group. And if people think your bookshelves are colorful, they should see your wardrobe! Not everybody will get your artistic vision, but you don't mind. You've never been one to worry about being universally understood and you know there's a method to the madness. (Besides, no one could understand why you liked to organize Smarties by color as a kid, either.)

The Author Shrine

When you love something (or someone), you don't hold back. And that's okay! You live by the phrase, "Go big or go home," and don't believe in the concept of guilty pleasures. You love sincerely and never apologize for it. And although you know you tend to come on too strong sometimes and that can send some objects of your affection running for the hills, you can't help it. And while some people might question your obsession with buying multiple sets of the Harry Potter series in languages you don't speak, or raise their eyebrows at your Rainbow Rowell books (what, like you were supposed to ignore that special edition of Fangirl?), you're not ashamed about your passions. Life is too short, and you have too many editions of The Fault in our Stars to collect, anyway.

By The Stack

OK, you'll fess up: You saw this on Pinterest once and thought it looked cool. But who needs bookcases, anyway? You're a minimalist by nature, and hate being tied down by people and things. While this attitude does help de-clutter your life, it can also get you into trouble sometimes, especially when you start culling your Facebook friend list (100 is just a nice number, whatever). And although stacking your books into higher and higher towers turns finding your dog-eared copy of Lean In for Graduates into a dangerous game of Jenga, you like the aesthetic of books gone rogue. Plus, as it turns out, stacks of books make great furniture in and of themselves. (Now you can get rid of your couch.)


Pull a few books off your bookshelf and you'll find... even more books. Double-shelving your books started out as a space-saving measure, but now you can't imagine doing things any other way. Besides, it's fun having secret books tucked away, and it fits your own personality: You keep a lot hidden beneath the surface, too. This makes you hard to get to know, because someone who's just known you for a few months wouldn't realize that you're actually hilarious, or that you're fluent in Korean. You've thought about not playing it so close to the chest all the time, but the idea of being more immediately forthcoming with other people scares you to death. Besides all that, you also have a small tendency to procrastinate. What else can explain why you haven't bought more bookcases yet?

No Organization

No one can tell you what to do! You've never been the kind of person to blindly follow authority. In fact, most of the time, if you're told to do something, you do the opposite, just to prove a point. To the untrained eye, it may seem as though you don't care about the books in your life, but you do care, deeply. It's just hard for you to show it sometimes. You can be kind of tough to read when it comes to love, and are worried that you'll look silly if you seem too invested. (Er, we're still talking about books, right?) You embrace life's messiness and besides, you can totally find that signed copy of Oryx and Crake. No problem. It has to be around here somewhere...

Images: charlotte holmes, gpoo, lkbm Flickr; @bookshelfporn_/Instagram (2), @disdainbrook, @aliceinframes, @bookbrews/Instagram