Book Club

There are better ways to organize your bookshelf

Grace Schutte

More stories from Grace Schutte

May 10, 2023

What started out as a random book thrift in Vancouver, Canada turned into one of my favorite reads of the year.

Back when I was living at home with my bookshelf — and my parents, too, I guess, but we’re not focusing on them right now — I would reorganize it when I was stressed and looking to procrastinate. 

Now that we’re amid midterms and the nearest break seems so terribly far away, I am pining for my bookshelf, dying to take down all my books, scatter them across my room and cultivate the newest, most aesthetic way to display them. 

I always felt the conversation surrounding ways to organize bookshelves has been pretty dry, so I’ve decided to be the change I want to see in the world. Very profound, I know. So, here are some ways to go about it: the good, the bad, and the aesthetic. 


Yes, I’m getting this out of the way first.  

Now, there’s nothing technically “wrong” with arranging your books this way — I’ve done it many times before — but it’s 2021. We can do better. The books deserve better. 

One of my qualms with the rainbow spread is most YA books — and let’s be real, that’s, like, 90% of my collection — have a darker cover for their first book, a more neutral-toned middle one, and a flaming red or orange finale (see “Divergent,” “Maze Runner” and “Harry Potter” for example). 

This means all the first books are going to be lost to the bottom, collecting dust and in the literal shadow of the rest of the shelf. Again, they deserve better. 

If you aren’t an avid YA reader there’s also a good chance you don’t have as many vibrant books, thus diminishing the rainbow effect. 

In its defense, if you want to show your Pride — pride with a capital “p” — this is a great way to do it, especially in June

Vibe Check

Ah yes, a much better way to utilize color. Before throwing books on the shelves all willy-nilly, take a moment to reflect on the vibes you want the bookshelf to emulate. 

For instance, if the room has a particular color scheme, consider putting books that match that specific palate toward the top and the others toward the bottom. There is also the option to put them behind more aesthetic books or turn them around so the white pages show instead. 

Think of the bookshelf as a blank canvas, waiting to be painted on. 

Wow — cringe. Anyways. 

Apply this trick to the seasons, too. Hot Girl Summer is no more — Sad Girl Fall is finally here. In preparation, I’ve weeded out my bright books and turned them around to accentuate the darker ones. I now have a spooky, dark academia-esk look that I’m living for. 


This is a classic. It’s a little boring, a little unpredictable, but a great way to get that naturally disheveled look with mismatching heights.

By emotion

You’ve heard of organizing by genre, but have you heard of organizing by emotion? This one is pretty elite if I do say so myself. 

But beware! The process can cause emotional PTSD by unearthing potentially traumatic books, unspeakable character deaths and unforgivable endings. 

Here are some shelves I’ve had in the past:

  • This is actually a ray of sunshine 
  • My face just fell off, this was so freaking good
  • I will only respond to “Scholastic Book Fair Queen” from now on 
  • Never speak to me again, I’m in mourning
  • Spicy enchilada 

I won’t list which books I’ve banished to the bottom shelves so as not to preemptively spoil anyone.

For those of you thinking, “What if half of my collection is books I haven’t read yet?” don’t worry — I’m the same way. You can group these together into a “To Be Determined” or “Pending” shelf. 

General Tips

Don’t feel obligated to only stand your books up — play around with stacks every once in a while. Also, if there is a particular book that deserves more time in the spotlight, have it face forward. It’s a good way to spice up the display and draw the eye to the, particularly stunning covers. 

Put knick-knacks on your shelves. I love having random treasures I’ve found on mine: rocks and leaves and little cards from friends — all of these make my shelves personable to me and serve as a sort of treasure chest in more ways than one. 

Come up with your own style! There are infinite ways to organize your bookshelf — you can turn all the books around for a completely white look. It might be hard to find the one you’re looking for unless you know it like the back of your hand, but hey, it could be cool! 

New ideas are always welcome — feel free to comment some below. 

Schutte can be reached at [email protected]