Filling One Last Bookcase

Earlier this week I inherited a beautiful antique bookcase from an online friend* who, we learned only recently, lived just 20 minutes away. She has to shed some furniture to move to London, and very kindly thought of me. This is the last major item we could possibly fit in our house, but I was happy to accept because it’s so much nicer than any of our Ikea shelving units. It has the kind of mahogany detail that looks like it could belong on a ship’s wheel.

My goals for the extra shelving space were to be able to keep genres together, to eliminate double stacking where possible, to put all books out on display instead of having some away in an overflow crate, and perhaps to free up the tops of a couple units for knick knacks, etc.

It was a multi-step process undertaken with military precision. Can you tell I used to work in a library?

  • Reincorporate Short Stories into General Fiction
  • Double-stack the already-read Fiction in the bedroom, leaving the more presentable books at the front; create a Signed Copies area
  • Move Poetry in with Classics, double-stacking and putting some books on their sides to make more space; create a Classics priority area, with one book per month chosen for the rest of 2018
  • Move oversize Science and Nature, Graphic Novels, Children’s Books, and Coffee Table Books (which, because they’re buried under magazines and newspapers on the coffee table shelf, we never look at) onto the bottom shelf of the new bookcase
  • Move all Life Writing (biographies/memoirs), which had been split across a few rooms, onto one bookcase in my study
  • Add a selection of Travel and Literary Reference to fill the built-in shelves of my desk, joining Reference and Humor
  • Integrate Science and Nature, previously kept separate, into one bookcase

Unread fiction is mostly on the hall bookcase, with an area on the bottom shelf for upcoming projects so I can see what’s awaiting me. I’m keeping these in rough date order from left to right: bibliotherapy prescriptions, possibilities for Reading Ireland month, novellas for November, etc.

However, there are a handful of annoying hardback and trade paperback novels that are just that little bit too tall to fit here, so these have formed a partial shelf on the antique case. I’ve also set aside there the book(s) that I think might be included in my Best of 2018 list and a growing stash of Wellcome Book Prize 2019 hopefuls.

You would never believe it, but I think I need more books! Good thing we have a trip planned to Wigtown, Scotland’s Book Town, for the first week of April. In any case, it’s better to have room to grow into than to already be at capacity or overfull. I can always reshuffle as time goes on if I decide I don’t want any double stacking upstairs or if we ever manage to bring back more of my library from America.

From Book Riot I got the idea of making a personal “hold shelf” of books you own and have been meaning to read. So far I only have four books set aside, arranged as a sort of buffet atop the hall bookcase. Perhaps later I’ll replace this with a full shelf on the antique bookcase. Other ideas for the empty space there would be showcasing my most presentable fiction, or creating a favorites shelf. This was suggested by Paul and corroborated by The Novel Cure, which suggests pulling out the 10 books you love most and are likely to turn to for inspiration.


*If you’re on Instagram, you must check her out. She is a #bookstagram pro: @beth.bonini.


How do you organize your bookshelves?

34 thoughts on “Filling One Last Bookcase

    1. I’ve been able to free up space on my bedside table such that it now has two sensible shelves: one for review copies in date order, and one for library books in the order in which I want to read them.


  1. I’m in awe! My shelves were once beautifully ordered but it’s become a case of cramming things in where I can and much head scratching about what has to go to the charity shop when that really can’t be done. My academic partner is threatening me/flagging up his ever increasing ‘library’ at work but I’m sticking my head in the sand and my fingers in my ears over that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a great blessing to receive the new bookcase! I dream of living in a home where there are myriad built-in shelves, because I now need another bookcase myself.

    I have organized topically according to my interest/area of ministry: Womanhood Marriage and Family Parenting Biography/Autobiography Christian Living Author Collections — Gerald Durrell, Jan Karon, James Herriot, etc. Devotionals Bible Study Misc. — too many, I confess Cookbooks — so many, I have 1 bookcase dedicated to them

    Madame Librarian, you have nothing to be ashamed of. I laud you!

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Most of my books are in complete disarray these days. Not sure when that happened, or when I’ll get around to doing something about it. I’m quite liking the chaos! I did implement a holding shelf though, such as you’ve described. It certainly helps!


    1. Some people function very well with chaos! I like knowing exactly where a book will be. It must be my librarian training. I’m glad to hear the holds shelf idea has worked well for you. I think in future weeks I may expand it and put it down on the new (old!) bookcase as a way of featuring new arrivals and encouraging myself to pick them up.


  4. The new bookcase is beautiful. I am in the process of mulling over a new bookcase for the only space I have for one, one side of the bathroom door. That will then hold my pretty books and more of my books about books, allowing my Iris Murdoch first editions to move up their bookcase so as not to be so near the floor. I have non-fiction downstairs and fiction up top, with the TBR and pretty books / books about books on the middle floor. In genre pretty well, though I have a “Cool books” shelf for weird non-fiction that doesn’t fit anywhere. I also have piles of books to be shelved, a space in fiction but not enough access to the fiction shelves to shift them around, and piles of books to register for BookCrossing, this last set of sets of books is annoying me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like your “Cool books” idea. I have a small general nonfiction area for books that don’t quite fit anywhere else. It comes between Travel and Cats for some reason! I wish I had a nicer place to display my literary reference books — perhaps that’s another option for the antique case.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I wouldn’t say the British Library would approve my categorisation. But I was a library assistant on leaving school, so I just know it, even now, pretty well.


  5. I approach book organization much as I would table seating (if I ever had parties that needed organized seating), that is by placing those I imagine would have interesting conversations next to each other. The result looks perfectly sensible to me but is probably rather impenetrable to everyone else…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I could pretend that I have all my bookshelves organised used but though I have tri d to do this it always ends up a mess. I organised them once according to categories of classics/booker winners/crime/historical fiction/world lit but it Didn’t last long. So then I tried alphabetical which failed miserably when I bought new books and had to totally rearrange th shelves to accommodate the newcomers. So now I just separate read from unread.

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  7. Wow, that is precise. One of Gretchen Rubin’s “Secrets of Adulthood” is to always keep one empty shelf. So you could try that. I’ve never been able to do that, but I aspire to one day! 🙂

    As for my books, they’re in total disarray. I don’t keep many books, actually, for someone who reads as much as I do. I only keep books I think I might actually read again. So after I read a book, I make a determination on whether or not I want to keep it. I have only three sets of shelves and a tiny house, so space is at a premium! And my bookshelves also house papers and boardgames and DVDs. Yeah, it’s kind of chaotic. But I’m okay with that! One day, when we get a bigger house, I’d love to have some proper shelves. Built-in shelves have been my dream.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d forgotten that tip of hers. It seems like a sensible idea, but I’d want the empty shelf to be somewhere inconspicuous. Actually, the bottom shelf of my hall bookcase is almost empty right now, so maybe I won’t add anything else to it.

      I noticed that your physical TBR seems pretty short for a big reader. I guess since you’re at the library every day you might as well get most of your reading material from there!

      I would love built-in shelves too.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Lovely! I have recently started using what was an empty bottom shelf in the hall for “next” reads, a mix of my own books and library loans (which I have been trying to finish with in a single loan period for the last year or so, after a lifetime of max-renewing). It’s been getting more and more full each month for the past three months; I’m starting to think that I’ve already outgrown those good intentions.

    I love your old Duncton Wood copies; I no longer have mine. And I am curious about that massive green-spined Virago. Is it one of the PIlgrimage volumes? I feel like I know it (have it) but can’t quite decipher it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s what my “hold shelf” (the top of the hall bookcase) looks like at the moment: a mixture of review copies, project reads and library books that I’ll be picking up soon. At some point I will probably convert it into a proper shelf.

      My husband read the whole Duncton Wood series as a child. These are his copies, some quite battered. I will try at least one, as I loved Watership Down and the Brian Jacques books as a child so may like these as well.

      I think the Virago you’ve spotted is Deerbrook by Harriet Martineau, which I bought secondhand ages ago after I learned of her connections with the Brontes, but have not read yet.


      1. Ah, yes, that’s it exactly! Thank you for solving the mystery for me. I haven’t read it yet, but I was intrigued and searched a number of second-hand shops before finally lucking out. (And, then, have successfully ignored it on my own shelves for years. *rolls eyes at self*)

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I love your new bookshelf, and reading about your organizing ideas/plans! My books are mostly jumbled. But I have tried to keep my Canadian books together on the same shelves. That’s something, anyway. I also have a few piles of “want to read soon”, but these usually remain just as untouched as the rest of the unread books. (My reading is a mystery to even myself!) I also have a pile on the windowsill in the kitchen that are 1) review books sent to me 2) books recently read that I want to write about, and 3) library books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, the making of “soon” piles can backfire 😉 I keep piles of review books and library books on my bedside table shelves, and the pile of the books I’ve read and need to write up is next to my old PC. It was rather a teetering stack this morning, so I went through four of them…but there are plenty more to get to this afternoon!

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