All booklovers have their own specific ways of organising their bookshelves. Mine has changed recently. Or more precisely I’ve managed to improve on the way my books were organised by getting rid of books that I was sure I was never going to read again and, thus, I couldn’t find a truly good reason to keep.
In recent years, I went from keeping on my shelves all the books that I read to only keeping those that I remembered enjoying, that I rated with 4 or 5 stars, or that were special 3-star reads. Those 3-star reads were books that had beautiful covers, were part of a collection, such as the Penguin English Library, featured a memorable character, had a curious structure, were written by authors whose work in general I love, or were almost 4-star reads. Almost all of those books are also now gone from my shelves.
Having more space available on my small bookshelves meant that I could organise my books in a more careful way. Before, I only separated read from unread books and kept all the books I read by the same author together. I’ve been wanting to change that for a while, but I just couldn’t find the necessary space. Now, I’m also finally organising my read books by categories.
New bookshelves’ organisation
Although my bookshelves look different now, I still have the same golden rule as before – I keep all the books I read and own by the same author together. The main difference is that they are now also organised according to ten categories:
- English classics and modern classics;
- General books written in English;
- Historical fiction written in English;
- Translated fiction (translations into Portuguese or English);
- Crime and thrillers;
- Children and Young Adult books (regardless of language);
- Lusophone literature;
- Graphic novels and heavily illustrated books;
Some books that I own could obviously fit into more than one category. So, they are placed in the one that I associate them the most with.
On the top shelf, which isn’t full yet, and on half of the second one of my first bookcase, I have my English classics and modern classics. They are not organised by publishing date, but by how best they fit together in terms of sizes. In this section, I have all the books by Daphne du Maurier, Jane Austen, William Shakespeare and the ones from the Penguin English Library collection, for example. There isn’t a single definition about which books are considered to be classics and modern classics. For me, they have to have been written by authors who have already passed away and who wrote the vast majority of their books before the 1990s.
The second category on my shelves is general books written in English. As I keep all the books I read by the same author together and some of them have written books from different genres, this is the category where those authors are accompanied by myth retellings (I didn’t know where to put them), literary and general fiction. It starts at the end of the second shelf and goes down to the third. I have books by Ian McEwan, Ali Smith, John Burnside and Margaret Atwood, etc. in this section.
I also tried to connect the various categories together when suitable. Jessie Burton’s books link the previous category to historical fiction written in English. If The Confession is mostly contemporary, The Miniaturist and The Muse are definitely historical fiction. In this section, there are books set in various time periods. The last ones are set around the time of the Second World War. The same is also true of the first book, at the moment, in the translated fiction category – The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler. The following books have been translated from various languages (German, French, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Icelandic, Korean…) into either Portuguese or English. I also have books by Paul Auster in this section, seeing that I read them translated into Portuguese and not in the original.
The next two categories are much smaller in number of books. The crime and thrillers section only consists of two or three books (I haven’t decided yet if I want Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch in this one or the translated fiction). And the children and young adult books section is just at the end of the last shelf of the first bookcase. It features books that I read when I was younger and that I decided not to part with, because I believe that I would still enjoy them if I were to reread them.
In the second bookcase, I first have fantasy books. This is where the majority of the massive books are. Thanks, George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb! Right next to them, I’ve put the Lusophone literature category. These are books originally written in Portuguese, regardless if they are classics or not. Right next to them, on the second shelf, I have two non-fiction books, which I’ll have to move somewhere else as soon as the number of books by Lusophone authors increases. On the last part of that shelf, I have a few graphic novels and heavily illustrated books and, on the opposite side, the two unread books I own at the moment.
Books I keep on my shelves
I now have a much more straightforward way of deciding whether to keep books on my shelves or not. The books I rated with either four or five stars definitely stay on my shelves. These are the books I liked or loved reading and, therefore, would recommend to other people and may want to read again. Following the same logic, I also kept the books that I read before I started awarding ratings, but that I remember highly enjoying.
Since having started to reread my old favourite books, the possibility of picking up again a book I’ve already read has become a good way to decide whether to keep certain books or not. I now only have on my shelves 3-star books that for some reason I feel that I may one day want to reread either in their entirety or just some sections of. That is the case of Cemitério de Pianos (The Piano Cemetery) by José Luís Peixoto, Sonetos by Florbela Espanca, Daphnis and Chloe by Longus, História do Cerco de Lisboa (The History of the Siege of Lisbon) by José Saramago and Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors.
As a result of this new ‘books to keep policy’, my Penguin English Library collection has been significantly reduced and almost all of the books that I was keeping because of a specific feature are now gone. It’s impressive how I don’t feel the need to hold on to books I was not generally impressed by anymore.
How do you organise your bookshelves? What books do you keep? Tell me in the comments!