How to Make Your Library a Subject of Bookshelf Envy

Do you dream of a home library? What’s your preference? Dark wood paneling and floor to ceiling bookcases? A more modern ladder bookshelf? Or a more decorative library? The lighting? So many pieces go into planning a library, especially when talking about a personal library. But what about the books? Here are ways to organize your books and make your library a subject of bookshelf envy.

Image of stacks in Trinity College Library in Dublin is an example of books arranged by the dewey decimal system a way to make your library a subject of bookshelf envy
Trinity College Library, Dublin

The Library Method

Traditional libraries use the Dewey Decimal System. This system organizes books by ten large general classifications. Each of those have 100 smaller subclassifications. A number represents each of those classifications. 

  • 000-099 general works
  • 100-199 philosophy and psychology
  • 200-299 religion
  • 300-399 social sciences
  • 400-499 language
  • 500–599, natural sciences and mathematics; 
  • 600–699, technology; 
  • 700–799, the arts; 
  • 800–899, literature and rhetoric
  • 900–999, history, biography, and geography. 

This system works well in large nonfiction libraries and can work well in smaller, personal libraries, too. Learn more about the Dewey Decimal System.

But you must know the number system well and or have a card catalog or app in order to find the proper book.


The easiest way to organize your library is alphabetically by Author or Title. 

But what if you don’t remember either? Once again you must have a card catalog or app. Or a friend who remembers. 

Like a Designer

Books arranged on shelves by color like these is one way to Make Your Library a Subject of Bookshelf Envy

You can, if you wish, organize your library by cover colors or the size of the book. It makes for an esthetically pleasing space. And that can definitely Make Your Library a Subject of Bookshelf Envy. But good luck finding a specific title. It also broadcasts that you don’t really read those books.

Usage Method

Often the best way to organize personal books is the way you use them. Mom’s books in her favorite reading space and Dad’s in his. Cookbooks in the kitchen. Do-it-yourself books in the workshop. And baby’s books in their room.

The Stack-It-Any-Way-You Can Method

This is often a method used by creative types who read a lot of books. They have more books than shelf space. You cram books into every corner, every shelf, and every flat surface.

The Impress Your Friends Library

In this library, you’ll find the books everyone says you should read. All the thick, impossible to read books. Sometimes this library also has autographed and rare books. The most impressive titles are at eye level, facing out. Once again, it’s a library that shouts you don’t really read these books.

By Category and/or Genre

This method is akin to the Dewey Decimal System, except it doesn’t use numbers. You organize your books by categories such as fiction or nonfiction. Often within that category you organize your books by the genre or subject. All space stories here and all romances there. All history books here And all philosophy books there. This can be an excellent system unless one of these genres or subjects is very large. Then you might need to organize by subcategories, author, or title. 

Catalog Apps

The days of the old card catalog system are gone. Today you can load you library online on Goodreads Or you can download an app, enter your books into the app and the app can tell you where to locate a book with that title, or author, or even subject.

Haven’t heard of catalog apps? Check out LibraryThing,, Delicious Library 3.


This method organizes your library into two separate libraries. One set of shelves houses books you have already read. Another set house unread books. You know, all those books you bought because you’re going to read it someday.

Your Library A Subject of Bookshelf Envy

Of course, the best way to make your library a subject of bookshelf envy is to have read a lot of books and to have books spilling off shelves, and tables, and any flat surface. You need to organize your library so you can find the books you want, when you want them. If it’s not organized now, perhaps some of these ideas will motivate you to get started. How have you organized your library? Do you use one of these systems or do you have one of your own?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *