3 Ways to Organize the Books in Your Home Library

3 Ways to Organize Books

For book lovers, the problem of how to store and organize books is ever present. By books here, I mean the print variety. I’ll talk in a future post about organizing ebooks.

Books are heavy and take up lot’s of room. But, books are also treasures to those of us who love them and so are things we part with only reluctantly. Hence the problem of where to put them all and how to organize them effectively.

Here are three common ways of organizing your books, along with my preferred method (or methods, as you’ll see).


This is what you’re used to at Barnes & Noble or your local library. Usually it’s done by author’s last name, then book title. The advantage of this is the ease of finding a particular work. However, this is best suited for very large collections of books and is more of an inventory method than a method of organization for ease of usage. Another downside to this method is the difficulty of adding new volumes. Done correctly, there’s technically only one spot for any newly acquired book, which limits your flexibility a great deal – something that’s important unless you have unlimited shelf space. Nonetheless, many book lovers still use this method even with home libraries.


Putting your books on the shelf in the way that is most visually pleasing. While this sounds a bit shallow, especially for those who love books for their content, there’s a part of every bibliophile that loves a beautiful binding. If you have some nicer books or some rare or antique books you don’t reference that often, this may be the way to go. I have a couple of sets of Franklin Library books quarter-bound in leather as well as some fully leather bound art books that I’ve had for over 30 years. I keep these arranged attractively in the book cases in our living room. The downside to this method is the difficulty in finding a particular title when you need it since there’s not always a connection between the aesthetic and the logical.

By Type

For the books in my office, the ones I use most often, this is the method I prefer. I have all the Bibles in one section (I have several translations of the Bible), all history, all Old Testament Theology, etc. You can go as broad or as narrow as you like.  For example, there can be a history section or an Early Medieval History section within a larger history grouping.  It all depends on how many books you have, how much space you have and how much time you want to put into your system.

What method works best for you when organizing your home library?

4 Replies to “3 Ways to Organize the Books in Your Home Library”

  1. I combine the alphabetical with the topical. Until last year it was really just Christian books and everything else. Now it’s Fiction, Christian Living (whatever that means), Theology, Philosophy, OT studies, NT studies (those are by Biblical book order), Art, Science, History, Biography, and General Non-Fiction. I think it’s possible to tell exactly how someone views books by how they are stored/placed in their home.

  2. I have a “Christian Living” category on my Kindle and as you say, it’s meaning is a bit nebulous. For me, it’s kind of a catch-all for things that are not pure theology or Bible study type resources but are still concerned with Christian themes, discipleship, etc.

    I agree that you can tell a lot about how a person views books by seeing how they store them. I often think though that the collection of books that looks the least organized to an outsider is likely the one that is most used by the owner. 🙂

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