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Organising books

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  • Organising books

    How do you guys organise your books? I've just been through all my books and realised that there's lots that I can get rid of (pass on to friends, donate etc) and lots I want to keep. Of the ones I'm keeping, there are ones I'd like to be able to refer to in the future (dictionaries etc and books about projects I'll start some day), ones I haven't read and would like to read, and ones I've read and would like keep to read again some day.

    I've made a list of books I want to read soon, and organised the other books on my shelf by subject so I can find them easily when I need to refer to them. Not quite sure what to do with monthly magazines, I guess I will add them to my 'currently reading' list.

    So I was just interested to hear how some of you organise your books - any suggestions or feedback would be very much appreciated.


  • #2
    Organizing Organizing Books

    Everytime I organize my organizing books, I run into the same problem. I pick up the first book, and it tells me to organize the books one way. So I pick up the second book to put it away, but it tells me that books should be organized another way. The third book doesn't give the same advice as the first two, and so on. So my organizing books are totally disorganized. My question is: how do I get my books to stop talking to me?


    Remember: a man with one organizing book always knows what organization is, but a man with two is never quite sure.


    • #3 categories

      Since I buy most of my books from, I use their subject categories to organize my books. I also use software from which allows me to import my book/cd/video purchases from Amazon for cataloging purposes. It also comes with a barcode reader so I can scan and catalog my other purchases. Hope this helps.


      • #4
        Book Organization

        First of all, I commend to you "The Book on the Bookshelf" by Henry Petroski, Knopf, 1999 It's a history of solutions to your problem beginning before books were sold in bound form.

        My conclusion (yours may be different) was that Borders and Barnes & Noble have it right. Their organization scheme and their shelving systems are a model for my own ideal library; they organize alphabetically by subject.

        We have thousands of volumes here in our home and hundreds more in our office, so this subject is important in our home. Right now our books are shelved by subject in four separate areas and it works pretty well for us.

        Since I only own about a dozen organizing books, the detailed order on the shelf isn't important. As a practical matter, I can see them all at once and that's good enough.

        In a similar vein (well, sort of) each year I buy 15 new pairs of black socks and throw away the previous year's set. Since they're identical, there's no need to sort and pair them after laundering. They all get dumped into the front of the sock drawer and when I dress in the morning I simply take any two socks from the drawer, knowing I'll have a matched pair. What a timesaver -- both incoming and outgoing. Well, the same thing for small groups of books. Any order will do because it won't slow my retrieval time in any measurable way.

        Sometimes simple is actually the most sophisticated and practical solution.

        isn't that a GTD principle?


        • #5
          My books are grouped by subject. Computer, RPG, education, sketching, magic/sleight of hand, series (Star Wars, Dr. Who, etc.), recreation, reference.

          It's not formal but I just try to keep similar topics together on the shelves. It may not look like a system to anyone else, but I can find things easily.


          • #6
            Average number of books question

            I remember overhearing that the average person in the Netherlands has five books. I can't find a link anywhere, though. So, does anybody know of some statistics on this? (Defintively doesn't have to be from the Netherlands!)

            My wife and me collectively own about 1000 books (most second hand, luckily), so that would take some 200 bookless couples to even out the score. Which seems a bit unrealistic. I mean, imagining people without books... The horror, the horror...

            Just curious,



            • #7
              My problem is finding a place for books that were, when I first read them, significant milestones in my reading.

              It is impossible to throw away such books, yet it would seem like a huge backward step to consider reading them again.

              Equally dispiriting are the books I have held, unread, for many years, and now realise that I have probably outgrown them –they are like lost lives.

              So, organizing books for me can be like stratifying the stages of my life, and more precisely, giving part of my life a decent burial.

              What I need is a progressive, challenging, rewarding reading program for the months and the years ahead that will be stretch me the way earlier landmark books stretched me.

              (But is this why we read? Are books not ultimately to be like old friends, said he, completely contradicting his initial point?).


              • #8
                How about organizing books by the color of their cover? Start with black books, then go from red through violet, and end with white books. Not only would it look nice on the shelf, but also all you would have to do to find a book would be to visualize it. No more grasping to remember titles!

                How about organizing books by size? This system would make it easy to put big books and little books onto shelves that would fit them best.

                P.S. I am not a kook.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Busydave
                  What I need is a progressive, challenging, rewarding reading program for the months and the years ahead that will be stretch me the way earlier landmark books stretched me.
                  Did you add this to your projects list and put a next action on your context lists?


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by spring
                    P.S. I am not a kook.
                    I'm with you Spring. I organize my books on the shelves so that they look nice to me. Sometimes they look like this:




                    If I had more keyboard options, I could show you more of my architectural configurations.

                    I also keep Books to Read and Books I've Read reference lists in the memo application of my Palm.


                    • #11
                      Organising books

                      I group books by subject, but it's sort of free-association. My collection of cookbooks goes in the room nearest the kitchen. I associate cooking with home and garden, so books about gardening and home repair go near the cookbooks. Books about nature and birds go near the gardening books, and since these are all reference books, dictionaries etc. go on the same set of shelves.

                      The shelves in the guest room contain novels, including various mysteries and light fiction, since I figure guests might need something to read. I also put books about the local area in the guest room. By association, other travel books go on the same set of shelves, and so on.

                      But on each shelf, I arrange them so that they look pleasing to me.