To me, bookshelves are a massive talking point when you go to someone’s home. It’s where I gravitate to, after I’ve kissed the hostess hello and collected my glass of wine. The rest of them can go and do what they want, but I head to the bookshelves!

The way they are arranged are intensely personal and they can tell you a lot about that individual. Not just by the books they read, but the way they are placed on the shelf. It’s then, that those bookshelves go from being a private thing to a hotly discussed topic. Everyone sets up their books differently.

My bookshelves are the exact image of me! I start off well and have them arranged by author, size of book and so on, but like me, nothing lasts and they are now crammed full, highly disorganised, every piece of shelf room taken, to the point where they overflow. I think I have about three piles of books on the floor. Okay, so the direct link to me there is that my life is full, I’m disorganised, never know where anything is (I’m sure socks, cheque books and important things grow legs in my house!) and slightly crazy. You heard it here first!

And like the rest of my house, the shelves are covered in dust, cobwebs and I do believe in this photo I spotted a box of fishing lights. But I can tell you, that I have great pleasure in spending time with my shelves. I love running my fingers along the spines of books and picking out my favourites. It’s like visiting old friends. They are intensely calming to me, a great reference and I spend a lot of time amongst my books.

My friend Cal should have been a librarian. Listen to this: I have all the books of one author together (and usually in order of published date!), other than that I try to put like books together. So all my parenting books are together, history books together etc.

They do say opposites attract!

I thought I’d ask a few of my friends how their shelves are organised.

Bern Morley from

OH you don’t want to know.  Like the rest of my chaotic life, my bookcase doesn’t even exist!  I just have piles.  I meant to replace it after we moved, but I’m kind of hanging out until I win the lotto and then I’ll buy a house that has a library that has a sliding ladder to reach the high ones.

Kerri Sackville from When My Husband Does the Dishes fame says : So here’s the thing: I love books, but I am not at all precious about them. I read books and dog-ear their pages and underline bits and don’t worry if they get stained or worn. They are there to be enjoyed! So my bookshelf reflects that. I try to keep books by the same author together, but basically they’re all just stuffed on the shelves wherever they will fit, and piled on each other where they don’t. They look used. They look enjoyed. And that’s what I like.

Lisa Heidke (this is her bookshelf above) who has written three books, Claudia’s Big Break, being the latest, says her bookshelves are overflowing! “My bookshelves used to be well organised – as in neat! But never stacked in alphabetical order or grouped according to genre, width, height and colour! I’m not anal and besides, don’t have the time.

However, now, because I have run out of space, they are stacked haphazardly – again with no rhyme or reason – on floors, bedside tables, the kitchen bench…you name it, there are books everywhere. I really need to get my act together and cull, but I can’t bear the thought of giving them away.”

Kylie Ladd, author of After the Fall, and with a new book out in July, and who makes me routinely fall about in hysterics thinks this: I am an extremely organised and methodical person- I plan my novels and my days compulsively, and use spreadsheets for everything… but my book shelves don’t really reflect this. They’re not a mess (heaven forbid!) but they aren’t alphabetical or by size/colour…. instead I simply have them classed by personal preference. I write opposite a full length wall-to-floor-to-wall-to-wall bookshelf my husband had designed and built for me, and at eye level are simply my favourite books of all time: The Great Gatsby, Beloved, The English Patient, Voss, We Need To Talk about Kevin, The Raw Shark Texts, Wuthering Heights, Crossing to Safety, Sunnyside, Careless, The Life of Pi, Gould’s Book of Fish, The Slap, Breath, The Man Who Loved Children, The Virgin Suicides, Dubliners, The Norton Anthology, Garp, Gilead, Portrait of a Lady… it’s a total mix, but seeing those books (and others) cheers and inspires me. Above and below that the shelves are sorted by genre (poetry, Shakespeare, 17th century, 18 century, Australian, American, etc.) and by author, but the middle three rows are just for me. A book has to earn its spot there and there is fierce competition!

I really believe that Cal and Kylie should meet!

Now this is the first of a few bookshelf posts. Next up (sometime this week) will be Cate Pearce, Robyn Lane, Margareta Osborn, Karly Lane, Booktopia, Helene Young and Fiona Palmer – there might be more yet!

So tell me, how do you organise your shelf and what’s in it!

Comments 0

  1. I am pretty OCD about my books. They have to go in alphabetical order by surname and genre. But as i have many many books, they do overflow onto the floor now and again. They have to be in order though otherwise it drives me nuts.

  2. I LOVE my books and the shelves are overflowing with them. Because we renovated recently I took the opportunity to reorganise them a bit and they are mainly there by genre. But i do have a new shelf with books by authors I have had the thrill of meeting and I happily placed your books on that one 2 weeks ago.
    I stayed at someone’s house recently (also an author) and she had a stack of books piled from floor to ceiling with an object perched on top. I have no idea how it didn’t all topple over and am determined to replicate the idea myself.

  3. Out in JULY!!!
    I wish I’d sent you a pic now Fleur. My bookshelves are havens of organisation and order compared to some of the shamozals in this post 😉

  4. I started out by ordering my books by author, but as the shelves filled up I have had to arrange them by size … but I still try to keep all books by an author on the same shelf! My books are arranged vertically and horizontally as it helps me keep authors together as well as freeing up limited space. I like things to be organised and a new book often requires a shuffle of books and positions of authors!!!

  5. Sadly my bookshelf is quite empty. I moved house 12 months ago and amputated my books from my being aka had a MASSIVE cull. At the time I was obviously suffering from temporary (some might say not so temporary) insanity only concentrating on the mammoth task of moving them all.

    Once moved I was bereft with such a small quantity so have undertaken a collection phase which has served to introduce me to many wonderful new authors such as yourself.

    The silver lining.

    Note: Kylie Gatsby of course survived the cull. I think I may be buried with him.

  6. My bookshelves are a LOT like yours. Full to over-flowing. Heart-breakingly, I had to cull a LOT when we moved into a smaller house recently, but they’re filling up quickly again. When I moved they were all in a nice order – my books, hubby’s books, kids books – now they’re just jammed in any old how, but I love them all 🙂

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