How 10 Authors and BookTok Influencers Organize Their Bookshelves
Organizing books is as much an art as a science, and these bookworms prove there's more than one way to style a bookshelf
The bookworm’s guide to organizing books
Organizing books is so much more than putting tomes on a shelf. Your bookshelf styling is a reflection of your personality, priorities, hobbies and even mental state. “If my bookshelf is looking like a total mess, I feel like a mess, but a well-organized bookshelf radiates calmness, and I feel more calm,” says Anouk, a book reviewer popular on BookTok, a subcommunity of readers and book lovers on TikTok. (She requested her surname be withheld for privacy.)
The act of organizing books can also be very cathartic. “When things in my life get chaotic, that can be reflected in my living space,” says Emily Aki, another popular BookTokker. “When I’m ready for a reset, I’ll often start by cleaning up my bookshelves.”
Feeling inspired to do a little redecorating yourself? We asked book lovers for bookshelf organization ideas, and boy did they deliver. Whether you prefer to mix fiction books and nonfiction books, separate by book genre or sort by color, author or alphabet, there’s a bookshelf styling method that’ll speak to you.
Courtesy Lauryn Hickman
The bookworm: Hickman, aka @lauryns_library, is a die-hard romantic, and her more than 314,000 followers love her passionate, funny and down-to-earth book reviews. Her “life lessons I’ve learned through books” posts are super relatable.
The bookshelves: On her first bookshelf, she puts all her fantasy, thriller, historical fiction and young adult books, organizing them by genre and then author. She visually separates genres by changing the orientation of a book (“I like to put my prettiest books facing out,” she says) or by adding some type of prop or trinket. But her second bookshelf is her favorite, housing her many, many contemporary romance novels. “This bookshelf is organized by color and arranged in a rainbow,” says Hickman. “All of the paperbacks make up one rainbow along the bottom, and the hardcovers are their own rainbow on the top shelf. Black-and-white books get their own cubby.”
Pro tip: Scan your shelves monthly and remove any books you won’t read. (You can always donate your used books.) “I am constantly getting new books, so it is important that I am also filtering old books out,” she says. “It’s easy to let books just take up space, but if you are consciously aware of what is on your shelves, you can be sure you are only holding on to the books you love.”
Courtesy Christine Szeluga
The bookshelves: As a librarian, her mission is to never have to ask, “Wait, where did I put that again?” So she organizes her home library in a similar utilitarian fashion. “My fiction books are organized alphabetically by author last name, and my nonfiction collection, including autobiographies, is organized by genre or categories resembling the Dewey Decimal System but without the bias,” she says. (Check out her TikToks on how she modernizes the problematic system.)
Pro tip: Knowing how to organize a bookshelf is only the first step. You’ll need to maintain your system. Download an app that will help you manage your home library. Szeluga’s personal favorite is Libib—the basic plan is free, and you can catalog up to 5,000 books.
The bookworm: Obsessed with reading since she was 12, Bosworth (@booklifebyem) shares her favorite (and not-so-favorite) reads with her nearly 56,000 followers.
The bookshelves: Bosworth’s TikTok background is usually her beautiful and carefully organized bookshelves. Ever wondered how to style a bookcase like a true influencer? She has two firm rules when it comes to organizing her shelves: First, all books in a series must stay together, no matter what. Second, the shelves need to look aesthetically pleasing. What catches her eye? “I organize those by color, which is tricky because ROYGBIV [the colors in the rainbow] isn’t always as straightforward when it comes to book covers,” she says. “I try my hardest to color coordinate, but I am forever moving books around.”
Pro tip: Not sure where to start organizing? “Put your favorite reads where you can most easily see them,” says Bosworth. “Having my favorites at eye level makes me feel happy, increases my motivation to read and can spark a great conversation when someone else notices them. Talking about your favorite book with someone else is the best thing ever!”
courtesy Hena J. Bryan
The bookworm: Between videos of her at the gym, going out with friends, taking nature walks and doing book reviews, Bryan (@henajbryan) gives her nearly 3,000 followers an intimate view of every part of her bookish life.
The bookshelves: Bryan used to be obsessed with color-coordinating her shelves, but as she’s discovered more books that she loves, she’s switched to organizing based on her personal favorites. “Now it’s exceptionalism and exclusivity! I have a particular shelf dedicated to my favorite books ever,” she says. “Also, I love being able to say ‘and these are my favorite books ever’ when I have company over.” Beyond that shelf, she dedicates different sections to various types of books: academic texts in one section, special editions in another, and boxed sets and series in a third. She also tries to keep books by the same author together.
Pro tip: Are you into mystery books, LGBTQ+ stories or self-help books? Go ahead and put the spotlight on your favorite reads—it’ll make recommending them to pals much easier. Bryan’s biggest tip, though, is to keep it simple. “As long as the books are being read and kept out of harm’s way,” she says, “organizing your shelves doesn’t have to be so complicated.”
The bookworm: This librarian and pillar of #LibraryTikTok (you’ll find her at @em.aki) shares with her nearly 53,000 followers her passion for libraries—not just as places to get books but as important community centers.
The bookshelves: Her day job requires her to follow the library’s meticulous organization system, but at home, she’s way more easygoing when organizing books. “On my personal bookshelves, I like to organize my books based on size—tallest to shortest. In my eyes, it’s visually pleasing,” she says, adding that it doesn’t always stay that way. “I’ll switch between liking a polished, neatly organized shelf and one that looks a little worn around the edges or picked over.”
Pro tip: Mess it up a bit. “Lining books in a straight line, row after row, can look great, but it’s fun to show a bit of your personality and what you love,” Aki says. “Try displaying the cover of a book in the middle of a shelf to break things up and add some character.” (Hint: This is also one of the secrets of personal organizers.)
RD.com, Getty Images (2)
Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The bookworm: Barnes isn’t just a book lover; she’s also the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of “The Inheritance Games” series of books for teens.
The bookshelves: Over the years, Barnes has developed a detailed method of organizing books. First, she groups books by format—hardcover, trade paperback and mass market paperbacks are all separated. Within each format, she groups the books by genre. And within each genre, she organizes them by author. She’ll also sort by size. “Sorting by size allows me to store more books by stacking some formats two or three deep,” she says, “but favorite books always get front-row placement.”
Pro tip: Always have a to-be-read shelf. “I have a spot for the books I own but haven’t read yet,” Barnes says. “It may look haphazard, but it lets me walk straight to a single shelf when I’m looking for something new to read.”
Courtesy Arabella Rosier
The bookworm: Rosier (@rosierarabella) is beloved by her nearly 230,000 followers for the books she writes and her obsession with Stranger Things. She even makes and shares polymer clay displays of some of her favorite book scenes.
The bookshelves: Alphabetic organization makes things harder to find for Rosier, so she’s devised her own structure: sorting books by collection and then subject matter. “For example, I have a whole shelf dedicated to Sarah J. Maas, another to Colleen Hoover, one to mythology retellings and then, of course, a shelf where I display my own title, Silver Valley,” she explains. “But then I like to make it aesthetic—some books are stacked horizontal, some parallel, others cover out, all the while peppered with an array of candles and merch. It’s kind of like mini shrines! I can look at my bookshelves for hours and swoon over them.”
Pro tip: You don’t need a home organization makeover to match anyone’s bookshelf styling preference. Go with your gut. “Just let your inspiration flow, and build your library empire in the way that will best mimic your habits, not what someone else on social media says to do,” Rosier says.
Courtesy Kimiya Tabrizi
The bookworm: Tabrizi’s quick book reviews and fiery hot takes about the difference between romance in fiction and real life (you’ll find them at @kktreads) keep her more than 93,000 followers educated and entertained.
The bookshelves: Tabrizi believes that a bookshelf is a trophy display of sorts, showcasing your best and favorite books. “A lot of us, myself included, like to buy books just to have them and display them on our shelves. Books are to readers what designer shoes are to fashion lovers,” she says. “I personally feel proud when someone comes over to my house, sees my books and spends time looking through the titles, and asks about a particular book that captures their attention, so of course I want my display to be organized beautifully.” The aesthetic is her top priority when organizing books. After that, she groups her books by collection and author, making sure her favorites are on the top shelf.
Pro tip: Are your horror books sharing a shelf with sci-fi and memoirs? That’s going to make it tough to find that vampire novel you’re craving. Take Tabrizi’s advice: “Keep all books in the same genre together,” she says. “It looks more organized and makes things easier to find.”
The bookworm: This Dutch reader (aka @booksneverdie) delights her more than 11,000 followers by sharing her gut reactions to books, in the moment, while she’s reading them.
The bookshelves: Anouk is one of the few BookTokkers who likes to organize books mainly by height. (Follow this method, and you’ll definitely need to separate those mass-market paperback novels and oversize coffee table books.) “I match the height and the colors—I prefer it when rows of books have the same height. I try to spread out the colors a bit so that I won’t have one part that’s completely black and one part that’s all colorful,” she says. After that, she groups books by genre and always tries to keep series together.
Pro tip: “I personally think that it’s all about the color scheme,” says Anouk. After organizing, she recommends taking a big step back, squeezing your eyes shut a bit and then seeing how the colors blend together.
courtesy Cassie Brewton
The bookshelves: Brewton’s husband is also a former librarian, and they recently decided to combine their book collections—a considerable commitment!—into one home library. “Currently, we organize by genre and then within that genre, by author’s last name. I don’t know if that’s the best, but that’s the method we both agreed on,” she says. Children’s books, however, get their own bookcase, which she organizes by type: board book, picture book, chapter book and so on.
Pro tip: Try different organization methods! Don’t be afraid to change your mind—books are easy to reorganize.