Increase your enjoyment of books with these ideas for storing, stacking and displaying them
I ??ve harbored a passion for books as long as I can remember (my first job, in fact, was as a page in my hometown library), and I can spend endless hours perusing bookstores and library stacks. Whether you swoon for rare first editions or romance novels, keeping track of your beloved books will ensure that they will be easily found when you need them and will remain in good condition for years to come. Here are a dozen ideas for organizing, caring for and enjoying your home library.
Find your library style. No matter your reading preferences, the books you choose to keep in your home should hold special meaning for you — books that are only so-so aren’t worth making room for on your shelves. Once you’ve decluttered your library, it’s time to decide on a sorting method. Here are a few to consider.
Bookstore-style Sorting nonfiction books by subject and fiction alphabetically by author works especially well for larger book collections, for which other organizing methods would fall short.
By theme. This fun method of sorting will appeal especially to creative types. To try it, pick a broad theme (like “water”) and shelve all books related to this topic together, from cookbooks (coastal cooking and fish recipes) to fiction (Like Water for Chocolate, The Old Man and the Sea) to nonfiction (beach houses, water-wise gardens).
Rainbow order. As sorting methods go, this controversial idea works best for visually oriented people. If you learn best visually, you may be surprised at how easy it is to find a certain book based on the color of the spine.
Try it: Sorting by color. If sorting your books by color sounds appealing to you, I urge you to give it a try — there is something soothing about looking at shelves arranged by color, and it never fails to impress guests. If you want to try it, you will need to dedicate an hour or more (depending on how many books you have to sort) to the initial process. Here are a few color-sorting tips.
You don’t need to stick with rainbow order; books in blocks of color look great no matter the order.
Depending on the colors in your decor (and your personal preference) you may want to limit the color blocking to certain hues. Books that don’t work with the scheme can go in baskets or be moved to shelving in a different room.
Even one color-sorted shelf can have a big impact. Try it with your cookbooks!
ake care of oversized tomes. Books like to be supported, and proper shelving is one way to ensure that they are. If you have a large collection of oversized art and design books, consider laying them flat instead of standing them up — it will reduce wear and tear on the spines. Just be sure to stack them in ascending order, with smallest books on top and largest on the bottom, so each book is completely supported by the one beneath it. And if you want to be able to easily access your books, don’t let the stacks get too tall.
Add a stand for heavy and oversized books. Doorstop-size art monographs and the infamously hefty Oxford English Dictionary can be more fully appreciated (and more easily flipped through) when cradled on a stand designed for the purpose. Selecting a different book to place on the stand every week or two is also a good way to feature lovely books that might otherwise be overlooked.
Rotate books to spark new interests. Once your bookshelves are neatly ordered, whether by subject, color or another method, it can be all too tempting to leave the books alone (they do look nice!) — but what’s the point of having a wonderful collection of books if you don’t get them out and read them? One suggestion for making the most of your home library is to periodically walk through and pull from the shelves a pile of books that currently interest you. Place these books around the house where you will notice them — on the coffee table, in a little pile beside your bed, etc. — and enjoy!
Try it: Add cover appeal. One of the reasons it’s so much fun to browse in a good bookstore is the visual nature of the book displays. To increase engagement with your home library, try to find a few places in your home where you can display books with covers facing out. Here are a few ideas:
Top a round table with short stacks of interesting books.
Install picture shelves and use them to display books instead of artwork.
Top a credenza with a few favorite books, either lying flat or standing upright.
Special care for rare books. If you have a passion for collecting rare first editions or antique volumes, it is important to take some precautions to protect your investment. To keep your most treasured books in good shape, be sure to:
Keep books out of direct sunlight, as it can bleach the covers.
Shelve books neatly, with bookshelves snug but not overcrowded.
Lay very large and heavy books flat.
When looking at a book, set it on a table, and don’t open the spine farther than it wants to go.
Wash your hands before handling!
Take one off the rack. It seems to be a law of nature: Kids love things that spin, and bookshelves are no exception. Place a bookstore-style spinning book rack in a reluctant reader’s bedroom and fill it with appealing titles (like the Captain Underpants series or comics) to inspire a love of reading for pleasure.
Go vertical. A small space does not have to equal a small library — invest in some vertical shelving to maximize available square footage. When choosing a vertical shelf, check to make sure it contains a counterweight in the base to prevent tipping, and stack heavier books on the bottom shelves.
Put a bookend on it. Perfect for adding a small collection of favorite books to a space without bookshelves, bookends can be a lifesaver when it comes to keeping random piles of books neat and orderly. In the kitchen, keep a seasonal selection of cookbooks within reach on the counter, held between a pair of heavy crocks. Or keep favorite picture books handy beside a comfy reading chair.
Get inspired while you work. When you feel motivation and creativity lagging at work, flipping through a stack of inspiring books can be a quick and easy way to spark new ideas. And think beyond your profession when choosing books to shelve near your desk: If you’re a lawyer, try some architecture tomes; if you’re an engineer, stash a few slim volumes of poetry. Shaking things up is a great way to boost creativity.
Leave room to grow. Ideally, every bookshelf in the house should have a little room on it. Otherwise, where will your new books go? Painting the backs of your bookcase in vibrant hues, as shown here, is one creative way to stay motivated to keep some open space on those shelves. If shelf space gets tight, take that as a sign that the time has come for another purge. If you find yourself reluctant to part with any books, why not donate them to your local library? Then if you have a change of heart, you’ll know you can always check them out!