books + reading

Love Letter To Bookshelves

The other day, I was in my kitchen, writing a blog post about the books I want to read in the near future. I remembered one book – In Their Voices, a book by Rhonda M. Roorda on transracial adoption – and I went to my room to grab it. I decided that this book would be next on my list after I finished Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and I decided I should keep it on the top shelf of my nightstand/bookshelf so that I would know where to find it.

An hour later, all of my books were off the shelves in piles on the floor, categorized in ways that would be inscrutable to anyone but me.

And me? I was in the zone. I was in my happy place. Organizing my books is blissful. The joy of arranging and re-arranging my bookshelves is limitless for me, and I started this blog post as I worked, taking notes and writing down thoughts as I progressed.

There is so much to be considered in the organizing of books, and one major consideration was brought to my attention when Tamara got home with the boys. I started telling her that I’d rearranged the bookshelves, and she explained that she knew already, because I had placed a pile of her books – formerly shelved – on her side of the bed so that she could find a different home for those books.

When married couples do premarital counseling, do they discuss this? We had never done so, officially. And our books have often been shelved together, in part because one of my favorite ways to sort books is by color. I love a rainbow bookshelf: the books with brown, maroon, or red colors on the top shelf to the left, then the oranges, the yellows, the greens, until it blends into a purply-black-white conglomeration on the bottommost shelf. And with a rainbow bookshelf, it doesn’t matter if your books are co-mingling with your spouse’s books. Because honestly, you’ll probably hit a moment when you’re like, “Why don’t I read more purple books?!”, and then you’ll be happy to have your wife’s book about edible wild plants to include in your configuration.

But on this day, I had to walk back my excitement momentarily and talk this through with sensitivity. I apologized profusely, and Tamara excused my behavior and assured me that she would find space for her books on her bookshelf, and then I went back to explaining my new organization.

FIRST – there are the books I want to read very, very soon. (Several of them will be on the syllabus of “required reading” I am currently drafting.) Those books, I decided, needed to be within reach from the moment I wake up in the morning. They are books about adoption, transracial adoption, parenting, mindfulness, and writing, and they belong on my little nightstand bookshelf, together with a small stack of books about recovery:


SECOND – I always love having one shelf that is my absolute favorite books. Someday I aspire to purchase a painting or print of my Ideal Bookshelf, but until then – probably after then too! – I love having one shelf of faves. Looking at it makes me so happy. I have a small bookshelf in my room, right next to my nightstand, and I chose the top shelf for my favorites:


(The three books laying on top – the first Harry Potter, Olive Kitteredge, and Seven Types of Ambiguity – are books I’d like to re-read the next time I’m in a Reading Rut.)

The shelf below is not that exciting – DVDs and audiobooks on the left, books about writing on the right:


The bottom level of that bookshelf is for books I loved and want to keep (to either re-read or gift to someone, most likely):


OKAY. So that’s my bedroom bookshelf.

I only have one more bookcase (with two shelves of my books) to describe. I don’t own that many books, in part because of my strive for minimalism and in part because I love using our Little Free Library to gift books to others.

This bookshelf is in the living room, and I decided that I needed a shelf full of books I want to be able to grab occasionally as a resource:


This shelf includes parenting books, books with recipes, yoga stretches, crafting ideas, etc. Also several books of poetry.

The shelf below this one is a TBR shelf. Every avid reader has a TBR pile – a stack of books categorized as To Be Read. My high priority TBR pile is on my nightstand beside my bed; this shelf of books includes titles I am hoping to read someday that aren’t as high of a priority:


Whew! That’s it. There are miscellaneous other books scattered around my house, and I haven’t included any info about the kids’ books or Tamara’s books, but this is my main collection – six shelves of books, spread across three different bookcases.

There is also one extraneous pile of books that are going to be featured in (drumroll please!) our Little Free Library!


Tamara cleared out a space and “installed” the Little Free Library at our new house last weekend. It was the BEST DAY EVER.

This is the end of this post – my love letter to my books and my bookshelves. I cannot possibly imagine who would want to read this, but if you enjoyed it, then you are likely a fellow book nerd like myself and I salute you for your lovable nerdiness. Cheers!

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