More Shelving Dilemmas

Having somewhat haphazardly flung my books out of boxes and onto shelves, I discovered I couldn’t find anything anymore. So I’ve tried to rearrange my shelves according to countries and subject matter. Here is what I’ve been able to do so far.

The French Corner. This is a narrow bookcase at the very edge of the room, which has books (some in French, some in translation) by and about French authors or about France (but not the dictionaries or French culture guides, which are housed with the reference books). Unsurprisingly, this section of my library has grown exponentially during my 5 years in that part of the world.


Non-fiction is relatively modest and housed just below the French section. (But there is an additional overly large academic and business books section, see below.)


A whole shelf is dedicated to books on the writing craft and literary criticism – and includes the complete diaries of Virginia Woolf (my favourite writing book), while another shelf is all about poetry. Alas, I’ll soon be running out of space on this latter one.


I’m pretty sure I’ve got more German books stashed away in the loft, but for the time being there is sufficient space on these two shelves to house Scandinavian fiction and Peirene Press as well. [Update: just went up to the loft this morning and can tell you there is no more space to house anything. See the picture below this one.]



Japanese literature is housed next to books on Japanese society, culture and religions (which might help you guess what the subject of my Ph.D. was). Once again, I am convinced I have far, far more Japanese books up in the loft (or at my parents’ house in Romania).


As for Romanian books – I had to set up an additional bit of foldable shelving to do it justice, although I also added some authors loosely categorised as ‘East European’ – Milan Kundera, Ivan Klima, Kieslowski (the film director) and Andrzej Stasiuk. The Russians are on the bottom shelf as well, although I am confident there are more of them lurking up in the attic. Apologies for the darkness of the shot, but light conditions were against me.


Then we have the mish-mash shelf: Spanish, South American and some non-Japanese Asians.



After setting up all of these shelves beautifully, I then realised that I don’t  have much space left for the English language fiction, which represents by far the greatest proportion of my books. Sigh! I think I may have too many ‘professional’ books. I love my anthropology books, but I may need another office for the more business-like stuff, so that I can leave this one free for creative pursuits.


There is one more segment of wall against which I could put up additional shelves, but the study will also have to accommodate an armchair-bed for visitors, so I doubt there will be any room left over. If the alternative is no more shelves, then I may have to give visitors my bed and sleep on a mattress in my beloved library.

Or maybe I should copy this brilliant idea of ‘book-hunting’ from Belgium?

32 thoughts on “More Shelving Dilemmas”

  1. I admire the way you’ve got all your books grouped, Marina Sofia. That’s so efficient and really looks well, too. And yes, you have the bibliophile’s shelf dilemma…

    1. Now for the groupings within the groupings… For instance, by centuries, by favourite authors, by writing styles etc. Oh, endless for joy for OCD people like me (when it comes to bookshelves)! The one thing I’ve never been precious about is alphabetical order (although I do like it in a library).

  2. I feel oddly much better about my books after seeing how many you have and how there are dilemmas about shelving – I have these too, all the time! Happy to see your set of Martin Becks with the spines spelling out his name – my set is the same and I love them! 🙂

    1. Yes, very keen on Japanese literature, especially Dazai Osamu, Yukio Mishima, Akutagawa. Funnily enough, I don’t own a lot of books by them, although I do have the Mishima tetralogy, which makes me think that there are still some undiscovered boxes in the loft. I also have three translations of Tales of Genji because each one is so different.

    1. Mind you, I found some books that I think must either have been gifted to me or else I was unconscious when I bought them… What was I thinking? However, those are not necessarily the ones I want to get other people excited about.

  3. All sympathies with the dilemma, MS. Believe me, it is as nothing compared to the shelving problem in this house.

    I love that Belgian book-hunting idea. Oh, that there were an equivalent here!

  4. Ah, man, shelving is so hard. I have literally no system whatsoever except for a vaguely chronological one (books bought around the same time as each other can usually be found shelved near each other), and it’s still getting silly.

    1. Wow, you must have a good memory then, of when you acquired them, so that you can find them! I look at some of the books from the attic and think: ‘when and why on earth did I get this?’ Admittedly, not that many, because I did a clear-out and charity shop donation before I moved them up to the loft.

      1. Most of the books in my flat are ones I acquired from 2010 onwards (for my degree and then post-graduation); I’m not sure I’d be able to keep track of everything if I also had the books which are currently languishing in my old room in my parents’ house.

    1. Yes, I must have bought it when I was working on a project on employee satisfaction. (Such is the glamour of my working life… ) I find it really hard to take such books seriously now, so all of those novels satirising office life are right up my street.

  5. I’m so impressed – and inspired! I have just (literally, this afternoon) put my books into boxes for my upcoming move, and I’m determined to unpack them into some kind of order… well I am right now, anyway 😉

      1. Yep, just trying to stay focussed on that bit now! The worst part is my stuff will be in storage for several months (I’m moving back to the UK from Sweden) and I’m already missing my books!

  6. Critical stuff! We landed in Berlin, followed, at some three weeks interval, by one metric ton of goodies, including books… Now is the time to set up shelves, and a system – hahahaha… For now we are varnishing, then the serious work will start! 😉

  7. Organising by country/language is a novel idea (excuse the awful pun). Usually I see people categorising alphabetically or even by colour. I’ve tried different systems including alphabetical and genre but none of them will hide the fact I have too many books to fit onto shelves.

  8. I thought you would have had many more Japanese books than that (my personal J-Lit library is ever-expanding and is threatening to spill over into neighbouring territory again!).

    1. Yes, I’m sure I have, but I just haven’t found them in the loft yet (which is a terribly inhospitable place that you don’t want to spend too much time in). I did find the dictionaries and Kanji dictionary and a grammar book, but I didn’t take them down (yet).

      1. Ah, those aren’t with the fiction in my collection (dictionary and Kanji dictionary in my reference section, language books in a cardboard box in the corner of the study, which hasn’t moved since we dumped it there nine years ago!).

        1. Ha, exactly! Plus, I fear quite a few of my books in Japanese are still at my parents’ house (and my mother may have kindly ‘given them’ to young people studying the language.

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