Do the Hustle: Rearranging My Books

With all of the book-buying binges I’ve been indulging in for the past year (and last week especially), I’ve had to rethink how I arrange my books on the shelves. In other words, I was running out of shelf space, despite the fact that there are bookshelves in my study, both of the boys’ rooms and the living room (although the latter could do with more bookshelves, but stupidly placed radiators prevent it).

So I had a genius moment of inspiration: why don’t I use some of the other furniture to keep books? I have two large bedside tables all to myself and a chest of drawers in my bedroom, plus another chest of drawers for the children’s clothes on the landing. Of course, there had to be a bit of logic to my madness, and this is what I came up with.

The bedside table by the side where I have my reading lamp is dedicated to ‘books to review and other current reads’, books borrowed from the libraries and my three favourite authors: Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen and Tove Jansson. I don’t actually have all of their books here with me – the downside of moving frequently to new countries. But on the day when I will be reunited with all of them, I may have to rethink this strategy, as it’s filling up fast, as you can see! (I still need some space for a cup of coffee.)

On the other bedside table I have the Russians (more of them lurk in Romanian at my parents’ house, but these are the ones I’ve got translated into English), the non-Japanese Asians and Middle Eastern authors (of which I have shamefully few), another favourite writer Shirley Jackson and a few short story or essay collections that I am currently delving into. I also have a small selection of favourite crime fiction authors, so that I can take a peek at them when I get discouraged at the (non-)progress of my novel.

On my chest of drawers I have poetry, because every room needs some poetry in it. The selection was somewhat haphazard, mainly what was overflowing from my poetry bookshelf in the study, but you can’t go wrong with whatever book you open! And I did ensure that Anne Carson, Sharon Olds and Naomi Shihab Nye, three poets who really inspire me, are there.

Out on the landing I have a selection of my Nordics (yes, they are a bit divvied up although lumped together as ‘Nordic’), including my favourite crime fiction series Martin Beck, plus some of my boys’ books that I also want to read and ARCs that I have already reviewed and that I might pass on to friends.

All of this has left no gaps in my proper shelves, but merely means that there is no more double or triple stacking. I can see all the titles at last! And I can also instantly spot the gaps in my world culture. (For example, the Latin Americans are starting to fill up, but Africa and Asia are still woefully underrepresented).

What clever tips and tricks have you got for arranging books or incorporating more shelf space? I’d love to hear from you, especially if you can find a solution for those pesky radiators.

The title is inspired from a song and dance from my parents’ youth: Do the Hustle by disco wonder Van McCoy. (I hasten to add that my parents’ dance was nothing like as complicated as that!) 


17 thoughts on “Do the Hustle: Rearranging My Books”

  1. I love it that music inspired the title of this post, Marina Sofia! And you have a very creative way of finding room for your books. I have books in lots of different places, too. In fact, my bedside table has a special place in it for books. But, you know, no matter how clever I feel about the way my books are set up, I always have more books than there is room for them.

  2. I love reading about other people’s book organisation and yours are impressively neat 🙂 I’m afraid I have no useful tips for you, my tiny flat is bursting at the seams from books piled on every surface!

  3. A fine line between collecting and “hoarding” for me. One of these days I will make my book collection neat again. My house will then look like a big library… I have the Library of America of Shirley Jackson, too! Do you have the 6-vol illustrated Oxford U. Press ed. of Jane Austen as well? That’s a knockout. Contains all the original spelling and punctuation. As I recall, it’s a facsimile of the original printing. Yes, believe it or not, most eds. contain modernized style. I got mine in fall 2009 direct from OUP on special to indulge myself. Have a good day!

    1. Oh, no, there you go tempting me again… I keep dreaming of building a library shed in my garden – but of course that would bring problems of ventilation, damp, heat, sun exposure, etc.

  4. In my old house I had shelves put above each door, and around the walls in the girls’ rooms at that height to put books on. It looked pretty too, I think! Looks like you’re doing well finding spaces, though 🙂

    1. That is a very good idea. I have the hardest solid walls in the world and putting up shelves is really hard, but I am tempted. Maybe when I find out if I get to stay in the house or not.

  5. Lovely! Shuffling your book collection around has to be one of the most satisfying things for a book lover to do – I know I enjoy it… 🙂 And glad to see Beck and Bulgakov lurking on your shelves – some of my favourites!

    1. But of course to Beck and Bulgakov! The problem with the reshuffle though is that it’s now taking me a while to find anything, as I’d got used to the old system.

  6. I still have boxes of books stashed in the garage: not enough shelf space in the house. And yes, bedside tables, hall tables – most surfaces, in fact, are book-strewn. Drives my wife nuts. I have to go through the motions of tidying every now and then. But they have a habit or reappearing or reasserting themselves.

    1. Alas, I also still have several boxes in the loft – and it’s very hard to go up the stepladder and get them through the tiny traphole. But some day I will be reunited with those. And the books from my parents’ house.

  7. I love what you have done with your overflow books. I have some in my dining room ( which we really use for office / computing) on a plant stand. And wicker baskets on the floor. And boxes and boxes in the garage. For me, that is the biggest problem with having a very small condo for three people who love books. Otherwise, I like living in a small space. (and I probably am older than your parents, because I was in my early 20s when the Hustle was popular.)

    1. No, they were in their 30s! You see, they didn’t have that much access to Western music until they started living abroad just after they turned 30!

  8. Ahem
    . I just had to laugh when I saw that you, too, have more books than bookcases. My TBR pile has been known to be 3 feet high. I have many many bookcases (just realized, 4 in the kitchen alone), but still wind up with books on tables and oh, dear, on the floor. My line between hoarding and collecting long since erased: have books from college.

  9. Very creative and a good way to divide the piles and make them smaller. 🙂
    I used to have a bookshelf in the hallway.

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