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Bookshelf Tour Part I: The Living Room

bookshelf tour part 1

The first thing I do when I visit someone new for the first time is sneak a few peeks at their bookshelves. The books we save and display can tell a lot, especially if you start talking to someone about them. I’ve been meaning to do a little bookshelf tour of our house since we moved in last August… but just got my act together to do part of it over the weekend. The bookshelves in my office are, at the moment, to much of a disaster to put on the Internet, so instead, I’m going to show off the bookshelves in my living room.

I’ve always wanted to live in a house with a wall of books, but because we’re renters that’s impossible. This arrangement — two tall bookshelves with a bookshelf functioning as a tv stand — is about as close as I’m going to get until we own a house. It’s not quite perfect, but boy, do I love it. The shelves contain, almost entirely, books that I’ve read and loved enough to keep.

nonfiction shelf 600The shelf on the left side of the room is for nonfiction. It’s arranged mostly alphabetically by author, but I do have some large hardcovers sitting horizontally because it seems to save space and I like the way it looks better. I’ve toyed with the idea of arranging books by color, but I also think that can look staged. This feels more “natural” to me. Oh my gosh, I’m such a nerd.

They’re a little hard to see, but the shelves are also decorated with some of my favorite things. I bought the paintings on the top shelf when I was in college. The bowls on a middle shelf were a gift from a college friend who took a potter class. There are many little figurines of pigs on the shelves because they’re my favorite animal (weird, I know). The frame near the bottom as one of my favorite quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

The first book on the top left of the shelf is One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman, and the last book on the bottom right is Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf.

middle shelf 600

The middle shelf is one we bought new when we moved into this house so our old tv stand (which I did not like) could be used with our second tv in the basement. Since it was new, this one has been the most challenging to try and fill decoratively — I ended up focusing it on favorites and books that I think go together (regardless of whether I’ve read them or not).

The top left is some favorite YA books: His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, and some Rainbow Rowell. Bottom left is all of my fiction comic books, including trades of series like Saga and Alex + Ada and individual volumes like The Sculptor by Scott McCloud and Seconds by Brian Lee O’Malley. I’ve read some, but not all, of these comics.

The middle shelves have books by Anne Fadiman on the top, The Magician’s trilogy (minus a book borrowed to a friend) in the middle, and my favorite nonfiction on the bottom — Tiny Beautiful ThingsThe Empathy ExamsThe Spirit Catches You and You Fall DownThis Life Is In Your Hands and The Poisoner’s Handbook. On the right side you’ll find the Harry Potter series and my nonfiction comics/illustrated books.

fiction shelf 600The tall shelf on the right is more of a mixed bag. In our old house, I only had a small shelf for fiction that I read and loved enough to keep. I had to do a little mixing of genres to fill this one up entirely.

The top three shelves are for adult fiction. The first book on the top left is Americanah by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie, followed closely by my Margaret Atwood collection. The last fiction book on shelf three is The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak… but now I’m thinking maybe that should be on the YA shelf? In any case, the fiction on shelf three is followed by all of my Best American Essays volumes and my books with other reading lists of books.

The fourth shelf is a mix of young adult fiction, some YA-focused nonfiction, fantasy and poetry. It’s probably the most eclectic shelf of books in my entire house because I like my books to be organized. The mixing sort of drives me crazy. The bottom shelf is for classics, starting with my Norton anthologies from college. I really feel like I should get rid of those… but I just can’t.

And if you look closely you can see more pigs, a photo of my grandpa, and some customized mini Coke cans the boyfriend’s mom gave to us.

So there you have it, a little peek at some of the bookshelves in my house. I’ll try to get my office a little more cleaned up and share those shelves soon. How do you have your bookshelves organized?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Shannon @ River City Reading April 14, 2015, 6:29 am

    It sounds like our books are organized very similar! We have two tall bookshelves flanking our fireplace in the living room (one is favorites, one is nonfiction) and then a big case upstairs in our office.

    • Kim Ukura April 15, 2015, 6:52 pm

      Yes, very similar! Do you keep read/unread separated? I am always surprised by people who mix them together. I’d get so confused!

  • TJ @ MyBookStrings April 14, 2015, 7:50 am

    I also have one shelf reserved for non-fiction; another one is filled with my favorite fiction. I have to try out your method of horizontal layering. It looks pretty and if it saves space, that would be a great bonus!

    • Kim Ukura April 15, 2015, 6:53 pm

      I know it saves space once the vertical piles get really tall 🙂 I’m running out of space that way now too!

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) April 14, 2015, 7:56 am

    Your shelves look lovely! All of mine are upstairs and they’re double stacked and unruly so I’m embarrassed for people to see them.

    • Kim Ukura April 15, 2015, 6:54 pm

      I try not to double stack, but I’ve stared to do that on my office shelves in places. That’s when I know I need to do some culling.

  • Kay April 14, 2015, 8:41 am

    I love looking at other people’s bookshelves. I’m kind of a crazy person when I go to a new person’s home and am trying to see what they have (if anything book-like) on their bookshelves. Love your organization, but I also know the fun of shifting things around. Thanks for the peek! And my sister-in-law collects pigs – am always looking at pig things for her. LOL

    • Kim Ukura April 15, 2015, 6:55 pm

      Anyone who doesn’t have bookshelves is suspicious! I used to have a ton of pigs — I’ve definitely scaled down to just my favorites.

  • tanya (52 books or bust) April 14, 2015, 9:04 am

    I always have to troll people’s bookshelves when I go to their homes. it’s rude of me, but I honestly can’t have a coherent conversation until get looking at the bookshelves over with. And then there are people who have no book shelves … what’s up with them?

    • Kim Ukura April 15, 2015, 6:56 pm

      I always try to sneak away and check out the shelve. Usually there’s a good conversation to be had there about which ones are favorites or why they’ve been held on to for so long.

  • Leah @ Books Speak Volumes April 14, 2015, 11:43 am

    My kingdom for a wall of books! But really, I’m just happy that, unlike our first apartment, the one we moved into in August is big enough to hold more than one bookshelf. We have two bookshelves flanking the TV as well! I love seeing people’s bookshelves; they’re so idiosyncratic. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kim Ukura April 15, 2015, 6:57 pm

      Multiple shelves! Every time we move I seem to add another one. I’m at six shelves now, of various sizes. I love having the shelves around the tv. It makes this place feel like home to me.

  • susan April 14, 2015, 1:42 pm

    You seem pretty organized & lean. I like your shelves. We have a ton, messier.

    • Kim Ukura April 15, 2015, 6:57 pm

      I’ve gotten a lot better about culling books I’ve read, just holding on to favorites. I’m terrible about culling books I haven’t read (which is the reason my office is a disaster).

  • Erin April 14, 2015, 4:24 pm

    That was so fun! I always like seeing other people’s books and how they’re organized. And I love that you have meaningful decorations on your shelves. I do the same thing, though most of mine are photographs.

    I have one shelf of fiction, another of nonfiction, and a half-as-wide shelf of kids’, MG, and YA books. Fiction and kids’ etc. are alphabetical by author, with books I’ve read on the upper shelves and those still TBR on the lower shelves. Nonfiction is a bit more random, but the system makes sense in my head! Reference-y books are by topic, and there’s a small section of non-memoir/biography, non-reference books alphabetical by author. The remaining books (memoirs and biographies) are alphabetical by author for the former and subject by the latter. (Clearly I’m an alphabetizer! Organizing by color or something would make me crazy, heh.)

    • Kim Ukura April 15, 2015, 6:58 pm

      I thought about redoing the nonfiction by subject, getting essays and memoirs and those sorts of things together. But then it always seems like a massive project and I just keep on with general alphabetizing. Maybe someday when I have a full wall just for books I can spread them out a bit.

  • Belle Wong April 14, 2015, 7:57 pm

    Love this peek at your bookshelves. I’m the same way when I go to someone else’s house, but sadly most of the houses I’ve visited recently did not have bookshelves filled with books (bookshelves filled with knick knacks, but not books). Maybe they just have them in other rooms!

    • Kim Ukura April 15, 2015, 6:59 pm

      I read some decorating blogs, and I’m always astonished when they decorate bookshelves with stuff… why!? Put books there!

  • Jenny @ Reading the End April 14, 2015, 8:21 pm

    I love looking at your bookshelves! Everyone’s bookshelves! I always think about doing mine by color too, and I don’t care that they’d look staged (cause everyone would be like, Man, THAT girl knows how to stage her bookshelves), but I do feel that I would never again be able to find any of my books. I don’t know what color any of my book’s spines are.

    • Kim Ukura April 15, 2015, 7:00 pm

      That’s the other problem. I can recall some of the colors, but not nearly all of them. I’d never find anything.

  • Cindi April 15, 2015, 10:58 am

    Beautiful shelves. I love seeing other people’s book collections. My 7yo daughter loves pigs too. She’s even had several pig birthday cakes.

    • Kim Ukura April 15, 2015, 7:00 pm

      I had one pig birthday cake when I was in middle school, I think. I should do another one this year 🙂

  • Michelle April 15, 2015, 11:26 am

    Beautiful! You make me want to redecorate my living room bookshelves!

    • Kim Ukura April 15, 2015, 7:01 pm

      I don’t mess with these very often. Once they’re up, they stay put (other than some dusting and a few seasonal decorations). I am a lazy decorator!

  • Jeanne April 15, 2015, 3:32 pm

    I also love looking at other peoples’ bookshelves! Mine are not very organized. They’re double and triple stacked. I’ve always thought about photographing them, though, and showing other book bloggers where I keep all the books.

    • Kim Ukura April 15, 2015, 7:02 pm

      I would like to see that! I double stack in my office, since it’s sort of a private space, but I wouldn’t do that on these since they’re out in the open for everyone to see. And the clutter would bug me, I think. So picky.

      • Jeanne May 14, 2015, 8:47 am

        Inspired by this post, I did a bookshelf tour of my house. It’s up now.

  • Jennine G. April 15, 2015, 3:52 pm

    I love it! One of my favorite posts to write was my bookshelf tour. I always want to see what people are reading and which books they keep in their house…also how and where they’re displayed. Love this post.

    • Kim Ukura April 15, 2015, 7:03 pm

      I love having my favorites out in my living room. They are good for starting conversations!

  • Lisa April 15, 2015, 10:19 pm

    I always think those bookshelves that are arranged by colors look pretty but can you imagine trying to find anything on them? First thing you’d have to do is remember what color the spine of a book was. Seems like a silly system!

    • Kim Ukura April 19, 2015, 7:01 pm

      Yeah, it’s mostly decorative not functional. And I do need my shelves to be functional 🙂

  • Julie @ Smiling Shelves April 16, 2015, 7:53 pm

    I love looking at other people’s bookshelves. Thanks for sharing! I like the way you have some books stacked sideways and some vertical. It’s an interesting look that I just might experiment with… And I still have my Norton anthologies, too. Just can’t give those up, somehow! 🙂

  • Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf April 16, 2015, 8:40 pm

    I love the shelf that has the teapot in the middle. I like when the shelves are different orientations like that. So pretty!

    • Kim Ukura April 20, 2015, 8:50 pm

      I wasn’t sure what to do with those middle shelves. And the teapot was just sitting in the closet. Instant decor 🙂

  • AnneL April 16, 2015, 10:07 pm

    I do, in fact, have a wall of books in my living room along with two floor to ceiling bookcases on the wall opposite. Also, if I didn’t know already, I would know you were a Minnesotan due to your use of the phrase “borrowed to a friend.” It used to drive me crazy when I was growing up in St. Paul but now when I hear someone say “Borrow me” – it just makes me know that we have a home state in common.

    • Kim Ukura April 20, 2015, 8:52 pm

      Ha, yes, local grammar quirks. I had a teacher who tried to teach the difference between borrow and lend and all of that… clearly it didn’t stick!

  • Kerry M April 18, 2015, 1:16 pm

    I love this! My books are grouped mostly by genre/subject matter, based on my own reading interests (Irish fiction & non-fiction has its own shelf, for example, while most other fiction/non-fiction books are separated), and my read/not-read books are mixed in together. I can’t imagine keeping them separate!

    Oh, and I have the same bookshelf unit that you’re using under your TV in my office (Target, yes?), and it’s kind of tricky to get a system going with those three little shelves in the middle column. I like how you have yours set up.

    • Kim Ukura April 20, 2015, 8:57 pm

      Yep, they’re all Target. I love that shelf as a tv stand (just one little hole in the back to make it all work), but the middle shelves were a bit wonky to style.

  • Jennygirl April 19, 2015, 7:14 pm

    love the shelves and your arrangement. Our books are a peek into ourselves. never really thought about that. I just think oh books!