The Art of Shelving (A Cure to Tsundoku)


I’ve recently learned the Japanese word tsundoku which translates to “book pile” and has been drifting around the bookish realms of the internet lately. It also has its origins in a pun (which I I can appreciate!) but tsundoku finally gives me a way to express a condition which I’ve been suffering from: I have more books than space. Any avid reader or bibliophile can relate to I’m sure, but I continuously keep buying books faster than I can read them.

It’s gotten a little out of hand lately. I’ve stopped going to the library as a way to force myself into reading the stockpiles I already have but that doesn’t stop my feet from walking into a book store… I’ve completely run out of shelf space! I have books piled in the closet and on the floor; books in the kitchen and books in the hall. Then I go away to school and buy more books for class and end up moving home with more books than when I left. And so, as part of cleaning up my life I decided to rearrange my bookshelves by colour as way of taking back control of my life.

The bold colours turned out really well on this one!

Before now I really only had them organized by size and recency of purchase, but I decided to give my hand a go at creating a visually appealing atmosphere by organizing by colour and size. Some of the shelves turned out better than others partially because I don’t have enough space, and partially because I didn’t commit fully to creating a rainbow. I prefer to have book series in order and so it stayed. Also, the green and yellow coloured book spines got divvied up across shelves so there’s that too.

A prime example of my failure to commit. I’m rather fond of the bottom shelf though.

I also stumbled across this article from Quirk Books which suggested some other fun ways to organize aside from the usual alphabetical, subject matter, or colour.

It suggests turning all the books around so you don’t necessarily know which book you’re picking. I think it’s a noble pursuit but probably really annoying in a hurry or if you’re looking for a specific book for a reference.

Organizing by emotional response is also neat, but as previously mentioned way too many of the books I own are currently unread making categorizing in such a way really difficult for me…

What sort of system do you use to organize your shelves? Do you think it matters?