How to Stack Books in a Bookcase.

Overflowing with books (because you’re super-smart) but don’t have any idea how to arrange them in a book case?  Stack ’em.  Here are 7 ways to stack books so they look good.

Photograph by Donna Griffith for Style at Home

When I redid my house I knew the first thing I wanted to do was get my books out from under my couch and into a bookcase.

I had books everywhere and whenever someone wanted to borrow one or I wanted to re-read one (I can do that because I tend to forget anything I’ve read/watched/heard within 2 months of reading/watching/hearing it) I had to go searching willy nilly all over the house.  At any given moment a book I was looking for could have been a) under the couch, b) in the basement behind a large sparkly reindeer and 2 dead centipedes, c) under my bed or d) shoved under the leg of a table I found in my neighbour’s garbage.

The bookcases I chose are Billy bookcases from Ikea because they’re only 11″ deep and don’t take up a lot of space.  It took about half a day to put the bookcases together and secure them to the wall.

It took another 2 months to fill the bookcases in a way that I liked them.  How do I know this is the final configuration?  I haven’t broke out into a sweat and come running downstairs from a dead sleep to rearrange it in 2 years.  That’s a pretty good sign I’m satisfied with it.  It’s also a pretty good sign that I’m crazy.

The odd time I’ll change a stack around to look a little different.  Just for fun.  Just changing the way the same few books are stacked can completely change the look of the bookshelf.

So if you too have a bookcase, or even a shelf with books at home, take note.   There’s more than 1 way to skin a cat.   And there’s more than 1 way to place a stack.

The Classic Stack I



Half Up Half Down Stack



The Classic Stack II



On The Bias Row



Sandwich Stack I



Spiral Stack



Sandwich Stack II



The Bias Stack and the Sandwich Stack II are great if you have a book cover you really like or want to show off. You know. Something that makes you look smart. Not that my to cover choices make me look smart. A bit odd perhaps, but I haven’t kept that a secret from you.  I haven’t even kept it a secret in this post.

So if you’re looking at your bookshelf thinking it looks like stink, it probably does.  You know what your problem is?  You just haven’t lost enough sleep over it.  You haven’t woken up with crazy hair in the middle of the night and re-arranged it.  You haven’t laid every single thing out on your floor and placed it back in the bookshelf one by one over a 17 hour period eating only bits of stuff  you find in the carpet.  You haven’t  obsessed and stared and gotten angry at it enough.  Quite frankly, and I hate to be rude, but the plain truth is … you probably just aren’t crazy enough.


  1. Nina Sunday says:

    Stack in colours according to the colours of the rainbow – ROYGBIV.

    After stacking in subject order, I tried stacking in like colours together, according to colours of the rainbow, red-yellow-green and son on. And it looked wonderful!

    Except I gave up looking for a book recently, and later accidentally came across it in the navy blue section.

    I’m going back to stacking by subject!

  2. Lorena Wood says:

    I really like the same shelf with different stacks. Every where I’ve looked I haven’t seen an idea I think I’ll try. Hang a little rod with a cute curtain over a certain shelf to cover up some “papers and files” and add interest to the shelf and room at the same time. I need all my books but today I packed some away into a cupboard so hoping I’ll have some “decorator” space when I’m through.

  3. Anna says:

    Wow. It never occurred to me that there are other ways to stack books other than Classic Stack 1 and 2 and combinations of both. I like your bookshelf, it’s pretty to look at. Especially the Sandwich Stack 2. Which is why I’m very particular about not damaging the spine of the paperbacks. Unfortunately I may have to stick to my usual book arrangements due to practicality. I’m crazy about books and have about 300 in total. Sometimes I like to reread some favourite books and my friends and family tend to borrow books from me. Which is why I have to keep my books stack in a way that allows quick and easy access. I’ve resorted to arrange them by author and titles like they do in the libraries, this make it easier to search for a specific book. And due to the frequency of other people borrowing my books and the long time they took to read them I actually have a list on my computer to keep track of the books I own and where or with whom they currently are.
    All the mention about Geek Love got me curious. I might give it a shot. A Wolf At The Table sounds and looks intriguing.
    I’m actually considering purging my book collection or selecting my favourites or ones with pretty cover just so that for at least one bookshelf I could arrange them purely based on the aesthetic impact.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Anna – THanks! The rest of my bookshelf if you look carefully is actually stacked according to either author or subject. I have an entire shelf of “how to” books. Bricklaying, net making, electrical work etc. Then there’s another stack of one particular author. And sometimes I have paperback series all together, tucked in behind other books. So if they’re ugly you can’t see them, but there’s easy access to all the books by that one author. So, you CAN have your book and read it too. ;) ~ karen

  4. christine says:

    OK ordered a used copy of Geek Love. Geez, I’m a sucker for book reviews. And, to top it off, I read electronically, but ordered the pulp and paper version to add to my colour block bookcase. LOL

  5. John says:

    Obsessed with that sheepskin-covered chair. Any tips on how/where to get sheepskin like that?

  6. Liz says:

    This is fabulous! I’ve been looking for tips on how to style the bookcase I am building with my beau (right at this very moment, in fact – sometimes a girl needs a break from the sanding and painting to gaze at pretty things) and yours is the first posting I’ve found that is both helpful and HILARIOUS. Thanks for the idea and the laughs :-)

    • Karen says:

      Hey Liz! Glad you found my site. I post random things of hilarity and helpfulness 5 days a week. Sometimes 6 but I always begrudge the 6th so don’t want to mention it. Good luck with the bookcases. ~ karen!

  7. angie says:

    Since no one else commented on the black boxes across the bottom of the book shelf, I guess I have to ask….what are they? Are they magazine boxes? And do they have magazines in them or have you devised some other genius use for them?
    Your shelves are lovely. I want to sell everything in my house and start over…

    • Karen says:

      Angie – They’re wood boxes from Ikea, but sadly they don’t carry them anymore. I fill them with whatever is ugly. A lot of craft supplies, silk screening materials, mementos, magazines, insurance papers … you name it. ~ karen

  8. Chris says:

    I am going to find “Greek Love” and read it.
    Love your blog.

    I am trying to contend with my bookcase but they are so deep that I am not exactly sure how to arrange the books at this point. Did I mentioned I’ve been obsessing with this for the pass two nights? I shouldn’t admit that. :-)

    • Karen says:

      Chris – If you’ve only been obsessed for 2 nights then there’s no need to worry. You’re still an amateur. :) ~ karen

  9. Ashley says:

    They are weird and wonderful.
    Hard Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World

    Wind Up Bird Chronicle (my

    Kafka on the Shore

    (he has as many as Danielle Steele I think!)

    You’re a hoot and I’m very happy to have stumbled on to your blog.

    Btw, how does a French fry expert stay so fit & tiny? :)


    • Karen says:

      Ashley – I’m also very hyper. Anyone who wakes up in the middle of the night to rearrange her bookcase is bound to be burning a lot of calories with nervous energy alone. :) That and I do things like build chicken coops and tear up my front yard on a regular basis. ~ karen!

  10. Sarah says:

    I have such a hard time with bookcase ‘arranging’ because I have a serious addiction to reading and collecting books. I have books coming out of my ears and not enough space for the amount of bookcases it would take to house them all. Needless to say there is not a single book I would give away or get rid of… not even the James Bond paperbacks that were passed on to me from my aunt. So what do I do? I can’t bear the idea of having books in hiding, its just not fair to the book and its chances of being read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The Art of Doing Stuff