13 thoughts on taking the rainbow bookshelf plunge.

13 thoughts on taking the rainbow bookshelf plunge.

Last week, I found myself standing face to face with four empty bookshelves, and I had absolutely no idea where to begin.

Until I did.

It looks like this.


I found loading this bookshelf to be as cathartic as a good burst of angry cleaning. I so enjoyed arranging and re-arranging, adding and taking out again, shuffling them to get the colors right, and musing all the way:

1. A blank slate can be paralyzing, but it can also be liberating. (Why not give those rainbow bookshelves you’ve always swooned over a try?)


2. Prepare for serendipity. Under the new system, my red copy of Pride and Prejudice goes first.

3. But prepare for some very strange encounters…


Nietzsche and Emily Freeman sit side by side. Huh.

4. … and a lot of culling. I moved too many books I don’t even like to our new house. Why, why, why?

5. Related: if you have stacks of boxes labeled “basement books” because you don’t like them enough to keep them upstairs, are they really worth keeping?


Growing Strong Daughters next to The Happiness Project. I like it. 

6. If a book gives you the heebie jeebies, get rid of it—even if it is a classic. (Goodbye A Clockwork Orange, Heart of Darkness, A Separate Peace.)

7. Unless it belongs to your husband. Don’t get rid of your husband’s books without asking him, even if you’re sure he doesn’t want them anymore. (You’ll be surprised at what he wants to keep.)


Krakauer’s Into Thin Air sandwiched between two Hemingway novels is oddly perfect. 

8. If you have two copies of a book, keep the prettier one.

9. But multiples are perfectly fine. I’m keeping my duplicate copies of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Winnie the Pooh, thank you very much.


10. You’ll find an overwhelming amount of white books.

11. But many more purple books than you expected.


12. You could never arrange your office like this, but it’s beautiful in the living room. Can you live with it?

13. Time will tell.


The living room is coming together—finally!

 P.S. Other people’s bookshelves, and a peek at my own old bookshelves.

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  1. So glad you took the colored book shelf plunge! I love your observations; they are right on: the juxtapositions, the new desire to purge books, the love of pretty books, husbands not wanting to purge certain books. We in a temporary living space, and I hesitated at first about whether our abbreviated books should be color arranged, but then it really did make me so much happier and our little attic room seem better and more pulled together when I arranged them by color.

  2. Catie says:

    I like how it looks, but it’s SO impractical! I tried to organize my books this way a long time ago and I couldn’t stand it! 🙂 I like my non-fiction and fiction to stay separated, thankyouverymuch. It does look pretty though. Beauty is pain?

  3. Angie says:

    This makes me all twitchy. In fact, if you hear mumbling and things banging around in your living room in the middle of the night it’s just me, the OCD Book Fairy. I’ll put your books and your husband’s on separate shelves, then arrange all books into groups by author, then chronologically. Favorite authors at eye level. Whew, I feel much better now.

    • Anne says:

      I didn’t say you couldn’t, I said I couldn’t! (Actually, I could to some degree, but I also keep books in my office organized by projects I’m working one, ones I’m going to get around to reviewing one day, and ones that need to go back to the library. I like those the way they are. 🙂 )

      I can’t wait to see the picture once you’re finished!

  4. Jennifer says:

    I will never get rid of my copy of “Heart of Darkness” — it was the first book to actually give me a bit of fear chills, and as much as I don’t love or seek out that feeling, it’s a powerful reminder to me as a writer of the power of words. Looking at it doesn’t give me heebie jeebies, and I’m not tempted to re-read, but just keeping it is like a sign of respect for me 🙂

    I have rainbow book shelves in every room, it gets complicated when book covers have different colours than their spines… ugh, lol.

  5. Maggie says:

    It looks lovely! The librarian in me is twitchy and wants to jump into your photos and alphabetize, but I will admit it looks lovely on someone else’s shelf even if I couldn’t do it myself. 🙂

  6. Jenney says:

    what? You didn’t like Separate Peace or Heart of Darkness? Those are two of my favorite books! My teenagers loved them and reread SP a hundred times, and we cried every time! I am amazed people didn’t like those. Send me your unwanted copies because mine are worn from over-love!

    I can’t do this rainbow thing, even through it is aesthetically pleasing. I need my books catalogued according to the Dewey decimal system. Plus, I need all the Lemony Snickets together. I will grant you, it looks very nice and it would be easy to keep track of because we always identify books by the color of the spine!

  7. Margie says:

    Pictures of peoples bookshelves always give me a crick in my neck as I crane my head sideways so I can read all the titles. They look pretty, but did you keep them?

  8. Kim says:

    So how do you find a book you’re looking for? I have mine in alphabetical order by author. Did you end up being able to live with them this way?

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