Best-selling author explains how they organize their bookshelves and what’s on them

Shelves by Elin Hilderbrand, Diana Gabaldon, Garrett Graff, Vanessa Riley, Emma Straub, Hernan Diaz, Jennifer Weiner, Chris Bohjalian and Christopher Buckley


My bookshelf is a mess. It’s not just that I have too many books and too little space. I’m also just disorganized. Not always. The bookshelf I put together a few years ago, for preschoolers, is largely intact: a complete bookcase of poetry, organized alphabetically by author, and several bookcases stuffed with novels, also by the author’s last name. These shelves are now mainly used for decoration or reference, or as a lending library for guests. But there’s more, and more: the piles tumbled on my desk — supporting the computer I’m typing on — and the books frantically tucked into my bedroom bookcase, piled up on my nightstand and in the towers around me. These books are part of my everyday life – work, play, and sometimes both. There is no rhyme or reason for how I arrange them, but when I read one of the books, I looked it up (and then discarded it) to help with my little problem: “If this is where you want it to be, then it’s organized of.” I adopted it as my book organization principle. Don’t tell my kids.

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I asked nine writers to share a photo of a favorite bookshelf (or what social media might refer to) as a “shelf”), explain organizational principles (if any) and tell me a little bit about what’s on that shelf. They say so.

Hildebrand is the author of 28 novels, including “The Island,” “Summer of ’69,” and most recently, “The Nantucket Hotel.”

This bookshelf is unique – my other bookshelves are organized by the time I read books. For example, I read a book between 1992 and 1993, when I lived in New York City, commuting from Manhattan to a teaching job at IS 227 in Queens. I read another bookshelf while breastfeeding my first child, Maxx. There is a bookshelf that I read when I was divorced, when I was in cancer treatment, etc. But if a book is lucky, it will be relocated to this shelf! This is my “favorite book” shelf, my first favorite book is “Franny and Zooey” by JD Salinger. I received my first edition for my 50th birthday from my kids – it really means we can trust my ex that he somehow found one. (He was looking for a signed first edition, but apparently added a number.) Whatever – it’s the best gift I’ve ever received.

Elin Hilderbrand reinvents beach reading — and creates a community in the process

Gabaldon is the author of the Outlander series. The latest issue is “Go and tell the bees I’m gone”.

It’s part of my working reference collection, which includes more than 80 (some more bizarre than others) herbal guides; a dozen dictionaries of slang terms; a “Claire” bookshelf with medical references (such as the Merck Manual, which stands for the time limits of her medical knowledge in the Outlander series) and biographies written by and about doctors; historical medical materials; Scottish things (history, language, customs, geography, Scottish fiction and poetry, etc.); various large books, From a two-volume collection of Carl Barks’ Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck stories, to books on historical clothing, maps, and hurricane history. In addition, I have biographies, medical histories, a small selection of pornography and a shelf of books (my grandfather occasionally writes fantasy short stories), a book published by my mother (professional— as in the teaching profession) and my great-grandmother’s bible. I have about 2,000 books in my office. There are 1,500 more downstairs. Then there is a “real” library in my old home (like a room full of bookshelves with no other function). Lovely, quiet room. Whenever I’m there, I always find time to sit and read quietly for an hour or so.

Review: Diana Gabaldon’s “Go and Tell the Bees I’m Gone”

Graff is the author of The Threat Matrix: Inside the FBI with Robert Mueller III and Watergate: A New History.

I often feel that “book management” is my main job – shopping, reading, fiddling with them on the shelf. When my wife and I moved from Washington seven years ago, we had about 5,000 pounds of books, and I continue to accumulate them at a rate of about 200 pounds a year. Nonetheless, I can tell you where each book is valid in my library. I usually start by grouping them by theme and then try to organize them loosely by color and/or theme so that the shelves don’t look too cluttered. I have my Cold War shelves; my 9/11 shelves; my presidency; and, of course, some fiction shelves. I also sprinkled a lot of historical artifacts and pictures that I’ve accumulated. I actually have a boxed hazmat suit as a bookend on the shelf on Richard M. Nixon’s tapes, it used to be President George W. Bush’s limousine.

Review: “Watergate: A New History”

Riley writes historical fiction, historical mystery, and historical romance. Her most recent books include The Queen of the Island and The Samurai Sister.

mine The Shelfie principle is to put within reach of what makes me smile or make me think. This shelf is close to my desk and is often visible during my Zoom calls. At the top are my Barbies: Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, African Goddess (designed by Bob Mackie), Ida B. Wells and Katherine Johnson. Then come books. My favorite authors and titles, what moved me, what I learned from, what changed me. My reading habits vary. I need “Something Like Love” by Beverly Jenkins and “The Mirror & the Light” by Hilary Mantel. Next to Olivia Stirling’s political struggles, nothing compares to the merits of Henry VIII’s court. The latest from Jayne Allen, Kristan Higgins, and Nancy Johnson keeps me tethered to the present, while Kate Quinn, Maya Angelou, Sadeqa Johnson, and Denny S. Bryce bring the past to life in new, rich ways. Of course, my professional achievements – my titles and awards – fill my bookshelf. Probably on the floor near this bookcase are my latest manuscripts, again reflecting my past and present themes.

How ‘Bridgeton’ Upended the ‘Duke and Me’ Playbook

Straub’s most recent book is This Time Tomorrow. She is also the owner of Books Are Magic, a Brooklyn bookstore.

I would describe our bookshelves as a random alphabetical arrangement of rocks and children’s artwork and mysterious little objects scattered all over the place. Pictured: A fairly complete section of Dan Chaon, Michael Chabon, and Lauren Groff, decoupage portraits of my husband and I in front of Books Are Magic, made by the incredible artist Lorraine Nam, gifted to us by Mabel Hsu, children who used to be in A part-time book editor at a bookstore, a few totems made of sticks and rope, a stone that lived in my brother’s bedroom as a kid, a painted pine cone, some kitchen, some favorite books, some never read. In short, a part of life.

Comments: “This time tomorrow”

Diaz is the author of the novel “Far Away” and most recently, “Trust.”

This is a more or less random section of my library that mostly represents fiction. If the genre classification here is rather vague, so is my attempt at alphabetical ordering. Different languages ​​coexist in a rather promiscuous manner. Even though it’s all a little confusing, at least this photo shows that I’m most stressed about not being a spine buster. The notebooks (spiral, red, yellow) at the top of the book are manuscripts in various stages of completion. Dickens and Tintin stand guard.

Review: “Trust,” Hernan Diaz

Weiner is a novelist whose books include Summer Resort, Mrs. everything” and “good bed”.

My house has a huge closet, apparently for a woman with a huge wardrobe. I don’t have a lot of clothes, but I have a lot of books, so the closet is now a closet/library containing spills from the living room, office and bedroom shelves. I arrange my books by color – sorry, not sorry – but books, in addition to being magical portals that provide escape and transformation, are also physical objects of your life, and there’s nothing wrong with arranging them in any way you think is aesthetically pleasing. Here I keep my favorites that I’ve traveled with since college, friends’ books, TBR books, books I read for research for my own novels and books of special significance – Susan Isaac A copy of “Almost Heaven” is a gift to my mom, inscribed by the author for my 40th birthday.

Review: “That Summer” by Jennifer Weiner

Bohjalian is the author of many books, including The Lioness, The Witch Hour, and The Stewardess.

My fiction is alphabetical by author, while my nonfiction is heavily historically biased and is chronological. So the Vikings preceded the Puritans, who preceded John Pershing’s WWI Dough Boys. But my collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald is extensive (inexpensive, but rich), so I interrupted the alphabetical order of my novels to give two layers to his works and works about him. When I walk into the library every morning, I usually choose a book for my entertainment, currently my Armenian translation of The Great Gatsby, which I cherish because I am Armenian.

Review: ‘Witch Hour’ by Chris Bojalian

buckley book Including “Thank you for smoking,” “Lost mom and puppy,” and “Making Russia Great Again.” His next novel, Has Anyone Seen My Toes? will be published in September.

All the books in this section were originally on the shelves at random and in a cluttered mess, making it an endless hunt for time. Then one day my agent called to report that my current book was dropping. I was so frustrated that I put them in alphabetical order for the next three days. I don’t know why, but for some reason it helped.

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