Bestselling authors explain how to organize and what’s on their bookshelves

Shelves by Ellen Hilderbrand, Diana Gabaldon, Garrett Graf, Vanessa Riley, Emma Strobe, Hernan Diaz, Jennifer Weiner, Chris Bohgalian, Christopher Buckley


My bookshelves are a mess. It’s not just that I have too many books and too little space. I’m also simply disorganized. This was not always the case. The shelves I assembled years ago, pre-kids, are generally still intact: a bookcase full of poetry, arranged alphabetically by author, and several bookcases jam-packed with fiction, also with the authors’ names. These shelves are now mainly used as decoration, reference, or as a guest library. But there’s more and more: the pile dangling on my desk–the computer support I’m writing on–and the volumes stuffed frantically in my bedroom bookcase and stacked in turrets around my nightstand. These are the books that are a part of my everyday life – for business, pleasure, and sometimes both. There is no rhyme or reason for how to arrange it, but as I’ve read One of the books she liked (then deprecated) to help deal with my little problem: “If it’s where I went, it’s organised.” I adopt this as a principle of organizing my book. Don’t tell my kids.

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I asked nine writers to share a photo of their favorite bookshelf (or what social media might refer to As a “shelf”), explain the principle of organization (if any) and tell me a little about what is on this shelf. This is what they said.

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

This shelf is unique – my other shelves are organized by when I was reading books. So, for example, there’s a shelf for novels I read in 1992-1993, when I was living in New York City commuting from Manhattan to my teaching job at IS 227 in Queens. There is another shelf I read when I was breastfeeding my first child, Max. There’s a shelf I read when I was getting divorced, when I was being treated for cancer, etc. But if the book is lucky, it has been moved to that shelf! This is my “My Favorite Book” shelf and my #1 favorite book of all time is “Franny and Zooey” by JD Salinger. I received the first version for my kids’ 50th birthday – which really means we can give credit to my ex, who somehow tracked down one of them. (He was looking for the first site version, but apparently added a number.) Never mind – this is the best gift I have ever received.

Elin Hilderbrand has reinvented beach reading – and created a community in the process

Gabaldon is the author of the Outlander series. The latest release is “Go Tell the Bees That I Gone.”

This is part of my practical reference collection, which includes 80 herbal guides (some weirder than others); a dozen slang dictionaries; Claire’s shelf, containing medical references (such as the Merck Manual representing the time limit of her medical knowledge in the Outlander series) and biographies written by and about doctors; historical medical stuff; Scottish things (history, language, customs, geography, novels, poetry of the Scots, etc.); Various great books, ranging from a two-volume collection of stories by Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck by Carl Parks to books on historical costumes, maps, and things like the history of hurricanes. Also, I have bios of people I think I’ll need to know, a medical history, a small collection of pornography and a shelf of family writing (my grandfather wrote short fiction sometimes), my mother’s published book (a professional – like in the teaching profession) and my grandmother’s bible. There are nearly 2,000 books here in my office. There are another 1,500 in the basement. Then there’s the “real” library (as in, it’s a room entirely lined with bookshelves and has no other function) in my family’s old house. Nice and quiet room. When I’m there, I always make time to sit there and read quietly for an hour or so.

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

Graff is the author of “The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert S. Mueller III’s FBI” and “Watergate: A New History.”

I often feel like “managing books” is my primary job – buying books, reading them, and shuffling them around the shelves. When my wife and I moved out of DC seven years ago, we had about 5,000 pounds of books, and I’m still collecting them at a rate of 200 pounds a year. Although, I can effectively tell you where every book in my library is. I generally group them first by theme and then try to loosely organize them by color and/or theme so the shelves don’t look too cluttered. I have my own Cold War shelves. shelves 9/11; Presidential shelves. And of course a bunch of fantasy shelves. I sprinkle a lot of artifacts and historical photos I’ve collected as well. My shelf on Richard Nixon’s tapes actually as page cover contains the hazmat suit that was once in George W. Bush’s presidential limousine.

Review: “Watergate: A New History”

Vanessa Riley writes historical fiction, historical mystery, and historical romance novels. Her most recent books include “Island Queen” and “Sister Mother Warrior”.

Mine The principle of the shelf is to have things on hand that make me smile or make me think. This shelf is close to my work desk and is often visible on Zoom calls. At the top are Barbie: Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, African Gods (designed by Bob Mackie), Ida B. Wells and Katherine Johnson. Then come the books. My favorite authors and titles, things that moved me, things I learned from, things that changed me. My reading habits are varied. I need “Something Like Love” by Beverly Jenkins and a spin-off from “The Mirror & the Light” by Hilary Mantel. There is nothing like the feats of Henry VIII’s court besides Olivia Sterling’s political struggles. The latest news from Jayne Allen, Kristan Higgins, and Nancy Johnson keeps me connected to the present, while Kate Quinn, Maya Angelou, Sadeqa Johnson, and Denny S. Bryce bring the past to life in new and rich ways. And, of course, my professional accomplishments – my own titles and awards – hang around my shelves. My most recent manuscript is likely to be on the floor near this bookcase, again reflecting my subject matter of the past and present.

How Bridgeton flipped the ‘The Duke and I’ script

Straub’s latest book is This Time Tomorrow. She is also the owner of Books Are Magic bookstore in Brooklyn.

I would describe our bookshelves as a random alphabet, with rocks, children’s art, and mysterious little things scattered throughout. Pictured here: Dan Chun, Michael Chabon, and Lauren Groff sections are fairly complete, paper cut-out portrait of me and my husband in front of Books Are Magic, made by Lauren Nam, a great artist, and brought to us by Mabel Hsu, a child book editor who used to work part-time in a shop Selling books, several totems made of sticks and strings, a rock that lived in my older brother’s bedroom when we were children, a painted pinecone, some hoppers, some lovable books, some of which he had never read. In short, a slice of life.

Review: “This Time Tomorrow”

Diaz is the author of “Into the Distance” and most recently, “Confidence”.

This is a somewhat random section of my library, and is mostly fiction. If the genre classification here is a bit vague, this is my attempt at alphabetical ordering. Different languages ​​coexist somewhat mixed. Even if it’s all a little messy, the photo at least shows that I’m not a spine cutter. The notebooks placed on top of the books (helical, red, yellow) are scrolls in different stages of competition. Dickens and Tintin stand guard.

Review: “Confidence” by Hernan Diaz

Winner is a novelist whose books include “The Summer Place,” “Mrs. Everything,” and “Good in Bed.”

My house has a huge wardrobe that was obviously meant for a lady with a huge wardrobe. I don’t have a lot of clothes, but I do have a lot of books, so the closet is now a bookcase/library, containing excess fluid from the shelves in the living room, office and bedroom. I arrange my books by color – sorry I’m not sorry – but books, in addition to being magical portals that provide escape and transformation, are also physical things to live with, and there is nothing wrong with arranging them in a way that you find aesthetically pleasing. Here, I keep favorites that have traveled with me since college, friends’ books, TBR books, books I read as a search for my novels and books with special meaning—Susan Isaac’s copy of “Almost Paradise” was a gift from my mom, which the author recorded for my 40th birthday.

Review: “That Summer” by Jennifer Weiner

Bohjalian is the author of several books, including “The Lioness,” “Hour of the Witch,” and “The Flight Attendant.”

My novels have been arranged alphabetically by author, and my non-fiction, heavily inclined toward history, moves in chronological order. Therefore, the hardened Vikings, who precede John Pershing in World War I, are the Doughboys. But my collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s is extensive (not valuable, but plentiful), and so I’ve cut out the alphabet of my novels to offer his and related work two shelves of their own. I usually show one book for my entertainment when I enter my library every morning, and it’s currently my Armenian translation of “The Great Gatsby,” which I cherish because I’m Armenian.

Review: “The Witch’s Hour” by Chris Bogalian

Buckley Books Including “Thank You for Smoking”, “Losing Mom and the Puppy” and “Make Russia Great Again”. His next novel, “Has Anyone Seen My Toes?” will be published. in September.

All of the books in this section were originally shelved, not just randomly but randomly, making the search endless and time consuming. Then one day my agent called to report that my current book was running out. I was so depressed that I spent the next three days alphabetizing them. I don’t know why, but for some reason, it helped me.