Strategies for Arranging the Family Bookcase

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One of the projects I'm most excited about is gathering all of our books into one glorious bookcase, a place to learn about each other and the world around us. I want it to be user-friendly for the adults as well as the 7-year old, and for all of use to feel surrounded by wondrous words...

Currently, the 7-year old's books are overwhelming the bookcase in his bedroom, my partner's books are in his basement office, and my books are mostly still packed away after a cross-country move, with the exception of a few absolutely necessary cookbooks in the kitchen. Once we find or build a bookcase big enough to house all of our volumes plus our ever-changing stack of library books, this is what I envision...

1st Shelf: Picture Books The more the merrier! I'm convinced one never outgrows quality picture books, and I love to have them around for inspiration and general delightfulness.

2nd Shelf: Little Kids' Chapter Books The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, the Magic Treehouse books, the Captain Underpants series, and our favorite kid-friendly comic books (Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, Pearls Before Swine)

3rd Shelf: "Juvenile" Fiction For All Ages The Mysterious Benedict Society series, the Wildwood Chronicles, A Series Of Unfortunate Events, the Harry Potter books, the Anne of Green Gables series, the Little House books, His Dark Materials trilogy, Gary Paulsen's books, a few of Neil Gaiman's works (Odd & The Frost Giants, The Graveyard Book, M is for Magic)

4th Shelf: Fascinating Reference Books All of our Sibley and Peterson field guides (some of which belong to the 7-year old), my art books, gardening books, travel guides, botanical illustrations, history books, foreign language dictionaries, and all our how-to books (embroidery, book-making, plumbing, flower-arranging, publishing)

5th Shelf: Cookbooks We all love to cook and bake together, and I would never want cooking to seem like something unapproachable. Cookbooks readily at hand make it easy for us all to plot for each other's birthday cakes, get excited about dinner, and figure out fun ways to use our garden's bounty.

6th Shelf: The Adults' Favorites The rest of Neil Gaiman's works (Stardust, Neverwhere, American Gods, etc), various Onion collections, my partner's nature- and baseball-based novels (The River Why, The Art of Fielding), my British Lady Novelist series (A Provincial Lady, Bridget Jones, Plum Sykes's Bergdorf Blondes, Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love), Sarah Vowell's books, Martin Millar's books, and so many more. Though some of these are not exactly kid-appropriate, they will be on the highest shelf so they're around, without being easily accessible. Also, we would of course always keep an eye on what's being read.

Tucked Away Somewhere: Anything Inappropriate Even the most wholesome of us own books that children just aren't ready for, whether the material is too sad, too scary, too graphic, too adult in any other way, or are simply my own private business.

Do you keep your family members' books separate, or in a fantastic jumble of words and worlds?

(Image credits: Bridget Pizzo)

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