5 Bookshelf organisation ideas from TikTok’s best hacks

From TBR carts to... guttering, TikTok is brimming with eccentric and brilliant ways to display your books.

Illustration: Victoria Ford / Penguin

Arranging your own books can be a truly delightful way to spend an afternoon, but when it’s done, that’s it – nothing more to do. Which is where surfing TikTok’s numerous hashtags about arranging books comes in. There’s little more satisfying than spending 10 minutes (or, let’s be realistic here, at least double that) watching people turning piles of books into neat arrangements in a matter of seconds and, depending on how complex you want to get, there are some truly ingenious solutions to book owners who don’t have much space.

These are a few modern classics doing the rounds on TikTok, whether you’re looking for inspiration on how to show off your own favourite books, or just want to settle in for a round of muttered ‘Well, I wouldn’t do that,’ and we’ve rounded up some of the major players (and our favourite quirky ones). 

We’d love to know how you style your books – send us a picture to editor@penguin.co.uk. And if you’d like to see how the Penguin team shelves their own collections, or get some ideas on styling your shelves, we’ve got plenty of ideas for you.

1. Book cart


Bar trolleys are out, book carts are in. Smaller versions of those sensible little wheeligigs you’d see in libraries have been adopted by literary homebirds, especially ones in bright colours (or primed, spray painted and sealed in their favourite colour).

Unsurprisingly, book carts have completely popped off with people who have space issues. They come on wheels, doesn’t take up much room, and while you can indeed style your cart with plants, you can also rather crucially double line it with books.

2. Hanging bookshelves


Thinking about a giveaway🤔is there a good app for it?📚🧵 #hangingbookshelf #macrame #bookshelf #booktok

♬ Midnight Snacks - Kelis

You might instinctively gasp that you wouldn’t be able to read them easily, but realistically, we all have a ton of books that we’ve read and loved but aren’t going to pick up again in the immediate future. Not with the state of that TBR pile at least… In which case, this method of showing off books that you adore, or that have interesting covers, is a lovely way of making your books a focal point. There are some interesting twists on how to hang them, and what materials to do it with, but the end point is the same: suspending your books in a really beautiful and thoughtful way. Just don’t do it with anything you’re going to need in a hurry.

3. Plate rack


Plate shelf as a bookshelf!! Has anyone tried this before? Can’t believe it actually works!! It’s been up for a few weeks now! #homehacks #renterfriendly #apartmenttour #diybookshelf #diyproject #bookshelves #platerack

♬ People - Libianca

This is one of those tricks that a) gives you an excuse to go to the big Ikea and b) hug yourself with smug delight at turning one thing into something else without it looking rubbish. Take a plate rack, add those strong self-adhesive hooks, and attach to the wall. Ok sure, you could put plates in it, but why would you when this new adornment is crying out for books? A really clever idea, and beautifully modelled by rented home influencer Medina Grillo.

4. Book stack


nice bookshelves are always SO EXPENSIVE!!! for now my stacks do the job and make for a great zoom background 😌 #booktok #books #reading #bookstack

♬ som original - leh 💋 (Taylor's Version)

On the one hand, this is really quite a fabulous way of styling out having piles and piles of books on the floor. On the other, we love a curated stack in a bookshop, so why not do the same at home, especially when storage isn’t an option. Just remember what’s there, and look at organising them by size, colour, or author to give more of a sense of choice rather than ‘Oh hell, I ran out of room but went to the shop anyway’ doom.

5. Converted rain gutters

Another idea, like the plate rack, to make you gurgle with delight – and realistically, then feel a bit tired and like you need a lie down. If you have the inclination, paint, and somebody’s carpark to do the work in, then this is a lovely way of setting up a jolly system for those lighter children’s books.  

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