This is part of my series on building A Chinese Library.   For a complete list of posts, see here.

Last year, I re-organized Mandarin Mama’s Library.    This year, I helped Fleur organize the 8+ boxes of books elfe brought back from Taiwan.  We’re not quite done yet, but at least the books are mostly on the shelves.  She has a substantially larger book collection, probably 500+ books and tons of magazine.


I wrote a super long post, but really the process is the same, with 1 or 2 tweaks.   So instead I’m going to just modify the original “recipe” and list them here, point out some of the things we did differently, and post tons of pics.  Because, when the Chinese books are all lined up along a wall, it’s so pretty!

The Recipe

  1. Buy some name stickers
  2. Decide how many bookcases you need and where you will put them
    1. They should be in the same room
    2. They will be at children’s eye level, so you can only use bottom 3-4 bookshelves of any given bookcase if you have young children
  3. Kondo your books
  4. Sort them into 5 piles
  5. Put books on shelf in order

The Process

With such a large collection, it’s easy to lose track of them when they’re lent out.  We went to a stall under Taipei Main Train Station MRT (Z4) and bought 1000-2000 name stickers.  300 small iridescent stickers were $150NT.  Each name ticker has her name and phone number.   They will peel off of most glossy paperback and hardbacks.

We made sure each book and magazine had a name sticker before it went on the shelf.

Before we started, we figured out how many bookcases we needed.  Fleur counted the total number of books she was bringing back.  I, amazingly, was almost right on the dot in thinking she needed 15 IBB shelf, where IBB = 1 Ikea Billy Bookcase.  Each shelf on an IBB is about 30 inches.  I don’t know how I arrived at the number.  But I know that my conclusion was you need about 1 to 1.5 shelf row for each 22kg box.

I always like the bookcases in the same room and putting books on rows that are reachable by children  With those constraints, we decided to use her existing Ikea Ivars and re-calculated how many bookshelves she needs because each Ivars shelf run 33 inches long instead of 30.  Ivars are a good alternative to Billy.  I like that they’re lightweight and easier to move.  It’s all pine so hopefully the shelves won’t sag after a year.

Fleur didn’t want to cull any of her books.  So that saved us some time.  We just needed to first step in Kondo’ing process, which is to find all the books in the house and put it on the floor in piles.  Believe me, I’m not doing that right now as I reorganize my bookcases and it’s been painful.  I really should have pulled them all out first.

That’s not a lot of books, I’m thinking to myself.  She should have bought more.

Not quite true once you unpack them and sort them into 5 piles!  Some aren’t pictured here, but I had Board Books, Picture books, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Learning Chinese, Magazines. 


We decided with the open shelf of the Ivar, to put each book type on one shelf, with the levels in reverse order so the younger kids can reach the baby books.  I also put the non-fiction on 3rd shelf so the elementary child will choose them.

  • Fourth shelf (shelf 4) – Chapter Books that are too advanced
  • Third shelf (Shelf 3) – Non-fiction
  • Second shelf (Shelf 2) – Early Readers, chapter books
  • Lowest shelf (Shelf 1) – Board Books, picture books

Now it’s time to put them on the bookcase!  It’s pretty quick when you have them sorted and in piles and nothing is on the shelf.

Isn’t it pretty?  There are empty spaces because there is one more box getting shipped by sea, and one box she needs to pick up.

Here are more shots of the books.  Remember each level of the bookcases contains one category, so it’s hard to show pics of each shelf.  So here are Bookcases #1-#5 from left to right.  You can click on each pic to see a large size.


You may notice that Board Books (Bookcase #1, lowest shelf) only takes up 3/4 of space, and Picture Books (Bookcase #2-#3, lowest shelf only) took up 1 1/4 shelf space.  This is a deliberate choice on Fleur’s part.   She knows she can borrow mostly picture books from the libraries in our region, so there’s no need to spend money on them except the super great ones she wants to keep like the Naughty Cats, Little Chicks, and Little Penguins from Noriko Kudo.

The Picture books and board books are all sorted by height.

We put all the Chinese Learning (Bookcase #4, lowest shelf) stuff on one shelf after the Picture Books.  I figured, hey, after you have books read to you, it’s time to learn to read yourself.   These were the Sagebooks and the Greenfields.

Shelf #5 bottom shelf has a small manga and magazine collection.  The magazines are just about the right reading level to put in between elementary chapter books and picture books.

Bridging Books and Children’s Literature goes all across the 5 bookcases, second shelf.  These books are right at her daughter’s current reading level.  She has some fairy tales from used bookstores, Magic Treehouse, Something About Vicky (a surprise and happy find at Mollie!), and Reading 123.  You may notice again, not a lot of super early Bridging Books, because those can be borrowed from the local library.  

The fiction books are sorted by level.  When I didn’t know the level, I gauged it by number of pages and font size.

The third shelf has non-fiction going across Bookcase #1-#4, and Bookcase #5 has the Hanshen’s Chinese Fairytales 漢聲中國童話.  It has our happy finds at used bookstores of the Deer Bridge series, which is a perfect non-fiction for the 3-6 year olds, and also the Magic Science Set 魔法科學范, which is a set of science fiction picture books.   Also great for preschoolers are the Hanshen non-fiction picture books that you find in every used bookstore (link includes fiction and non-fiction).

It’s always very very hard to sort non-fiction.  Where do you put Magic Treehouse?  What about that set of picture books that are used to teach Math or Science, and are in fiction form?  For now, I decided to lump all science-type books into non-fiction, except Magic Treehouse.  This way, when we are teaching a certain topic, we don’t have to go to the picture book shelf to find them, even if they’re in story format.  Because the topics covered in Magic Treehouse are all over the place I cannot put them under a particular subject in a non-fiction area.

With a huge non-fiction collection, I broadly categorized non-fiction into subjects such as Science, Art, Biographies, Math, History, Culture/Holidays.   Within each subject, I ordered them by reading level and series set.  So the non-fiction science picture books went to the left of the bookshelf, ending with the 80-book Science Encyclopedia set on the right.

Lastly, Bookcase #1-#2’s top most shelf has all the fiction books that the children can’t read right now, from Little House on the Prairie to Harry Potter.  Though technically her daughter is reading Harry Potter #2 right now but we wanted to not make it easily available.   Bookcase #3 has all the Kangxuan textbooks.

And Voila!

You can follow me on Facebook!


Leave a Reply