Guide: Organizing Goodreads Shelves

One of the Tidyathon tasks that I didn’t get to until later was reorganizing my Goodreads: decluttering my TBR, yes, but also cleaning up my other shelves and making sure my system is still working as intended.

(Previously I compiled some general Goodreads tips & tricks, but there’s so much to cover on this specific topic that I’ve made it its own post.)

My Shelves

As I add and recategorize books, I’m constantly reevaluating which shelves are most useful to me and whether I need to add / edit / remove any in particular. Currently I have a grand total of 50 shelves, which can be roughly divided into a few categories:

Book Status

  • Read
  • Currently Reading
  • To Read [TBR]
  • Did Not Finish [DNF]
  • DNF For Now
  • Maybe Read [Pre-TBR]
  • Read Next [Owned-TBR]
  • Removed From TBR
  • Say No To This [Anti-TBR: Do Not Interact]
  • To Reread
  • To Review
  • Priority TBR
  • Priority Read-Next

All but the last four are (mutually) exclusive shelves, since a book can’t be both owned-TBR and DNF’d — but it can be Read and to (be) reread. (If you still haven’t figured out how to make exclusive shelves, I’ll talk about that in a bit!)


About the Book

  • ARCS / Review Copies
  • Book Club & Buddy Reads
  • [from] Goodreads Giveaways
  • Graphic Novels / Comics / Manga
  • New Adult Non-Erotica
  • Next In Series
  • Required Reads
  • NF: Arts / Creativity
  • NF: Books / Reading
  • NF: Food / Cooking
  • NF: Intersectionality
  • NF: Language / Writing
  • NF: Memoir / Biography
  • NF: Productivity / Personal Development [aka self-help]
  • NF: Miscellaneous
  • No Romance
  • Poetry
  • Quiet YA / NA
  • Rep: Asian / Pacific Islander / Desi
  • Rep: BIPOC
  • Rep: Latinx
  • Rep: LGBTQIA+
  • Rep: Neurodivergence & Mental Health

I used to also subdivide my ARCs by source (From Author / Publisher, From Netgalley, etc) but found that I don’t actually refer to those shelves, and I specify the source in my reviews anyway. So I just deleted them.

“NF” stands for Nonfiction, “Rep” for Representation (Diversity); I use these prefixes so that these labels are grouped together in the alphabetical list of my shelves. I’m still tweaking the former, but these seem to be the topics I read most; I know the latter isn’t comprehensive, but these are the identities that I’m currently focusing on (many of which are personally relevant).


Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Popsugar Challenge, 2017 Popsugar Challenge, 2018 Popsugar Challenge, 2019 Popsugar Challenge
  • 2018 Summer Challenge
  • 2019 Asian Lit Bingo
  • 2019 Beat the Backlist
  • 2019 Year of the Asian
  • Year in Review

I may someday delete the older shelves if I find that I have too many to manage, but for now I like being able to look back at the prompts and the titles I chose for them.

The last one technically isn’t a reading challenge, it’s the exclusive shelf where I keep my Goodreads Year in Review entries — I talk about this feature in more detail in my previous Goodreads post, but basically it’s a free space to collect your thoughts on how your reading year went.



  • An Abundance of Isabelles
  • Childhood Faves
  • Favorites [Top 50]
  • Recs From Bloggers
  • Wishlist

For some reason, the vast majority of my literary name twins seem to be the hot, popular, mean girl type. So I created a shelf to catalogue the ones who aren’t.

The other shelves are all pretty self-explanatory and straightforward, I think.


I have considered adding shelves such as #ownvoices, more specific representation, and my rating — and have added some of these, in the past — but for one reason or another they don’t really work for me. I’m firmly of the opinion that it comes down to what you prioritize and value, so your system can be as simple or complex as you want.


Shelf Settings

screenshot of the "edit shelves" page on Goodreads

Lauren @ Northern Plunder has a guide to Goodreads shelves that explains all these options in everyday language, as well as examples of how she uses them! But here’s my very brief version:

  • I chose to feature my Favorites shelf so that anyone looking at my profile can get a quick idea of my taste in books.
  • I made my to-review and Favorites shelves sortable since these are the only two shelves where the order of the books matters to me.
  • Since my to-review, current reading challenges, and next-in-series shelves are sticky, they’re listed first and easier to find (and select).
  • Exclusive shelves are pretty self-explanatory: a book can only go on one exclusive shelf, though you can add it to as many non-exclusive shelves as you want.
  • Goodreads defaults to giving recs for every shelf, but I only have it selected for Favorites, APIDA rep, and wishlist since these tend to be better indicators of the books I actually like.


One of my favorite underrated Goodreads features is that you can customize the display settings for each shelf (exception: your All and Read shelves will have the same settings); I base this on what information I’m usually looking for when I scroll through, which will vary.  

Most of my shelves include the cover, title, and author for easy reference; I might also include my review, rating, date read / added / published, and/or notes. The others aren’t as useful for me, but it’s certainly nice to have all the options!


Shelf Maintenance

This is optional, of course, but you’ll only ever get as much out of a system as you put into it. In other words, I find it helpful to periodically (i.e., at least once a year, but usually every few months when I’m procrastinating studying) check over my shelves and settings to make sure that they’re all still working for me.

Every once in a while, I’m hit with the urge to add another shelf — for a topic or genre I’m currently interested in, or a different way of organizing my books. So these would also pile up if I didn’t regularly clear out the ones that I stopped using.

How do you organize your Goodreads shelves? Was any of this new and/or helpful for you?

10 thoughts on “Guide: Organizing Goodreads Shelves

  1. Your organisation leaves me in wonder!! I really only use Goodreads to tally the books I have read, remind me of books coming out that I want to read (but try not to let this get past 50), tally my ‘beat the backlist 2019’ challenge, and my ‘books owned’ as well. I am moving more towards spreadsheets though because then I can list things such as age categories and genres separately, which GR doesn’t seem to be very good at.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. haha if only I was as good about controlling my TBR as I am about cleaning up the actual shelves 😅

      GR could definitely be much better about age categories and genres, and it can certainly be nice to have quick access to more data/info in a way that the GR interface doesn’t offer. and now that you mention it, I do seem to be turning to my spreadsheet rather than GR for book info, more and more these days 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your system! I used to have a ton of shelves but I found I wasn’t really using them all that much, it was also too much maintenance for me to keep updating everything. Although I’m currently debating whether I want to add genre shelves so I can easily see what books I’ve read in which genre (doubt I’ll bother adding this though) but my system is currently as follows:

    Want To Read
    Currently Reading
    On Hold (I use this to shove books onto when I’m not in the right mood to continue reading them or/and I have the intent to go back and continue reading them…eventually)
    Second Chance Later (these are for the books that I DNFed but I want to give them another chance at some point because sometimes I DNF when I’m not feeling the book xD)

    And then we have my rating system as the remaining shelves so I can see straight away how I felt about the book which works for me, as I’m more of an emotional reader than an analytical one, my emotions and how the book made me feel plays a rather large role, in how I end up feeling about said book. Looking at my shelves now though I think I’m going to need to figure out how to get them in the order I want though, I really wish GR let you sort your shelf order…it’d be really nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. omg yes, it bugs me so much that I have to sometimes do weird things with shelf names to get them in a certain order, like my “miscellaneous nonfiction” shelf is actually called “nf-zmisc” because I wanted it to be at the bottom of the nonfiction section 🙄 but it would be nice to be able to rearrange shelves more easily and also to move around the Read/Currently Reading/TBR; is more control really too much to ask for, GR??

      Liked by 1 person

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