Dirty Bookshelves is closed and will not be updated anymore. You can still browse the recs, resources, masterlists, etc. All the links are in the sidebar.
Thank you for all your support and kindness over the 2+ years the blog was active. It has been a blast.

Dirty Bookshelves is closed and will not be updated anymore. You can still browse the recs, resources, masterlists, etc. All the links are in the sidebar.

Thank you for all your support and kindness over the 2+ years the blog was active. It has been a blast.


How To: search, find, and look for fics

(There’s also a link to this guide in the sidebar of the blog for easy access.)

This is a quick guide on how to find fics (for the Merlin fandom mostly, but most of it can be used for any fandom). Or at least, it’s how I’ve gone about it. I’m not saying it’s the only way, or best way, I’m sure there are things I don’t know, things that could be done more efficiently etc. But hey, at least it’s a place to start. I’ve learned these things over the last couple years.

This isn’t an ultimate guide—I’m only mentioning the tools I’ve used. For example, I never use fanfiction.net, therefore, I have no tips to offer beside the obvious and basic use of the search function. There are a lot of archives beside AO3 and each might have their specific system. Which leads me to my first, and most important, piece of advice:

  • take time to familiarize yourself with a platform—whether it’s AO3, fanfiction.net, GOOGLE, LJ, etc. Explore, try things out, learn how it works. The main reason why people can’t find the things they want to find is usually because they don’t bother learning and expect others to do the work for them





The trick to find and keep things you like is to bookmark and save. Save the fics you like to your computer. When you find an author you like on AO3, or a fic you like, check the bookmarks, see who else bookmarked it, then check their bookmarks to see what else you might like. When you find recs you like on LJ, Delicious, tumblr, Pinboard, etc. check what else this person has bookmarked/recced, keep track of them for more. Organize your fics. Bookmark communities or websites you like. With time, you’ll have a network of places to check when you want new fics to read.

Anonymous asked: "Hi. Since so many people are asking advice I was wondering if you could give some advice on etiquette? Like always have the author name with the rec, don't "grade" fics, be respectful etc?"

hey! This you want to check the resources page and the ‘fandom stuff' tag (I'm not done updating the resources page) for some discussions about these topics.

Mostly, for me, it comes to these:

  • ALWAYS include the creators name on your rec. Authors, podficcers, fanartists, vidders, etc.
  • NEVER grade the fic (what is this? School?). 
  • Because honestly, besides the whole ‘it’s something free created for you by amateurs of all ages and skill levels’ angle, it’s a REC blog. Not a review blog. You’re not supposed to REC something you don’t like. So if it’s on your blog, or in you rec tag or whatever, I think we can all assume you liked it. Why do you need to rate it?
  • Stay positive.
  • Like I said. It’s fanworks. It’s made by amateurs of all ages and skill levels. For free. Don’t be an entitled ass. Some people think you shouldn’t say anything negative in your comments (that is, IF you include comments in your recs, it’s not something you have to do). Some others think there’s no harm in saying more constructive things like ‘I thought the ending was a bit rushed’ or ‘I wasn’t overly fond of the plot twist’ etc. I personally prefer just mentioning what I liked and focus on what I thought was interesting. I assume people will know me reccing something doesn’t mean I loved absolutely everything about it and there’s nothing wrong with it etc. 
  • There’s a HUGE difference between a recommendation and a review. I’m firmly into the camp that hates reviewing fanworks in public (If there’s something I don’t like/want to discuss, I can do that in private with like minded people or in spaces where it’s acceptable like anon memes) and thinks it shouldn’t be done, actually. There’s is no need to air every single opinion one has about everything all the time ffs. I just try to be conscientious. I want ppl to WANT to read the fic. And it’s more important to me to not hurt a creator that might be very insecure about their work than to say every single thought, good or bad, I have about a fanwork. 
  • Be mindful of not shaming—kink shaming, pairing shaming, character bashing, etc.
  • Be open to different things. Try reading new things. REC STUFF YOU LOVE.

idk, man, I feel like you have to have a desire to SHARE and spread the love, so to speak. A love of fandom and fanworks and wanting others to discover these fanworks, so that more people love them, but also to show your appreciation to creators. Like, you want to foster creative growth, too. I feel that for it to work well you have to want these things more than having a popular blog or lots of followers or whatever. It’s far more rewarding that way as well. 

Anonymous asked: "(recblogger) Wow! That helped a LoT!!! Thank you sooooo much!! I just have one more question. I really like your tags page. How did you create that???? (I'm tumblr illiterate) also Can I make a tag system similar to yours? I like your 'roles' tags a lot..."

I think the person who created the codes for my tag page has deleted it, but she has a new version of it on her theme blog. That’s not the only one you could use though. There are dozens of codes on tumblr for different pages. Check this post. Check their pages tags to find codes.

After that, all you need is to create a new page. You go in your customize in the sidebar.


scroll down to the bottom and click on new page


(this is the list of all your pages. These are all the pages I have for dirtybookshelves)

Change the option from ‘Standard Layout’ to ‘Custom Layout’ and create your URL


Paste your HTLM code (found in the previously mentioned blogs). Click ‘Update Preview’ and ‘Save’ at the top. And Voilà!

The code for my tags list looks like this:


TIP: I discovered only later that you don’t need to put the whole URL (i.e. http:// etc.) All you need is the slash after the .com and whatever follows.

So instead of having:
<a href=”http://dirtybookshelves.tumblr.com/tagged/canon”>canon</a>
you would have:
<a href=”/tagged/canon”>canon</a>

you can test both to make sure it works with all the codes though. 

EDIT: If you don’t want to deal with HTLM, you can just leave your page on ‘Standard Layout’ and create your tags there. It would look like the masterlist pages or the rarepair page. It’s also far easier to deal with.

Anonymous asked: "(rec-blogger) My first question about starting a rec blog is How do you START a rec blog.. I don't know what to in the beginning. Second question is How do you go about with the tags and lists especially when you have no material to fill it with.."

NOTE: apologies for the super long post. I just don’t want to put anything under a ‘read more’ for archiving purposes.

How to start:

You make a sideblog. You choose a theme. You make a rec. You tag your rec with the pairing at least so it appears in the tracked tags. BOOM. You’ve started.

It’s that simple really. All the rest, like a tags page etc. are just DETAILS. Details you aren’t remotely obligated to have.

On the matter of tags:

From experience, if you want to have a tag system it’s 1000x better to figure it out before you start reccing. Believe me. I didn’t, and I had to redo it and re-tag everything three times. It sucks and it’s fucking time-consuming. What’s great about having a tag system already in place? Afterwards, it’s soooo easy and doesn’t take time AT ALL. 

So start by deciding what you want to tag. IMO, the basics are: pairing, rating, length, and type. i.e. canon, canon!AU, and AU (in the case of Merlin, because it’s a fandom heavy in AUs, especially modern ones, I divided modern AUs and other kinds of AUs).

All other tags are whatever you want them to be.

I made tags for both Arthur and Merlin, but honestly? I don’t think they’re that necessary. I have ‘arthur: pining’ and ‘merlin: pining’, but at the end of the day, this could just be a general ‘pining’ tag. All the hurt/ill/etc tags could be under a general hurt/comfort tag. ‘Arthur: jealous’ and ‘Merlin: jealous’ under a ‘jealousy’ tag. I personally like the “roles” tags, like professions and whatnot, because I read a lot of modern!AUs and I just liked being able to find stories through that, but it’s in no way necessary. Some of them could have been cut as well. Or combined. I shouldn’t have had a different tag for ‘firefighter’ and ‘law enforcement’ for example. One tag for these would have been enough.

What I like a lot are my ‘theme’ tags, which are basically THE TROPES. You can choose as many as you want. Looking back there are some I wouldn’t have included (elves & fairies, de-aging, bodyswap for example) simply because 1) there wasn’t that many fics for them in the first place and 2) I didn’t read that many fics for those. I started this blog when I was very unaware of the popular tropes in the fandom, and what I liked/didn’t like. Presumably you know what you like and are familiar with the fandom so you can start from there. You’ll see that I don’t have a tag for ‘kidfics’ or ‘mpreg/pregnancy’. That’s because I don’t read those kinds of fics. So I don’t rec them. So I don’t need a tag.

I would have loved to separate the AU tropes from the themes. Instead of having a ‘theme: apocalypse’ tag or a ‘theme: high school’ tag, to group all the AUs under an AU tag (like ‘AU: apocalypse’ and ‘AU: high school’ etc.) But that’s just me. I should have had tags for ‘fluff’, ‘flangst’, ‘angst’ and ‘hurt comfort’, but I didn’t, and that was a pain in my ass. Something to consider.

I have tags that are very specific to Merlin as a fandom, especially regarding the handling of magic since it’s so important to the show (i.e. ‘magic reveal’ ‘modern era magic’ and ‘arthur knows’) as well as tropes I like that stems from that (i.e. ‘spells & enchantments’, ‘magical persecution’, etc.) That’s a personal choice since they’re things I like. 

I’m more into telling people to make tags that fit THEM and what THEY read. Make it personal. About things you like. Not trying to please everybody else. And certainly NOT trying to tag everything in a story because there lies madness, believe me (all those useless tags I have stem from that).

For example, I read a lot of PWPs and kink, but I don’t rec a lot of it so I just made two basic tags—‘kink’ and ‘PWP’. But if you’re someone who reads a lot of kink, and you want to rec a lot of it, you might want to tag the different kinks (D/s, BDSM, bondage, pet play, etc). I don’t tag things like bottom!Merlin or bottom!Arthur, because it means nothing to me, makes no difference. But if you have preferences for that, you can create tags for them. I really like certain specific themes like ‘starting over’ and ‘families of choice’ so I made tags for those, even though they’re not something usually tagged.

So really, it’s up to you to decide what you like, and what you want.

Remember: the more tags you have, the harder it is to remember them. At first you’ll refer to your tags page a lot to make sure you haven’t forgotten one, but after a while you’ll remember them. Just try not to have random ones you’re never really going to use.

Once you’ve decided on your tags, make a page for them on your blog with links and everything even if you don’t have anything yet to fill them. The you can just lie back and relax; you’re truly ready to start.

Note on the index:

FIRST OF ALL, an index is for request lists, and you are not obligated, EVER, as a rec blog to take or fill requests if you don’t want to. If you do, you’re not obligated to index them at all.

Don’t start an index.


Don’t do it until you have like… idk 50 requests filled and you’re tired of going back through your ‘requests’ tag to find the one you want. EVEN THEN, I’d recommend to just tag your requests with one of your awesome tags you’ve created at the beginning (i.e. if the request is about high school AUs, tag it with your high school AU tag and that’s it). If some requests don’t fit any of your tags? Don’t fret. Just create an ‘untagged requests’ tag or something and call it a day. The index is a lot of work.

That’s all I can think of for now. Let me know if you have more questions, or if you don’T understand something etc. 




  • incredibly long crosscountry train ride AU
  • police procedural AU
  • bookstore AU
  • reluctant teammates that save the world together AU
  • platonic living together AU
  • lawyers AU
  • stuck-in-an-airport-because-the-flights-were-SO-VERY-delayed-and-it’s-like-two-am AU
  • sent to live with cousins AU
  • pretending to be siblings because of reasons AU
  • teaming up to rescue respective abducted children AU
  • pseudo-adopting-the-runaway-i-ran-into AU
  • forget high school students AU i want a high school teachers AU
  • law school AU


  • on the same college tour AU
  • trapped in a bank during a robbery AU
  • forced to share a table at the coffee shop a couple days in a row because crowded coffee shop and no room AU
  • medical school AU
  • ride the same bus together literally every day AU
  • vet clinic AU
  • 'i'm pretending to be ur bff bc u looked VERY uncomfortable with that person at the bar hitting on u' AU
  • college professors AU
  • on a train together and the train is stopped in the middle of nowhere for some reason AU

Doing the thing. You know the drill. Some of those are really specific so the fics might stretch things a bit, but. All M/A unless otherwise specified.

mizufae asked: "Oh kindly curator, would you be so lovely as to oblige me with a list of some of your favorite mutual pining Merlin/Arthur fics? Happy, satisfying resolutions please, but lots of pining on both their parts is what I'm looking for. I keep remembering wrong and rereading old favorites where one is oblivious and the other is pining, when the itch I've got is for both of them mutually pining simultaneously. Thanks!"

oooh, hahaha after reading yout request, I drew a complete blank! couldn’t for the life of me think of any fic with mutual pining. So I went in my ‘arthur: pining tag’ and looked for fics also tagged ‘merlin: pining’ and this is what I got. Note: some might be heavier on the pining than others. I find that historical AUs are pretty good on the mutual pining.
(Also put two of mine there that I thought would fit… >.>)

*stares at list* This isn’t an exact science. I feel like I’m missing some very important pieces… ANYWAY, hopefully you’ll like some of those.
I’ve got to step up my game.

allthefunnyiwant asked: "Hello, I am having a very terrible day today and I need happy not just fluffy but burying with love Merthur fics that will cheer me up and leave me feeling emotionally satisfied. Preferably with Established Relationship. Thank you, if it's not too much to ask for."

awwww I’m sorry your day is horrible. He’re a few SUPER HAPPY FULL OF LOVE established relationship recs for you

Anonymous asked: "I'm sorry if you already have this listed somewhere, but if not... could you maybe recommend some of your personal favorite Christmas M/A fics? :) *ahem* I know it's July, but... erm... yeah. :P *crawls away humming Jingle Bells to self*"



You should check this compilation list of winter and holiday fics. It needs a bit updating, I think, but there’s a lot there anyway. As for my personal favourites here are a few.

You can also check my holidays tag to see the fics I have recced. 

Anonymous asked: "do you know any fics where merlin and arthur realize they are in love after a game of chicken?"