Written by Annie Diamond
Look, if your book covers don’t match your décor, what are you to do?
“Shelve your books backwards” is an answer some internet home decorators would propose. A new design trend popping up on social media is displaying the page side of books. As far as I can tell, the discussion revolves around 40% people actually doing it and 60% of people hating the people who do this.
The argument for this practice is primarily based in aesthetics. The original backward-bookers posts usually reference the idea of calming down a room’s color scheme. If the theme of the room is a minimalist neutral, this is a way to display your favorite books without showing that neon orange cover. It also doesn’t hurt anyone. Backward-bookers say they can recognize their favorites from the size, color, and marks on a books front. Some speculate this practice might actually be helpful because it could prevent the discoloration of the book covers.
Those who are anti-this-trend mainly focus on the impracticality. After all, they say, books are utility objects. To most people, books serve as something to read. Deliberately making your books harder to access and therefore harder to use can be absurd to some. And there’s the strangeness of the unfamiliar: after all, we’re used to books being shelved this one way. For many, books take on additional meanings. If you’re reading this blog post, writing probably means more to you than words on a page.
But does it have to?
Books are books. Yes, they contain stories, but they also serve as paperweights, doorstep holders, and wobbly table-leg fixers. Books are objects and to prioritize one use over another is arbitrary. In the era of e-books, whatever magic you ascribe to the value of a book should also be found in the value of an electronic file. To some, books might be a feature of the décor, and it makes no difference to store them backwards if that’s one’s aesthetic preference. “Book” is a vague term from the beginning anyway. Novels can be scrolls, a packet of papers stapled together, or some pixels on an iPad. A book can be pictures, blank, a series of woodcuts. Books have often been used as a sign of wealth and status—shelving books backwards is just doing it a little differently
So shelving your books backwards is probably fine. People who wonder about what shelving your books backwards says about somebody should take heed and remember that in The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby had decorative books on display in his library. Your skill and value as a reader does not have much to do with your shelving habits.
All these thoughts aside, I’m still speculating on who is actually doing this trend, and here are some guesses:
- People who don’t want others to know what they’re reading. Look, I understand if you want to have space for your extensive Chuck Tingle collection, but you don’t want me to know.
- People who do want others to know they’re reading. Okay, so here’s the scenario I envision: someone’s, like, really into Proust. But they’re aware that if you just casually have Proust on display, you will be accused of being pretentious. But if you shelve it backwards, it’ll still draw attention and you won’t look like a windbag when you casually drop in Swann’s Way. (I imagine that this is the same person who vague-posts on social media.)
- People who are really into the color beige. I cannot imagine being so dedicated to a neutral that I would make my life slightly more inconvenient, but those people exist and have sworn their allegiance to the blandest color. Props to the dedication.
- Instagram bloggers and article writers who want people to click on their links and comment. I’m not saying that this trend is made up, but I am saying that one should be suspicious if this trend is really made up.
- Serial Killers. It’s like saving blank pictures over all your album covers to avoid clutter. I understand the embrace of anonymity. I just think you might be a serial killer while doing so.