Leave My Books Alone Unless You’re Actually Going to Read One

So, after two failed attempts at writing a decent blog post this morning (one on why I don’t act my age and one on online role-playing game addiction), I decided to drink whiskey and eat pretzels on my deck while I read a magazine. Yes, this is certainly a part of my creative process. Did you have any doubts?

Then, there in front of me was my blog topic. While reading an article on home decorating (shallow, yes indeed), I stumbled across a tip I know I’ve seen before: Remove the dust jackets from your books and arrange them according to color.

My reaction was to choke on a pretzel, then take a really big gulp of my Jameson. That particular decorating tip will NEVER be enacted at my house.

Let me give you some background. I have a ton of books. Novels, poetry, nonfiction. Maps, manuals, comic books. Books on gardening, first aid, feminism, bike repair, house maintenance, photography, editing, HTML, and world politics. Humor, parody, memoir, and memoir that lies through its teeth.

And all those books are organized more or less by category. If I took off the dust jackets and arranged everything by color, I would have a plethora of blue, black, and red books. I’d never again be able to locate the one I want in under 30 minutes.

Decorators [insert snort here]. Do they seriously read? With all due respect, there are plenty of other things that can be organized by color, like plates and socks. Maybe eyeshadow. Pillows. That kind of stuff.

Leave the books alone. Let them tell visitors about something other than your skill at color coordination.


  1. I actually thought about something even weirder the other day. Buy rolls of white wrapping paper and cover all of my books in white paper. All of them. Talk about not being able to find a book. I think some part of me just wanted to see if I might rediscover a book that way. Like you, I have so many books it is like a library around here. Okay. I don't have any books on bike repair but I still have books on rock climbing which, to be honest, now are merely sources of mocking. (I won't go rock climbing again unless neuroscience makes some amazing discovery that doesn't require health insurance in the next two or three decades.)

    I also read about a second-hand bookstore that did this. Reorganized the books by color. They said that for the one week they did it, buyers were coming in and finding books in categories they never would have before. It made sense to me because I know that when I go to bookstores, I tend to go to certain sections automatically. Two stores closed down recently and they were my closest resources for Buddhist/Taoist/Eastern Spirituality resources. The third store that remained open has their rather small selection in a location of the store that I can't go near. (Vertigo, in case you're wondering. Not fear of heights but cervical and constant.) So I can see where moving books to be color coordinated might result in new discoveries. No doubt if that one bookstore would do it I might be able to at least look at a book at Thich Nhat Hanh without triggering an attack.

    But I'm with you and, in spite of my obviously insane idea, my books remain unwrapped and exposed in all their color clashing glory.


  2. Hey Satia – I think the color coordination idea for a bookstore is a stunning idea to get people to actually look at the titles instead of going to the sections that are so familiar….as long as it's only temporary! I hadn't thought about that possibility until I read your comments. And, white paper covers would make for peaceful bookshelves, right? So not so obviously insane. But I'm glad to know you'll keep your books unwrapped and un-color-coordinated….By the way, the bike repair manual doesn't get used very much. Gotta work on that.


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