Books: You’ve Got Them Ass-Backwards

As Japanese organizational expert Marie Kondo has taught us, books are cluttersome things best done away with. But for those of us who insist on keeping the darn things around, Flavorwire reports a new trend that offers a design-friendly solution: the backwards book. Instead of offending their Instagram followers with unsightly, clashing spines, design-forward decorators simply turn their books around, creating a pleasing mélange of book-shaped objects to complement a feature wall.


An Instagram post featured in the Flavorwire slideshow. “Vulgarian lackwit” = HARSH.


“Neutrals-loving lit nerds are drawn to the calming color scheme,” Flavorwire opines, “while others find the spines-to-the-back display super silly.”

In fact, within moments of posting this article to my Facebook feed, I found some “neutrals-loving,” bona-fide “lit nerds” who support the trend:





There are also plenty of people who are more than happy to speak out against it—including the Executive Director of the National Book Foundation.



Sorry, nerds: the book as objet is here to stay. A well-known iteration of this trend cropped up a few years ago, when people with better design sense than yours organized their libraries by color.


This person clearly has no pets or children or desire to eat or drink anything but water. Don’t let those coffee cups fool you!


Of course, New York’s famous Strand Bookstore has been selling and renting books by the foot to interior decorators and set designers for what seems like forever. And it’s been almost ten years since the below image from the Anthropologie catalogue transformed the library ladder from a dusty and forgotten thing to a hot purchase—to say nothing of the faux card catalogues available at home stores both posh and cheap. (Confession time: I own one of the latter!)


Don’t trip on those heels, darl.


In more recent years, wallpaper companies have obviated the need to buy books at all, as evidenced by the many patterns presently available.


From left to right: Gentlemens [sic] Books, Bella Books, Library, all available from Wallpaper Direct


The evidence is clear: books make the perfect aspirational object, no matter what’s (not) in ’em. (How many of you actually finished Infinite Jest?) Backwards books are the starkest, most authentic representation of this certifiable fact. Plus, it’s fun to guess!

In summary: Suck it, nerds! Embrace the backwards book. And perhaps consider other media design tips sourced from the internet.¹


“Carefully unglue [record] covers and turn inside out for that uniform-yet-variegated-levels-of-distress cardboard look.” —Emily Arkin, Boston, MA


“Everyone knows that the only printed material in your home that should be displayed face-front are back issues of Dwell.” —Evan Druce, Minneapolis, MN


“Another popular option for book lovers with fireplaces: have a festive ‘book lighting.'” —Chris Braiotta, Boston, MA


“I prefer to fill my bookshelves with stacks of printed-out 300-word Flavorwire features; it’s calming whites for us internet-rag-loving nerds.” —Daniel Brockman, Portland, OR


¹My friends who commented on Facebook when I posted the Flavorwire article



Posted in: Books and Authors
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About the Author:

Eugenia Williamson is the Associate Editor of Digital Products at Booklist. She worked in bookstores for twelve years, reviews books for The Boston Globe, and writes about books, culture, and politics for several other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Genie.

1 Comment on "Books: You’ve Got Them Ass-Backwards"

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  1.' Krista H. says:

    This article really made me laugh. I hate this backwards book trend! Our friend with a home staging business tried to get us to do that when we sold our condo. We refused. The condo sold in a day. Books win! (c:

    (Also, I did finish Infinite Jest. So there, nyah nyah.)

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