Backwards is beautiful (but these would make me crazy)

I was browsing on Pinterest last week when I came across these straight-up gorgeous bookshelves from House BeautifulΒ magazine. (I pin a lot of bookshelves.)


These bookshelves may be beautiful, but they would make me crazy. How would I ever find the right book again?

Unless, of course, these books were never intended to be read–and that feels like the equivalent of the styrofoam beams that appear in some homes these days. They’re pretty from a distance–but don’t get too close!

I don’t decorate with fake books. (Though I might make the occasional exception.)

The House Beautiful spread reminded me of a quote from a YA book I love, Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead. (Although if I had to pick a favorite Rebecca Stead novel, it would be When You Reach Me.)

This quote from early in the book convinced me I liked Ms. Stead’s style:


Once, Mom came home from work and discovered that he had turned all the books around so that the bindings were against the wall and the pages faced out. He said it was calming not to have all those words floating around and “creating static.” Mom made him turn them back. She said it was too hard to find a book when she couldn’t read the titles. Then she poured herself a big glass of wine.

Apparently Georges’s mom and I have a lot in common.

Do you decorate with books–and where do you fall on the functional vs. beautiful question? Would you ever fill your shelves with backwards books?


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  1. Ack! No way. Backward facing books totally strikes me as a technique one would use if they wanted the appearance of being well-read without actually being a reader. And anyway all those white page ends would collect dust and then it wouldn’t be all that pretty after all.

    Apparently I have strong opinions on this matter. Who knew? πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the ebook sale heads up. I grabbed Paradox.

  2. Kim says:

    Not a chance for the backward books!! I might buy a book for decorating.

    I do use books I currently own to decorate with occasionally. I have some with great fall colors or vibrant reds for Valentine’s Day. They sometimes make it to the end table or coffee table with a very intentional decorating purpose.

    • Anne says:

      That’s such a great idea for Valentine’s Day! I’m trying to be a little better about seasonal decorating–I enjoy the look when I do actually make the effort.

      My copy of P&P is red…. πŸ™‚

  3. Jessica says:

    So I’m going to counter here. I moved into a house with this crazy long mantel and almost nothing to decorate it. I have a ton if books that don’t have a bookshelf to be on. I lined. All my books up on the shelf and it looked terrible. Way too long and linear. I was really tempted to go out and buy stuff for the mantel, but am not in a place where I have that option right now. So instead, my sister in law helped me pile up the books. High and low. Vertical and horizontal. It made the shelf look three dimensional. And I spent zero dollars. Because the shelf is a focal point and there were so many wild colors, some of the books are spine in and some are spine out. I have no trouble turning the piles around to look for books that I need or want to read and I really love the neutral pallete. One day, I hope I will have big beautiful built ins like that for my collection. For now, I’m happy that my books are in my family room in a way that adds beauty instead of in a box in my garage.

  4. Anne says:

    My decorating with books pet peeve: using books just for the spine color and not for their meaning. If I have a book out as decoration, it has to have meaning. I have to have liked it. I can’t just have it there because it’s the right color of aqua. I mean, that’s just wrong. Ha! Now, if you love a book *and* it’s colors fit your decor…..well, that’s just win/win. πŸ™‚

  5. Beth Kensinger says:

    Function, function, function! Alphabetical all the way. But I think books are beautiful, even without color coding their spines or arranging by size:).

  6. Ana says:

    I have no idea about decorating one way or another, but I DO want to read Liar and Spy (I adored When You Reach Me). Adding it to my library queue.

    • Anne says:

      I didn’t love Liar & Spy as much as When You Reach Me, but that one was so good it doesn’t seem like a fair comparison. I definitely thought it was worthwhile. Curious to hear your thoughts after you read it!

  7. I do decorate with books–ones I love that have lovely covers and one large heavy cardboard book-shaped box where I put keepsakes. I have way too many books as it is to purchase books solely for decoration. I don’t think it’s terribly odd for people to buy a few books just for decor, but if they were to fill an entire bookshelf (or the equivalent) with books just for decor, I’d think they’re at least a little odd.

  8. Liz says:

    I have the same fancy red copy of Pride and Prejudice as I’ve seen in some of your pictures! That’s about my only fancy book right now, but I’ve actually read that very copy several times. I agree with the comment that said the look of those bookshelves is similar to wall paper. I like how they look geometric, but why have books as dust collectors for their geometry alone?

  9. Jennifer says:

    This picture gives me a twitch–I actually hate it! I’m not a fan of “decorating” with books. And, bookshelves are for books, not fancy plants, baskets, and pictures. Meh, to each his own I guess.

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