The illiteracy-promoting interior design abomination called “backwards books”

Maybe I’m just a stuffy old nerd, but I want to subject the author of this horrible home decor tip that’s been making the internet rounds to mandatory literary re-education:

The rationale is that the pages of books provide a more neutral backdrop than those pesky spines, which detract from the look that the designers are going for, which seems to be a bland uniformity.

A quick search revealed that there are a number of designers who think this is a good idea. Here’s a sample from a recent article in Real Simple:

Apartment Therapy followed up with their own article, which featured one couple who’ve decided to drop the pretense of bookshelves and simply admit that books are decorative widgets that you can use to plug up any empty hole in your living space:

Since this is a design trend for empty-headed people, it shouldn’t surprise you that a morning show covered it:

Long time, no talk babes! My home tour went off without a hitch, it was lovely to have so many Hannibillians through this old house over the weekend. I am in crunch mode trying to finish an event space in time for a major NYE bash. So this very well might be “Hi” and “bye”, until after the holidays. Just wanted to pop in and wish you all a warm and wonderful next couple weeks!! Lots of love y’all!! 😘😘 . . . #howyouhome #mytradhome #myhousebeautiful #apartmenttherapy #designsponge #christmastree #targetstyle #gallerywall #christmasdecoration #christmasdecor #library #bhgcelebrate #howeedwell #currenthomeview #bookstack #interieurdesign #interieurs #myhomevibe #sassyhomestyle #christmascactus #holidayhome #midcenturymodern #rosegoldtree

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I’m not sure what’s worse — interior design blogger Natasha Meininger’s turning the books the wrong way because she thinks the should only be decorative elements, or the fake sophistication she’s trying to project with her half-French hashtags, #interieurdesign and #interieurs.

Her rationale for her crime-against-knowledge approach to shelving books:

“My book collection is huge so it was important to me from a design standpoint to find a creative way to store my accumulation,” she explained to TODAY Home. “I have read thousands of books. I’ve only reread about 20, so I don’t find it necessary to be able to find a specific title that I’ve already read at the drop of a hat.”

The main argument for why designers like this look is that it shows the whites of the pages, creating a cohesive color palette on your bookshelf. “I love the sculptural effect you get by facing the pages out,” Meininger added.

Here’s the article’s final paragraph:

The bottom line? if you’re not adamantly opposed to hiding the spine of your favorite books and are looking for a new way to decorate your bookshelf, this trend can be a beautiful thing to try.

I suppose it’s not as horrible as their network’s office-decorating idea of buttons that enable you to lock your office door from your desk.

It’s a big enough trend for BuzzFeed to have noticed it. To their credit, their article is titled OMG People, Why Would You Ever Do This To Books?, and its subtitle is even better: What fuckery is this?

One of the designers featured in the Buzzfeed piece seems to be more interested in the attention it brought rather than why the attention was brought in the first place:


I suppose it’s still less pretentious than that trend from the ’70s and ’80s where people got grand pianos not because they could play or wanted to, but simply because it “pulled the room together”, but to my mind, “backwards books” is more than just style of substance — it’s weapons-grade ignorance.

19 replies on “The illiteracy-promoting interior design abomination called “backwards books””

If you want to make a specific book maddeningly difficult to find but have them look good on the shelf, sort by colour. This doesn’t even look good. it looks like neutral garbage on bookshelves.

It’s specifically about aesthetic, which makes this whole rant about you, and how you like books.

It is pretentious to write a blog post write this, not to decorate your house with books.

The reality is that many of us aren’t going to read from physical books, and they will be merely a decoration. Backwards books is about decoration.

People don’t need physical books to read. That’s obvious, so what was the point of this touchy-feely rant?

Two observations:
1. This trend provides further evidence – see also Christmas trees and other decorations made from unwanted books – of the demise of the book.
2. People who embrace this trend are likely the same people who feel it’s important that their art match their furniture.

If the person has read the book and has no intention of rereading it why not just donate it. Pass it on to someone else. As far as decorating goes, wouldn’t it be better to occupy the space with objects that were made for decorating?
This is the stupidest idea I’ve heard in my life.

If they have any books in the White House… oh, wait. They had a Christmas tree made of green books all glued together.

Well, anyway who thought interieur (!) designers had any brains in their decorative whatever part they keep their brains in?

best… mae at

Ok, but there’s another way we could look at this. It could be a really fun way to tackle the year’s reading challenge. People love the mystery of the brown paper wrapped ‘blind date’ books. Generally speaking, if you have a home library, you also have a tbr-pile-that’s-not-a-pile-only-because-of-the-bookcases. So why not switch them backwards and read at random for a year. You know it’s going to be something you want to read because it’s already on your shelf. Just a positive spin on this.

People are going to do what they want to do. If this makes them happy, fine, to each their own. Honestly I don’t see how this is much different from the over priced and decorative books many people indulge in, such as Easton Press books, which many people buy without ever intending to read (because they’re wildly overpriced no doubt). Some people use books as decoration, but I don’t think this heralds the death of books or literacy anymore than the adoption of newspapers or cellphones. If your director decides this is the best way to organize the shelves in your workplace however, that’d be a very different matter indeed.

Now I’ve seen everything.

Why have books at all if you’re going to blend them into the neutral wall? Is it about the lines of the room? Then paint lines or use furniture or patterns or whatever is lying around. Use textures or textiles. Use lighting. Not books. If you’re embarrassed that you have nothing but Dean Koontz, L. Ron Hubbard, Stephenie Meyer and E.L. James books in your collection, by all means, spine in.

If you do this with Camus, Bradbury, Orwell or Atwood, then a pox upon your house.

People still read from books. There are still three generations that grew up using books and still enjoy reading from them. Millennials may not get books because they can’t get their noses out of social media — Pinterest is apropos in this instance. People who have this many books on their shelves are clearly collectors. Putting the spine in on a book that’s published in the ’50s places the book at risk. If somebody did this with my 1st edition Wind and the Willows, they’d be duct-taped to the ceiling.

This is similar to going through a collectors old 45s and nailing them to the wall. Or creating a mural out of 1960s hockey cards for a kid’s room. Sure, I get it, but it’s pretty sacrilegious to those who are collectors.

I suggest, quite seriously, that “backwards books” and its monkey-see-monkey-do acceptance as “the newest thing” is actually a subtle anti-intellectual ploy to plant in our minds that *books* are really just nothing. George Orwell would understand, and Big Brother would certainly approve.

For millennia, books have been intellectual treasures, and for five centuries, available to the rank and file, until this enlightened age when every citizen (and voter) can read, think critically and make up his or her own mind. The television trend and the internet invasion have done wonders to advance the fascist culture of ignorance, however, and now this trend may be the next step. “Books mean nothing” and its logical sequel “Thinking is unnecessary” are dangerous trends, indeed, right up there with ethnic hatred (remember Pastor Niemueller!) and the precious freedom to shoot anybody you please and get away with it (see any newspaper’s headlines). It’s getting worse.

Fellow frogs, the water is beginning to boil.

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