There are many sensible ways to organize your books.
You can alphabetize them by author. You can divide them by genre. You can group all the paperbacks together. You can reserve a shelf for autographed books or first editions.
Then there are less sensible but still reasonable ways to organize your books.
You can shelve them by size. You can shelve them chronologically. You can shelve them by category: books you’ve read, books you haven’t read, books you probably will never read.
You can even (shudder) shelve them by the color of the book jackets.
There really is only one truly egregious way to organize your books, and apparently it’s all the rage: that is, with the spines turned inward.
This trend surfaced most recently in a wire-service story about decorating one’s house in a sophisticated fashion. I am pretty sure that if I walked into your house and saw that all of your books were turned backward, I would not think you were sophisticated. I would think you had lost your mind.
“Decorating with books is one of the most affordable ways to design, and a go-to designer trick,” the story reads. Turning books spines-inward gives a “consistent look.”
I am not sure why designers always want to mess with people’s books. Shelve by color, they say. Wrap each book in shiny white paper so they all look “clean,” they say. Stand some of the books up, and lay some of them flat, they say. Oh, they have a million ideas. But the idea of shelving books with the spines turned in — so that all you can see is the edge of the pages and not the title or author — is baffling. How would you ever find anything?
Well, you wouldn’t. But it might be that people who do this don’t actually have any books to find. The picture that accompanied the article showed eerily identical books: They are all the same size. The covers are uniformly dark gray, with no type or design. The edges of the pages are pristine white.
These clearly are not books, but props.
Still, if this trend takes off, I can think of many other ways to decorate with books. You could nail them to the wall to make a lovely pattern. You could hang them from the ceiling with picture wire and dowels and make a spinning mobile. (Watch your head!) You could glue them together on the floor and make a thick and festive rug.
Or you could decorate with them the way I do: Stuff them on the shelves, pile them up on the bedside table, leave a few on the coffee table and dining room table and the towel shelf in the bathroom. And then, maybe, I don’t know, read them.
But in all seriousness, do you decorate with books? Or do you organize them in a useful way? (And maybe you do both.) How are they arranged? By color and size? By author and genre? By Man Booker and Pulitzer? E-mail me and I’ll run your ideas in a future column. Books@startribune.com.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. On Twitter: @StribBooks. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks