11 Reasons to Shelve Your Books Backward

I’ve seen some outlandish suggestions for arranging a book collection, such as by color or by height. But in the extreme silliness stakes, it’s hard to beat the recent craze for displaying books backwards. That’s right, their spines point back, so that you can’t identify each book.

Generally, devotees find this unconventional arrangement aesthetically pleasing. (The tidy display may be a boon especially to people with obsessive compulsive disorder.) Folks mention the soothing monochromatic sameness of seeing a sea of identical pages, rather than spines of different colors:

Arranging books backward seems like a recipe for constant aggravation. But then I’m a prime candidate for being frustrated by this. I used to shelve books at a university history library, in the best semester ever for my biceps. The bulk of my job was locating the precise spot to place a book. The idea that it doesn’t matter, as I could have just sat all the books facing inward, is a shocker.

I also once, as a practical joke, turned all the books in a bookcase around at a party. This was retaliation as the host had previously, at a party in my apartment, switched all the labels of my spices. I giggled when thinking about how peeved he would be after the party, when he found out. This wouldn’t have worked, of course, if he was grateful for this hot new interior decorating help.

Or maybe this so-called trend is just an Instagram prank, designed to drive traffic. Who can tell? In the interest of trying to understand this trend, whatever it is, here are 11 possible reasons for people to place their books backward:

  1. It’s too distracting to see names and authors of books, as this makes you want to dive into reading. So placing the spines inward is a productivity hack.
  2. You’re ashamed of your taste in books. Keeping them permanently facing backward means that you don’t have to worry about guests judging you.
  3. When you do pick up a book, you like to rely on sweet randomness, rather than silly preconceived ideas about actually intending to read a specific title.
  4. Your cat, dog, baby, or [insert other small domestic terror here] has a nasty habit of clawing/biting/drooling over book spines.
  5. You’re so attuned to your book collection that you don’t need to see the spine to know which is which. You’re shocked that not everyone can identify a book from looking at the height and rough number of pages.
  6. This helps you keep track of which books you’ve read or which books you hate, as only those get turned around, like an unruly child on permanent face-the-corner time.
  7. You’re trying to preserve the spines from the elements (well, the elements within your home).
  8. You think your book-loving friends are too sensitive and opinionated about how to shelve books, and you want to drive them into a frenzy when you invite them over to look at your book collection.
  9. You’ve inherited a treasure map whose convoluted instructions have something to do with book leaves. You spend all your time staring at the back ends of books, looking to divine your wealthy ancestor’s strategy.
  10. You want to display your bookmarks to their full advantage.
  11. You’ve recently held a party, and some practical joker has deliberately turned around all your books. You can’t be bothered to put them right side round.

Any others?

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