When my friend A. was helping me with some decorating ideas (I’m hopeless on my own), she recommended that I group the books on my family room shelves somehow.
“Group them? Like, with the Dewey Decimal System?” I asked. I wasn’t opposed. As a matter of fact, it would have made locating books much easier.
“No, not like that. I’m thinking like a decorator here. You could do it any number of ways.”
“You’re going to have to give me some ideas here.”
“Well, you could go by size, or by the type of book–in fact, you could slip all your paperbacks into baskets–or you could group them by color–“
“Stop!” I exclaimed. “Color! I like that idea.”
She was surprised. She was sure I was going to download the Dewey Decimal system and stick numbers on the spines.
But sure enough, I did it. I grouped them by color. First I took the dust covers off the hardback books (I saved the dust covers in a plastic storage bin in the basement, because I just couldn’t throw them away. I guess some people just toss them. Horrors!), and discovered that the hard covers could be loosely grouped into a few main color categories. I shelved them in those general categories and really liked the calming visual effect.
The only disconcerting thing is to have all of the C.S. Lewis books scattered here and there instead of grouped in one place. Or to have some totally secular novel right next to R.C. Sproul or J.I. Packer. I hope they don’t mind. Perhaps there is a sanctifying effect by osmosis?
And title-browsing can be rather disconcerting, as there’s nothing tying the books together thematically, nor are they collected by author or alphabetical order. The primary thing they share in common is the color of their spines.
This is not the natural choice of a book lover, I’ll admit. But I’m happy with the way my family room feels.
They are only grouped by color in the family room, by the way. I grouped them a little more by my own logic in the front room (poetry on one shelf, fiction books by contemporary authors on another, classic paperbacks in one place and classic hardbound on another shelf nearby, etc.).
People notice first that I have an alarming number of books (you may recall that my living room also has a large quantity of books on display). And then they stare at those family room shelves for a moment.
Slowly it dawns on them. “You’ve got your books grouped by color, don’t you?”
“Yes,” I answer. “I know it’s weird, but it works for me.”
Obviously, there are exceptions slipping in, but the top left shelf is mainly green, next down are the whites and off-whites, and under that are the blacks (with an odd white stuck in there, as you can see).
Top right shelf is mainly blue. Under that: red. And under the red are some greyish spines followed by a few more whites.
Note: In the years since I first posted this, grouping books by color has become common, but with A.’s help, I was an early adopter, even if it was not expertly done.
Cute! I love it. I think I’d have a hard time with that…I’m all about series. But maybe in my living room, it would be very cool.
How creative! It looks great! Craft magazine has a post about that on their blog, too (http://www.craftzine.com/blog/archive/2007/09/organizing_books_by_color.html?CMP=OTC-5JF307375954).
In that post there’s also a link to another Web site that talks about a bookstore in San Francisco that arranged all its books by color, as well.
As a librarian, I can tell you that’s how everybody comes in and asks for a book they can’t remember the name of. “It’s red…and it’s about THIS big…” We considered arranging our books by color many times.
I love this idea! It may make finding a particular title difficult but I bet it makes browsing a lot more fun.
ohamanda: It’s a pain to try it, only to discover you want to go back to the more logical associations. I wonder, though, if the books you have in a series are similar enough in color to group together anyway?
writerbee: Oh, man, that photo and the one of the bookstore are fabulous! Who wouldn’t want to try it after seeing that pop of bright color? People–click over to the link that writerbee left! It’s gorgeous!
bloginmyeye: That’s so funny, because I’ve pretty much done that same thing. I doubt if I pestered the librarian with it, but I’ve meandered the shelves in search of it on my own. “Hmm….what was the name of that book, and who was the author? I remember it was big and very square and had a lot of brown in the design….” In fact, I did that for a children’s book called Marguerite Makes a Book. http://www.amazon.com/Marguerite-Makes-Book-Bruce-Robertson/dp/089236372X
I finally found it, years later, in the place that categorizes just about everything *but* books by color–Goodwill.
Okay, yes, the color idea is very cool but…can I just say I LOVE LOVE LOVE your shelves? ::::::::salivating::::::::::I adore my Victorian house, but there is NOTHING like the organization possibilities with these shelves.
I am sympathetic with that librarian. I still recall the best mystery I ever read–and as you know, I have read a LOT of mysteries. Sadly, I don’t remember the title, or the author. I just remember where it was on the shelf in the library….BEFORE the library remodeled! Then we had a librarian who loved getting rid of books (we sometimes wondered what led her into library science when she so obviously hated books), so I am sure that the wonderful mystery went a long time ago. It was a one-shot deal, not part of a series. Now all I can do is remember it fondly.
Mrs. Brownstone @ XBOX Wife says
Great idea! Love finding a fellow bookworm – I am so envying your awesome bookcases right now! 🙂
Is it totally boring that I group mine by author? Except, right now, because I accidentally bought so many over the past several months…they’re in stacks :/.
Not very decorator-y…
Yours look great, btw…cool idea :).
I love it. I really truely do. But I think I would be awake at night worrying that the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was missing Prince Caspian. Eventually I would climb out of bed and rejoin them. Then I would be quite angry that those two books refused to fit into my color scheme and gave me insomnia over something so insignificant.
All that said…lol. I have some random misc books that have no partners, and THEY will be catagorized by color:)
Valerie: Well, now, I wonder if I could entice you to come over and *organize my house*?! I’d be willing to pull some books off the shelf if you could help me with some other issues!
Lynn/Mom: Doggone it, I’m sorry you lost track of a good mystery book. I wonder if you could remember anything about it, the protagonist’s name or the basic plot, and could Google it?
Mrs. Brownstone: Likewise! Booklovers unite!
Robin: Ah, well, um, that’s just one room. I admit to stacks, too. And in the front room shelves, I do collect them more by author.
Becka: I love the window into your psyche! If you take a look at the above note to Robin, you’ll see that I do have author-driven methods elsewhere. If I had a series like that, I’d store them in another room. Because I agree; it would be maddening if not just wrong to separate the Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of N.