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.