How many takes will it take to kill the backwards bookshelves trend?
I don’t know. But that won’t stop me from tryin’.
#Backwardsbooks is a recently reemerged design trend where books are flipped to hide their colorful spines. The effect is neutral and monochromatic and, I guess, pleasing to the minimalistic Crate and Barrel elite.
It’s also violently boring and offensive to traditional bookshelf design values — principles my living room was built on.
The backwards bookshelf fad first emerged sometime in 2009. At the time, it was believed to a reactionary movement against the growing and equally heinous “organize by color” bookshelf aesthetic.
There was little room in the bookshelf community for thematically-oriented readers, or anarcho-syndicalists who didn’t believe in any bookshelf organization at all.
“Seems like a sleek way to display those books you’ve read but can’t bare to part with — and don’t need to locate any time soon!” Apartment Therapy opined about backwards bookshelves, with just a hint of design-induced melancholy.
Shortly thereafter, the trend went into a prolonged and much-needed hibernation. Many of us thought that the backwards bookshelf had died for good. We’d battled so hard to strip the trend of its agency, whether by composing angry Facebook posts or making catty comments in people’s subpar living rooms.
But the scourge kept resurrecting itself, partially thanks to platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, where bad trends go to live forever. It’s hard to deny the immediate commercial appeal of backwards bookshelves — for one, it doesn’t require book owners to organize rooms chromatically around them. The uniform beige aesthetic had a high-end suburban mall Pottery Barn feel.
It’s also a fast and dirty way to look quirky, the most overrated of all the personality characteristics.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that #BackwardsBookshelves are trending again in 2018, and in the sort-of words of the great Boyz II Men, I’m asking you — begging you please — to kill this fad for good.
Your bookshelves deserve to be organized spontaneously, without regard to color or content or form. There is no better feeling than the feeling of someone walking into your living room and critically judging your books by their covers.
Without those spines showing, no one will ever know that you’ve read The Power Broker or Infinite Jest or the latest insufferable Maggie Nelson novella.
You have worked for their approval. You deserve to show off.
And if you must go vintage, consider using the great Dewey decimal system. You can even throw in some Etsy-inspired typewritten catalog cards — by all means, do whatever it takes to give yourself a firm design boner.
Just don’t go backwards. Books should live freely, without shame, their spines open to the sun and the wind. We can be forward thinkers in a #ForwardBookshelves world.
Turn this trend, and those book spines, around.