Books of a feather ...

Books of a feather ...

Books don't just provide information and ideas; they also lend aesthetic appeal to any room they're in.
Jul 01, 2010

I love books. I love to read them, of course, but I also love to look at them. I think they’re beautiful in and of themselves—objets d’art that can transform the look of a living room or office (or magazine article) if displayed with appropriate care and reverence. Have you ever been walking outside in the evening and happened to glance through a window into someone’s book-lined, lamplit den? Didn’t it make you want to curl up in a cozy chair in that room with one of those books open on your lap, along with a purring kitty? OK, maybe that’s just me.

In my own home I group my books by color. I was inspired several years ago by a program on NPR that described a California bookstore’s publicity stunt. This store rearranged its entire inventory by hue, one color melding into the next, until a floor-to-ceiling rainbow stretched around the perimiter of the space. People flocked in by droves to check out the display, but since no one could actually find the book they wanted (unless they happened to know what color it was) the store eventually had to put everything back to its normal genre-subject-author organization scheme.

In my home the only person who has to find a book is me, so I decided to try this out with my own collection. It was surprisingly easy, and the results were visually spectacular. Red books on this shelf, a stack of white books next to it, and a row of black on the other side. Suddenly a ratty old thrift-store paperback looks quite handsome when it’s sitting next to several other titles of the same shade. People ask me if I have trouble finding what I want, and, surprisingly, it’s not hard. The only problem is when a book’s front cover differs in color from the spine. You could swear it was an orange book, but it doesn’t turn up in your orange section. Turns out the spine is light green. But it’s not enough of a deterrent to make me change my now entrenched system.

Nonfiction books in general, and business books in particular, tend to be very brightly colored, so when we settled on this month’s cover story, we knew we had to do something lovely with the books described. So we collected as many titles as we could from Advanstar staff and local libraries, then called our favorite Kansas City photographer, Mark McDonald, who’s a genius with still life shots. I hope you enjoy his work in this issue as much as we do.

Now all of those borrowed books are sitting in my office in a tantalizing stack. There’s a number I haven’t yet read, and they’re beckoning—especially in light of Tom McFerson’s article on page 18. They’re also silently proclaiming how nice they would look on my shelves at home. Sigh. They’re not mine to shelve or color-coordinate.

But there’s always And Half-Price Books. And Borders ...