Every book I ever held in my hand served as a little window to the universe. Having immigrant parents, whose grasp of the American English was only one aspect of the dead end, cul-de-sac communication that reigned in my childhood home, I also knew my books were my teachers.
Indeed my vocabulary, my speech style, were molded by the books I devoured -- they still serve to keep some of my personal vernacular in check. For decades, I kid you not, I used words learned only through my reading -- correctly, yes -- but mispronounced, for to them I would apply my German-based phonetics, which is my imprinted first language. My sisters would tease me (as siblings should) and my husband, whose eloquence I adore, thinks it's cute. I'm still in learning mode and hope to be so until I am positively ancient.
So, what in the world is up with the decorating trend in which books are disguised when displayed? Years back, before the internet, I remember seeing a spread in some country/down-home decorating magazine in which all books had been shelved in reverse so that their spines faced backwards, where the caption lauded the appeal of the uniformity of the white paper edges. I was inspired to write the editor and complain, and did. Since then I have seen, here and there, magazine spreads featuring homes in which paper-wrapped, generified books are displayed. In a recent issue of Veranda I spied, stacked on the tables of an opulent mcmansion, piles of paper clad, indistinguishable books, matchy-matched in a creamy tan color.
I pool paper-clad fake-lit displays with the lowest of decorating schemes, both in terms of artificiality and aesthetic impressiveness. As lover of word and lit, these anonymous arrays are very nearly blasphemous, for the Arts as represented in the written word is one of Mankind's sublime gifts, and one should not disguise a book like a bottle of cheap liquor, in particular in the name of Decorating 101. With nothing to differentiate Dickens from 50 Shades of (urp) Gray, what's the point? And it's not like some philosophical manifestation of the form of the book is being honored; it's a generified masking of the very thing that makes any book what it is -- the words/message/story contained within. Masked as such, it's just a bound pad of paper.
I pool paper-wrapped books with signage of the painfully and mundane obvious (like a "weathered" board bearing KITCHEN, hanging in the kitchen) and as superficial as were those horrid faux grain-bin kitchen drawer fronts, intended to evoke some sort of lil prairie-town general store via absolute fakery.
Let's be honest with how we decorate our homes: If you hate books and don't read, go to some HomeGoods-type super store and fill your grocery cart with meaningless, third-world-produced ceramic doodads. Take those things home and call it good. It is imo more honorable than a gift-wrapped fake lit display. But then do take pause and do consider taking up a book, especially if there is a child in your immediate world who could be read to.
Let's just say "No" to paper-wrapped, fake-lit displays of books. Want books? Collect them with honesty -- books you read in your youth that were part of your adult transformation, children's books you still cherish, literary works you have read or intend to read, picture-filled books you hope to peruse in a quiet hour. Buy them new, buy them used, buy one or rescue a box of them, then display your books in all their mismatched glory, spines exposed and unwrapped. Each book contains one story, but a collection of books is visually relevant and also quietly tells your story.