In Defense of Lauren (how to live among the books)

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I guess this is a trend. I can’t say it’s new. I think it’s been going on in private for a very long time and people just recently noticed. And some people are mad about it. That’s also not a new trend. People disagree on, like, everything.

Original Image from Ideal Home Magazine / Original Twitter post by user Pete Oway
Original Image from Ideal Home Magazine / Original Twitter post by user Pete Oway

But this one hits a little close to home for me. You see, for the past couple of years, I’ve found great solace in an online community of women who are all fans of one really spectacular author (Samantha Irby – follow this link to fall in love). These women are smart and funny and snarky and supportive of one another in a way I’ve never seen before. This “book club” has become my online home. They’re my version of a spa day in a world full of clogged pores and constant pressing demands. Each of these women (and that one guy) PASSIONATELY LOVES BOOKS

So when one of the members posted a photo of the backwards books, some serious opinions about this arose. Some of my favorite members of the group were calling Lauren names like “soulless monster” and “psychopath”. Ouch, man. That’s rough. 

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I think I might be Lauren. I mean, I know my name isn’t Lauren and I’m definitely not the designer of that room in the magazine. But I do have a number of book displays in my house that could qualify as Lauren-esque. And, while I’ve never arranged an entire shelf of backwards books, I can empathize with the person who has. 

woman in chair reeding book surrounded by books and candles.jpeg

That blurry woman in the first photo is actually me. That’s my office. Those are my stacks of books. My office doesn’t always look like this. Sometimes, those books get tossed into a box and thrown in a closet. Sometimes they get dispersed among the shelves in our bonus room. To be honest, I don’t really know what to do with my beloved paperbacks and bright book covers. I don’t have the type of design aesthetic that allows for very vibrant mixed media. I love those spaces. In other people’s homes. For my home, I require a little more neutral decor. And that’s okay. 

It’s okay to want books in your life but to also want a pretty home. Wanting a pretty home doesn’t make you vain or superficial. That’s what this whole discussion boils down to – one group deciding another group is unworthy of something. In this case, it’s books. Those who want a pretty home are superficial and they don’t deserve (or aren’t really smart enough) to read good books. I say Humbug!

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One of the major defenses of the Backwards Book detractors is that books are not decorations. What makes a decoration? Am I only allowed to decorate my home with items that have come labeled “Home Decor”? What about bowls of fruit? These have been used for centuries in paintings and as decor in homes. Technically, fruit serves a utilitarian purpose. It’s meant to be consumed. Does that mean I should place all of my fruit in a hidden spot and refuse to display it? Nuh uh. Not me. I am the queen of a bowl of apples. 

If books were not meant to be decoration, why is so much time and money spent making them lovely? If books are not decorations, why are the people who design the jackets called Cover Artists? Is art not a decoration? Those books above are three of my favorites, from my own collection. I love them because I find beauty in them. One is a journal of medical science. I am so not reading that. I’ve read The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (I was a Theatre major for a minute and a half), but I haven’t read that specific copy. Why? Because they are clearly art. They are so lovely. And I display them in my home as such. 

clearly I have a crush on David Sedaris. but who doesn't?
clearly I have a crush on David Sedaris. but who doesn’t?

Another reason people are offended by backwards books is that it isn’t practical for everyday life. You know what else isn’t practical for everyday life? Tall bookshelves. If you think backwards books are a pain to sort through, do you also own a library ladder? 

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Here’s another of my book vignettes in my office. While all of the spines are facing outward, I can’t even access these books without first moving three picture frames. Why? Because three picture frames is far less busy to the eye than 15 book spines. In fact, most of my books are pretty inaccesible. Which is just fine with me. After I’ve read a book, I may never pick it up again. That doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to own books. It just means I must find a practical way to store them in my home. I’m making them work with my life. And isn’t that all that matters? 


My final word on the matter: Store your books however you like them. At least, at the end of the day, you’re not one of those soulless monsters who uses an eReader. Ugh. 

If you want to hear more about this book controversy, check out Young House Love Has A Podcast. John and Sherry weighed in on the topic this week. To get you started, they’ve broken down how to find their podcast and start listening here. Also, you can see this article from Elle Decor which is, um, way over-the-top, but serves as a good reminder that people can get really hyped about the smallest things. And if you’re looking for a good book, I highly recommend We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby. It’s a collection of essays and she’s very funny. Affiliate link included on that one (which means if you buy it after you click, I’ll get a very small commission for recommending it, but I do actually legit love that book). 

These are my daughter’s current favorite books. We keep them in a bin under her bedside table for easy access at night. We rotate out the ones she no longer cares about and fill it back up with new books we’ve “shopped” from our family room shelves. Her current favorite is Five Black Cats. It’s Halloween themed, but she really likes pumpkins. My favorite to read her is Bear On A Bike. It has a sweet little rhyme and the drawings are precious. I’m currently reading Divided Sisters which is out of print, but you can still find it on Amazon from used book sellers. (all affiliate links). 


Happy Reading!

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