Books as… decoration?!?

Do you get as distracted as I do by all those bookshelves behind the talking heads on TV? It’s hard for me to keep up with Judy Woodruff and the PBS Newshour when they broadcast out of the studio, presumably in the anchor and reporters’ homes. I’m more curious about the books they read than the news they’re reporting, so I’m squinting, trying to decipher titles on the spines.

Then I came across an article by Manuel Roig-Franzia from The Washington Post (I read it in The Oregonian, Sunday April 24, 2022): “These unread books have a long shelf life as decor.”

Silly me. I never thought much beyond using books for anything other than To Read Them.

I understood, of course, that my beloved books could end up “remaindered”: sitting in bargain book bins in discount stores or maybe just sent to the Huge Book Shredder that awaits all unsold, unwanted books.

So in a way, I was thrilled to read Roig-Franzia’s summary of various ways many books are given new life. Some books end up as decoration in bars, restaurants, corporate lobbies. “Often they are sold to interior designers by the linear foot (about 10 to 12 books per foot typically), or to under-booked new homeowners, or chain store decorators and myriad others,” Roig-Franzia writes.

He goes on to describe how these books are purchased by the tractor-trailer load and sold by the ton. When you figure somewhere between a half-million and a million books are printed each year, you can also figure they have to go somewhere because not all of them end up in happy, book-loving, book-saving homes.

One man, Joe McKim, has a book business (as The Book Bundler) who sells books not only by the foot but by color. Need a rows of red, white and blue spines for your patriot-themed home library? McKim can fix you up.

McKim even has a “books-by-the-foot designer” who is “ever on the lookout for those most-prized book spines: pink and purple.” Woohoo! My hardcover book, None But the Dead and Dying, has a purple spine. Well, faded purple. Maybe purple enough to give it a little more life as decor than it had on bookstore shelves. Wait — the dustcover is purple. The book is blue. Oh, well.

At least now I know that maybe, just maybe, the books I’m trying to see behind people on TV are maybe just props. Maybe, just maybe, that’ll get me to stop trying to read the titles.


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