Books and Bookshelves in the Digital Age

“Books are NOT decorations, they are FAMILY!”
By Jackie Blem

I get a weekly round-up of stories from The Seattle Times. Two articles that popped up recently caught my attention and spurred me to defend my beloveds: books, real-live physical books.

Both articles dealt, in different ways, with interior design and new ways to use bookshelves in this digital age. Both made me want to stand up and scream, “Books are NOT decorations, they are FAMILY!”

I settled for posting the comment on Facebook – the digital age way of hollering off the bell tower, don’t you know (and far less likely to garner calls to the police about the crazy woman yelling on her porch at 7:00 in the morning).

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Both articles recommend getting rid of your paperbacks, or at least shuffling them off to the darkest, least seen part of your house. Another suggestion was to shelve by size and weight. Or sort by color.

If your books don’t match your decor, wrap them in a paper cover that does. Space them out with other objects and curios to make a pleasing, uncluttered display. “People are still accessorizing with books,” says designer Marie Meko. “Books provide memories.”

Yes they do. And entertainment, intellectual stimulation, breadth of thought, delight, horror, love, hate, sadness, inspiration, frustration, comfort, windows into the world (or into other worlds). . . .And yes, they can provide us beauty as well.

But by and large, that is not why they were created, and to see them reduced to decorations on a societal level would break my book-nerd heart.

And why I am not the least bit ashamed – and actually rather proud – of the piled up second-hand bookshelves that surround me. I truly wouldn’t want it any other way.

jackie-blemJackie Blem is blog coordinator, coffee maven, and bookseller at Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, CO and a regular contributor to Read It Forward. You can talk books with her on Facebook.

About Kira Walton

Kira Walton

KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor.

  • natalie kozaczka

    I completly agree with everything you wrote 🙂

  • Margie Hunter


  • chris lachapelle

    Books are my friends and provide so many hours of peace and entertainment and adventure

  • Nicole

    It warms my heart to see someone else plead the case for bookshelves to be used for their purpose: shelve books. My nerdy 4 year-old has taught me a lesson. No matter how many times I try to make her bookshelves look pretty, she categorizes them based on her use. She always brings some to bed to read and cuddle with. Shouldn’t that be how my shelves look too?
    I needed to see this commentary. I have been shamelessly considering a color NOOK this weekend. I love the thought of having so many books conveniently tucked in my purse electronically – but at the same time, I love to see my shelves, end-tables, tote bags and bathrooms holding my prized possessions, books.

  • Gigi Ann

    I love my books and I have them neatly on display on my bookshelves for all to see. I like them neatly displayed, not on piles everywhere. Just this past week, I moved another bookcase into my reading corner, so I could display all my books neatly.

  • Cynthia

    Amen. We have piles of books in bookcases and books leaning into each other. Not many are sorted except children’s books are together–like hard covers of Uncle Wiggly and Oz books.

  • Diane

    Oh, then no one wants to come into my house and books. I din’t know books where a decorantion. Not in my place. They are not by size, color or even author. I put them on a bookshelf. I have no trouble finding what I’m looking for. I even have some in a drawer. I love old book stores for the same reason. I love digging through the books on shelfs looking for a book anybook that will catch my eye.

  • Pat

    I am so glad to hear other book people out there not afraid to express their love of books and book shelves, (neat or not ).
    I just love going to book stores especially estate sales, and used book stores. I get so excited when I find a book that is hard to find. I also love the way old books are made.
    I just love, love, love books, and hope they will always make real live books, and not only make e-readers books. I do have an e-reader also, but it could never take the place of the real thing.

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