Don't judge me. Or do, makes no nevermind. As I unpacked books on to my beautifully rebuilt shelves, I realized a couple things. First, someone has my copy of David Rhodes' Driftless, and it is driving me crazy. The best book I've read in five years can't simply be gone. Give it back. I need to make M read it. As a test. Second, I realize how many books I love I simply don't own. I have utilized the library too damn much. But my third, greatest finding is this: it makes complete sense to me to arrange books by color. Before you all go running for your copy of The Care and Feeding of Books: Rules and Regulations for an Uptight World, hear me out. I have spent a lot of time with books over my 42 years (31 years if you go by my brother's aging algorithms); I have spent years working with them professionally, designing, editing and proofreading them. And I know this: I remember books by what they look like. I know that the cover of America America (Ethan Canin) is as pastoral as its title suggests (and completely anachronistic, given the sordid story contained therein). I remember that the swirling water on Swimming in a Monsoon Sea (Shyam Selvadurai) helped me overcome my revulsion of teal, and that the crisp white volume of We Regret to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Children (Philip Gourevitch) is a devastatingly effective setup for the genocidal horrors found within its pages.
So, with some exceptions (knitting books are segregated and stacked together because they're mostly ugly; cookbooks have their own shelves closer to the kitchen), my books are arranged not by author, subject matter, or genre. Black gives way to grey, and white has a shelf of its own. In the corner, red begins the march down the rainbow (which totally doesn't look gay when it's books, bytheby). I'm surprised I don't have more orange books, and I'd like to suggest that cover designers use blue only as a last resort; my shelves can't handle more indigo. My little library behind the piano looks good, and it makes me happy. But even better? I can name that title in one color, and hand it over to you to read and love. Just give it back when you're finished.