BOOKS

A Pretty, Impractical Way To Organize Your Bookshelf

Forget alphabetical shelving. This textile artist shows us how it's done.

Consider the book. No, not your favorite book, the one with the plucky heroine and heart-wrenching plot twist. Not the one that’s coming out as a movie adaptation later this year, either. Just any old book -- the physical object that contains those letters and words you’ve come to love or discuss heatedly.

Textile artist Gali Cnaani hadn’t really thought about books as physical objects until she was working on an exhibition in Tel Aviv focusing on “construction and deconstruction.” The theme led her to examine her bookshelf, organized ordinarily and functionally, with spines facing outward. 

Because books are physical objects in addition to being meaningful vessels of information, she thought, why not reconstruct her bookshelf as a textile-inspired work of art? "As a textile designer I see grids, patterns and repeats in almost everything," Cnaani says. "I can find minor differences in hues and colors."

So she removed her books from her shelves, and compared the shades and shapes of their interiors, rather than their spines, discovering a spectrum of off-white and brownish hues. While sorting the volumes by color, Cnaani recognized a pattern: she ended up sorting the books by genre inadvertently, grouping her husband’s dark brown-paged fantasy novels together, and her pristine, white-paged new books in a separate stack. She then stacked her library in different patterns resembling textile designs, like Herringbone.

“It was funny to see the reaction of friends that came to visit and suddenly realized what they are looking at,” Cnaani said. “No one in my family could read a book. All books wear occupied by art.”

Though her shelves eventually went back to normal post-exhibition, Cnaani says she appreciates getting in touch with the sensual side of books. “When you examine a physical book apart from its usual function, you find a complicated and versatile object,” she said. “It has six faces that each of them is different, it can be soft and hard at the same time, it is colorful even when it is a monochrome, it can double its size when you open it, it can change its thickness while you’re turning pages.”

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