When I enter someone’s home for the first time I look for the bookshelves, and if I discover bookshelves full of books, I’ve found my conversation starter. If I don’t see any books or bookshelves, I’m disappointed, even concerned. I admittedly jump to conclusions about my host, although I shouldn’t be in such a rush to judgment.
You can imagine my reaction when I read a New York Times article, “Go Ahead, Judge This Book by Its Cover. There’s Nothing Inside.”
The article highlighted the trend of using fake books as décor—books that have been hollowed out, or just the covers with stiffened spines so they stand up, or fabric with images of book covers printed on them. You can order fake books by color or by size or by subject matter. You can buy them by the linear foot.
Fake books have been the norm for a while now in film sets and commercial spaces, but are now becoming popular decorating fixtures in homes. During the pandemic, the demand for fake books increased, as people wanted to create home office backgrounds that showed well on Zoom or Teams.
From the NYT:
A well-traveled life! But the real money quote from Anna Shiwlall is this one:
First, that is total bullshit. Print book sales have been holding steady for years. Second, fake book collectors clearly recognize the value and status of owning books, but they only pretend to read them. In other words, fake books for fake people.
Although fake book people won’t know this, those of us who actually read books might remember that one of literature’s most famous characters used a display of books to impress people with his depth—Jay Gatsby, from The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. While Gatsby’s books were at least real, the novel’s narrator, Nick, found that the pages were not cut, which meant the books had never been read. They were a façade to mask Gatsby’s fraudulent life.
I would absolutely love to go into someone’s house, peruse the bookshelves, reach for one of the books, and cause an entire wall of fake books to tumble down. Oops, sorry. Huh, here’s one I haven’t read. Oh, wait, there are no pages.
As a writer of books—real books—this trend annoys me. If you don’t want to read books, fine. But please don’t pretend that you do by displaying fakes. I’d rather see your collection of tchotchkes or your treasure trove of VHS tapes.
They’re Real, and They’re Spectacular
“They’re real, and they’re spectacular.” That’s not my line. It’s spoken by Teri Hatcher in a guest appearance as a woman dating Jerry on Seinfeld. It’s a funny scene in an episode where Jerry sends Elaine into the sauna at the health club to find out if his girlfriend has breast implants. Let’s end my rant about fake books with a take on fake breasts: