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12 Reasons to Shelve Your Books in Rainbow Order

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Laura Sackton

Senior Contributor

Laura Sackton is a queer book nerd and freelance writer, known on the internet for loving winter, despising summer, and going overboard with extravagant baking projects. In addition to her work at Book Riot, she reviews for BookPage and AudioFile, and writes a weekly newsletter, Books & Bakes, celebrating queer lit and tasty treats. You can catch her on Instagram shouting about the queer books she loves and sharing photos of the walks she takes in the hills of Western Mass (while listening to audiobooks, of course).

You’ve seen the trends. Books shelved backward. Books shelved by size, theme, or genre. If you’re less into trends and more into organization, you can shelve your books alphabetically by author, or chronologically. I don’t know anyone who has shelved their books autobiographically, à la John Cusack in High Fidelity, but I would love to see it.

My personal favorite method of book shelving comes from the 75-year-old protagonist of Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s delightful novella Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun. A retired English professor, Morayo Da Silva explains:

“As you will see, I no longer arrange my books alphabetically or arrange them by color of spine, which was what I used to do. Now the books are arranged according to which characters I believe ought to be talking to each other.”

It’s a brilliant idea. It also might take you the rest of your life. So, probably better to stick to the most fun of all book-shelving options: rainbow order. There are a billion reasons to shelve your books this way. They are all Very Right and Proper. There is literally not even one silly reason to shelve your books by color. Promise.

  1. Rainbow shelves are beautiful! I mean, come on! If you don’t think a bookshelf arranged by color is beautiful, I’m really not sure I can help you.
  2. With rainbow shelves, you can become an expert at answering that age-old question: “There’s this book…I think it had a cat in the title and it was maybe about a grumpy but lovable old man, or maybe it was about a spaceship? But it definitely had a bright blue spine with gold lettering! Definitely.” Seeing all your spines arranged by color will help you remember exactly what the spines look like. You can be somebody’s hero the next time they ask that impossible “help me remember this book!” question.
  3. Do you have trouble deciding what to read next? It’s easy when your books are in rainbow order. Just pick a color! It’s like mood reading for people who care about aesthetics.
  4. Rainbows are gay! This is just a fact. You want a really gay house, right? Obviously.
  5. It’s the fastest way to become a mega influencer/Instagram darling/TikTok sensation! Followers await! All you need is one little rainbow shelf and bam, social media stardom will be yours.
  6. You want a pot of gold, right? How else are you going to get one?
  7. It’s an easy way to distract anyone trying to steal books from your collection. When they realize that their carefully-constructed map of your shelves, which assumes they’ll be shelved alphabetically by author’s last name, is incorrect, they’ll become so befuddled they’ll just give up.
  8. Rainbow shelves are decoration on a budget! Want to paint a bright mural on your wall but your landlord won’t let you? Dreaming of an art installation but can’t reasonably afford it? Decorate with books instead.
  9. Use your rainbow shelves to weed out potential romantic partners. Invite a new date over and they scoff at your rainbow shelves? Show them the door.
  10. Similarly, it’s an easy way to detect the most annoying, pretentious, books-are-an-extremely-serious-business-always people in your friend group. Let them down gently but firmly: they will not be invited to your next dinner party.
  11. Rainbow shelves will lure not only leprechauns, but unicorns, fairies, and other mystical, rainbow-loving creatures into your home.
  12. It’s an easy way to piss off people who don’t like to have fun.

Thanks to my fellow Rioters for helping me come up with some of these extremely sensible reasons to shelve your books in rainbow order.