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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

The Book as an Aesthetic Object

By Maisie Clarke, Alexandra Constable, Hayley Cadel and Yashika M.

This week, the trends team explores the growing trend of owning books as aesthetic objects, as people increasingly use them to decorate their homes. When the country locked down and working from home became the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was often the shelves in the background of webcams that were interrogated the most. Although we’ve always been told not to judge a book by its cover, we all do – and this trend is very much about doing so, whilst also exploring what people’s bookshelves say about them. This increased awareness of other people’s bookshelves has led some to specifically curate their shelves aesthetically. So, what’s brought about this trend?

Firstly, it is undeniable that Bookstagram is part of the increased judgement of books by their covers. The appeal of scrolling through pictures of ‘randomly’ stacked novels which are perfectly organised by colour is a phenomenon that draws people to bookish Instagram accounts. These posts of beautifully displayed books definitely draw the eye with cover colours often matching the aesthetics of the most popular genres of the time such as the gloom of dark academia or the bright colours of romance. Whether it’s Patti Smith’s Just Kids pictured alongside Tartt’s The Secret History (1992) or Emily Henry’s Beach Read (2020) partnered with Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game (2016), Bookstagram has got the art of cover judging down to a tee. We don’t think this is always a bad thing though! Arguably, this trend of making books into an aesthetic has made those who don’t usually read opt to pick up a novel.

There is no doubt that Bookstagram has begun to shape the designs that authors and publishers choose for their covers. For example, at the moment, bright colours and oversized text are common designs that are intended to appeal to social media users. Any books that are displayed on social media are done so in a small thumbnail, meaning splashy colours and attention-grabbing designs are popular within the Bookstagram world. Classic examples of this can be seen in Casey McQuiston’s Red White and Royal Blue (2019) and Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star (2016). Another common trend is the use of simple and minimalistic designs. Again, these help grab the scroller’s attention by not being too crowded or overcomplicated. An example of this is Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey (2014) which features a block background colour with plain white lettering for the title. It is certainly true that this small thumbnail is a factor when publishers decide their cover designs.

Celebrities are also in on this trend. In a controversial move, Ashley Tisdale announced in a viral video that she sent her husband to buy her 400 books to cover her bookshelves for purely “aesthetic purposes.” She orchestrated the purchase shortly before an Architectural Design house tour and admitted to not having the books a few days before the interview. Tisdale’s desire to fill her bookshelves suggests that the perceived connection between owning books and being educated remains.

In another instance, Grimes was seen reading Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto shortly after her breakup with Elon Musk. This image spread quickly on social media, with people quickly pointing out the potential dig at Musk, questioning his behaviour in their break-up. In a later interview, she stated it was a publicity stunt, describing it as a “prank” set up for the tabloid newspapers.

To conclude, with the surge of importance we place on our social media appearances and societal image, there has been a definite increase in people’s desires to appear educated. This has led to a trend of compiling books that you think will help portray this intelligence; this was only fuelled by the pandemic which led to more people viewing the insides of their colleagues’ homes. Whilst it's said, “never judge a book by its cover,” it appears we can’t quite help it!



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