Colorful alternative to the Dewey Decimal System

Beauty is a worthy element to look for in life, to build into one's life. A few posts early in the life of this blog were about keeping one's eyes open for beauty. Chris Cobb, a visual artist, chose to fill a cramped and musty used bookstore, Adobe Book Shop in San Francisco, with beauty by arranging all the books by color rather than by author or title or topic.

"To your left, just past the old desk that serves as a counter, is an entire case of red volumes -- cherry next to coral, lipstick next to blood. Ceiling to floor, red. Your eyes wander toward the rear of the store, and the red shifts almost imperceptibly into orange (tangerine, construction cone, sunset) and then into yellow (school bus, egg yolk, smiley face). As you step back and take in the whole room, the spectrum running red-orange-yellow-green-blue-purple-brown on the left and white-black-gray on the right, the sheer audacity of the project takes your breath away. It makes perfect sense, and yet it makes none."

The chromatographic cataloging isn't intended to be permanent, just a short-term virtual art show for the sake of beauty called "There Is Nothing Wrong in This Whole Wide World". Cobb says, "With so many negative things in the world happening, it's important to remember that there's still beauty."

Would you try this at home? I think it sounds like a fun idea. Currently, the books that live here are either shelved in bookcases or in stacks on the floor awaiting the building of two bookcases we recently bought at IKEA. The shelved books started out many years ago in a somewhat logical order but after periodic purging and purchasing, combined with ongoing removal and reshelving by my sons when they were little so that the books could be used to anchor blankets for basement forts and to fashion GI Joe outposts their order no longer looks as logical as it once did. All that is to say that little in terms of organization would be sacrified by keeping my blue books separate from my red ones. And think of the beauty to be gained.

It would make sense that finding a book with this system in a bookstore would be difficult. For one's personal library, however, the task may be manageable as it is more likely that the owner could picture the book sought and so know exactly where in the rainbow to look. Interestingly, the owner of the Adobe Book Shop says that sales have increased since the rearrangement. Although some customers have been frustrated by the difficult navigation of the system, owner Andrew McKinley says that people are impressed with the beauty and "it has forced people to look closer at what's on the shelf."

Read the story by James Sanders from