Book Curators Were a Thing Before Gwyneth Paltrow
[image description: Dark wood bookshelves packed to the brim with volumes. A wooden table in the foreground holds even more books. It’s unclear whether it’s an old bookstore or a massive, cozy home library.]
I was planning to start posting my next Literary Tourism series this week, but that was before Gwyneth Paltrow’s book curator broke the bookternet. If you missed it, there’s not much to tell. Mostly, people were surprised that 1) celebrities have so much money they can hire book curators and 2) that a job like book curator exists.
I find both of these facts more comical than shocking. As I understand it from reading the article on the book curator, Thatcher Wine, and checking out his bookstore’s website, he sees books as art objects and wants to help people decorate their shelves in a way that speaks to who they are and how they want their homes to look.
That makes sense to me, though it’s not something I’d do myself since using books to make a mural or wrapping books in particular Pantone colored paper would mean I couldn’t read the titles on the spine and I’d utterly lose my shit. Seriously. I have like 600-700 books in the house (who can keep count?) and having to pull them one by one off the shelf to find the one I want sounds hellacious.
But that’s neither here nor there. To each their own. And if it takes wrapping books in customized jackets to get folks to keep them in their homes, so be it. I don’t make enough money that I could justify spending it on custom book jackets rather than the books themselves. Obviously, Gwyneth Paltrow has more money than all of us, so if she wants to meticulously decorate her shelves, power to her.
But I digress. What amused me about the whole ordeal was all the people on social media who were like, “Book curators are a thing?! Where can I get hired for this??” Book curators are a thing and they have been before Gwyneth Paltrow and Thatcher Wine. As I understand it, book curators are just people who recommend books to folks who actually have the money to pay them for their expertise and buy the books they recommend.
I get asked for book recommendations all the time, which I love. But to date, no one has offered to pay me for that expertise. (I also haven’t asked––partly because I don’t really want to and partly because it never occurred to me to do so.) So when people ask me for recommendations, I never know if they’re actually going to buy one book or all of them. The last person who asked me for a recommendation, I sent her 19 titles (which will be listed in an upcoming Ask A Book Nerd post, so stay tuned).
My guess is that she bought one or two of them. Which is fine! 19 books brand new, even some being paperbacks, would still cost a lot of money. But if this friend had celebrity-level income and was able to buy all of them AND pay me for my expertise, would it bring me more joy? Probably. I’ll admit that because it would show a high level of trust, not to mention respect for my time and expertise. I don’t begrudge anyone who can’t do that or doesn’t offer to, but would I be mad if someone did? Not at all.
(Besides, isn’t being a professional book curator essentially being a librarian for hire? The librarians who work building collections and expanding their library’s catalog are book curators for their library system. So I don’t see anything odd or fantastical about doing the same for individuals.)
Unlike me, it did occur to Thatcher Wine to have people pay him for his book recommendations, so good for him. I can think of far worse jobs. And if rich people are willing to pay for that kind of service, I’m just glad there’s a book nerd out there to provide it.
Speaking of book nerds willing to provide services, I recommend books for free. If you need some recs for yourself or someone you want to buy a gift for, let me know.