Although prop books are meant to be seen and not read, they have to evoke a mise en scène, inside and out. For Indiana Jones, the filmmakers specified that the books cover such topics as paleontology, marine biology, and pre-Columbian society. They had to be in muted colors and predate 1957. “People have gotten so character-specific nowadays,” Jenny McKibben, a manager at the store, said. “It can’t just be color anymore. With high-def, they can just freeze the film and say, ‘Oh, that’s so inappropriate.’ ”
Since the program’s inception, in 1986, the Strand has built scores of imaginary reading rooms, from the prison library in “Oz” to the Barnes & Noble clone in “You’ve Got Mail.” Clients also include window dressers, commercial architects (the Strand furnished each floor in the Library Hotel with a different Dewey decimal category), and people with more shelf space than leisure time. Kelsey Grammer requested all hardback fiction in two of his homes, while Steven Spielberg, who, incidentally, is the director of the new Indiana Jones movie, allowed a wider range (cookbooks, children’s books, volumes on art and film) to penetrate his Hamptons estate. “There have been a lot of biographies on him, so I put those in there, too,” Nancy Bass Wyden, a co-owner of the store, said.
Customers can choose from eighteen basic library styles, for purchase or rental. “Bargain books,” a random selection of hardbacks, is the cheapest, at ten dollars per foot of shelf space. For thirty dollars, clients can customize the color. For seventy-five, they can get a “leather-looking” library, which, as the Strand’s Web site puts it, “is often mistaken for leather.”
To those of us whose problem is how to subdue the excess of books we accumulate, there is something counterintuitive to the point of perversity in the idea of deliberately importing many feet of books into one's dwelling-place...