There’s a fun little game you might not have heard of yet, but it would not be a bad thing to see it become the next Internet craze.

It began way back in 1993 with Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books project, which contains a gallery of photographs like this one. And in another reality it might have remained there, except that Stan Carey recently posted about it on his blog (and on Twitter before that, but it took the blog post before I understood it), including photographs of his own creations.

Essentially, the idea is to arrange two or more books so that the titles, when read in the order they appear, make sense (or at least coherent nonsense) as a collective. As a form of amusement it can accommodate a variety of approaches: some might think of it as a form of poetry, others primarily as a form of humour. If you have some books, a digital camera, a blog, and the inclination to put them all together, you really should have a go. My own contributions follow.

First, here’s a premise for a science fiction tale:

The monsters from here to infinity making money out of the silent planet.

And here’s a somewhat more cheeky contribution:

Mostly harmless tricks of the imagination: the history of Christianity.

And finally, here’s one for the linguists:

Last chance to see the Chicken from Minsk describing morphosyntax!

And that’s all I’ve managed to do from my bookshelf.

If you decide to do some of your own, you can post a link in the comments here, or in the comments on Stan’s post, or using the #bookmash tag on Twitter. In any case, I strongly recommend posting a photograph rather than simply transcribing the titles – it’s so much funnier if you can actually see the books.

Update: A while ago it occurred to me that you could take someone else’s bookmashes, cut-and-paste the images of the spines, and re-arrange them to form new, recycled bookmashes of your own. This gives you virtual access to other people’s shelves. I took books from Stan Carey’s bookmashes published no later than April 2012, and re-assembled them to form these:


More recently I did the same thing with bookmashes composed by Alex McCrae (a frequent commenter on Stan’s blog). The source bookmashes used to create this were published no later than October 2013.



12 Responses to “Bookmash!”

  1. Stan Says:

    Thanks for joining in! This is a very good write-up of the ‘game’ — I’m still not quite sure what to call it — and I love your examples. #Bookmash hasn’t yet become an internet craze, and I don’t expect it to, but I’m delighted to see at least one photo-filled follow-up.

    I’m glad you recommended taking photos. It’s such a visual form. Seeing the spines juxtaposed, with their contrasting colours and types and genres, is a big part of the surprise and appeal of what results. And I’m pleased to see that you found a use for From Here to Infinity in the end.

    I’m going to have to do more, but I’ll wait a while.

  2. Flesh-eating Dragon Says:

    Oh, I think Wittgenstein would be perfectly content to call it a game.

    I don’t expect it to become an Internet craze either (one, I’ve contributed, therefore it is cursed to remain in obscurity; two, it requires a camera and a bit of effort), but we can dream. I can think of plenty of bloggers who I’m sure could put together something wonderful, and the more people who join in, the better the party.

    Thanks for the idea.

  3. elshahawk Says:

    I did it!
    I posted it with my writing blog. It made me happy to participate, something about the comedy of it brightened my day. Thanks!

  4. Sean Jeating Says:

    Late (night) visitor to the Dragon, dropping by via Stan.
    And after what my eyes have seen I shall smilingly fall into the feathers. The peace of the night.

  5. Flesh-eating Dragon Says:

    Sean, I assume that the line about eyes and feathers is a bookmash, but where is the photograph?

    I notice you’ve posted some on your blog, using books in both English and German, but so far there is no mention of feathers.

  6. Sean Jeating Says:

    Ha ha, Dragon. Nah, it was just plain seanish prosa. However, now you asked the question I do feel entitled to scrutinize my shelves.

  7. Flesh-eating Dragon Says:

    The odd thing is (“oh how odd it was“, to quote from what I believe is quite a famous Irish poem) that if it took my question for you to feel entitled to scrutinise your shelves, then presumably you wrote your blog posts after travelling back in time for a bit. Nothing wrong with that, but I’m surprised I didn’t read about the invention of time travel on some science blog or other. :-)

  8. Sean Jeating Says:

    Uff! I shall retreat under the rocks of Seanhenge and ponder your words … :)

  9. Ailbhe Says:

    Have you seen these before? Cinema listings rather than book spines, but still pretty funny

  10. Flesh-eating Dragon Says:

    Some of those are great. (And apparently they’re all real!) I haven’t seen them before. Reminds me of the scene from Hercules Returns (mediocre comic movie from the nineties) where all but a few letters fall off the sign outside an old cinema.

  11. Peter Demain Says:

    Ahh I get it now. There’s no theme or whatever & it’s not taking pictures as suitable/ironic book covers – just lining up spines. Nothing remotely ribald so far so I’ll probably do one when I can find my copies of…

    The Lord of The Rings

    Joy of Sex


    Kane and Abel 30th Anniversary Edition

    Among others…

    Pete, editor at

  12. Flesh-eating Dragon Says:

    Well, the more the merrier. And as for ribald (a word I had to look up) – to reiterate what I said in the blog post, it can accomodate a variety of approaches. :-)

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