We all have our preferences when it comes to how to store books: many people live in small places, or they own a lot of books, and they need to get inventive and find new ways to store and display them.
When I moved in with my boyfriend, one of the first things we bought together was a bookshelf for the living room. While he kept most of his books inside cupboards, I like seeing my books displayed. I find it comforting, even if that means they are more exposed to the elements. In the end, the bookshelf corner became one of the favourite places of the house for both of us.
I know someone who used to keep their books inside a cupboard in the kitchen, because that’s where they had some extra space. Some people like to have a stack of books by the toilet. For some, books are to be loved, and bent, and well-read. Others like them looking pristine.
While I don’t mind having books spread out around the house on tables, ledges, and windowsills, there are certain books I relish more than others, and those require special treatment and carefully thought-out storage.
Below, there are a few book storage ideas for different needs, whether you want to keep those books in mint condition, if you struggle with space, or if you’re only looking for new ways to store them.
How to Store Books for Protection, Such as Rare Books
While attics, basements, and garages may seem like the perfect place to store books, since they’re out of curious eyes and out of the way, they can be prone to humidity and drastic temperature changes, so those are in fact the first places you want to avoid storing any rare books in. Unless, of course, you have the budget and means to turn them into a book-storage dream—temperature, humidity, and light-wise.
For those with a more realistic approach to using the space available, a few bookshelves around the house make for a much more adequate way to store any rare editions.
Start With a Proper Shelf
In the long run, books should be stored in a well-ventilated shelf; while you should avoid humidity at all costs, an environment that is too dry might also damage the books, making the pages brittle, leading them eventually to crack and tear. The ideal temperature would be 60–70º Fahrenheit, so placing your books in a room where temperatures are moderate and don’t fluctuate too much is the best way to avoid books from molding, cracking, or bending.
Walls turned to the exterior should be avoided, because they will respond and change according to outside temperatures. Put your shelf against an inside wall instead. Leave some room between the wall and the shelf to allow air circulation.
The books should be kept upright or horizontal, but never tilted. Keep the shelf full—or use a bookend—so that the books can snuggle against each other without being too crammed. This will make it easier to remove the books from the shelf without breaking spines or pulling covers.
Books which are too big and/or too heavy are best kept horizontal. Try as much as possible to store books of similar sizes next to each other.
Rust-proof metal shelving is the ideal place to store books, but if wooden shelves fit your house—or your budget—best, make sure the wood is coated with water-borne polyurethane varnish, which will stop the acids of the wood from transferring to the books. In general, avoid very acidic woods—like oak, for example.
Don’t forget to keep those shelves—and books—well dusted! Here are a few audiobooks you can listen to while making sure you keep that dust at bay.
Keep Them Away From Direct Light
Light will eat away the colour of your spines and covers. Bookshelves placed next to a window will not only get direct sunlight, they’ll warm up faster. Heat is not good for your books, either. Place your bookshelves away from windows, or make sure your house has sun-blocking curtains or blackout shades.
You Can Leave Your Jacket On
Dust jackets are a nuisance, I know, but they aren’t there to please your eyes, or to make reading the book more comfortable. They are there to protect the cover. So, while a leather, fabric, or hardback cover might look nicer on the shelf than the dust jacket, you should keep the dust jacket on. It will stop dust from accumulating, it will diminish the risk of cracks and rips on the cover, and it will keep your book looking like new even after many years. Dust jackets are your book’s best friend. Use them well (as in, keep them on all the time).
Better a torn and ugly dust jacket than a ruined hardcover, am I right?
How To Store Books in Small Places
When you don’t have a lot of room for the books you own, it can be a bit tough finding ways to keep your books neatly stored; there is no extra place for them, as the living room cabinets are probably already filled with other things. I could suggest throwing those things away and keeping the books but—and no matter what Marie Kondo says—you probably need those other things. So, it’s time to get inventive and use the available space as creatively as possible. Here are a few ideas for you.
Deck the Halls With Books You Love, Tralalalalalalalala
If your house has an entrance hall, a small space where you usually leave your shoes and umbrellas behind, why not use that space for books? There’s nothing better than walking into a house and seeing books!
It will make you look clever: you can put that nonfiction—and those classics you say you need to get around to but probably never will—there, and it’s true that books put people immediately at ease (based on a study I just made with one subject: myself).
You can buy nice, cheap shelves, and hang them on the wall, you can even use the top of a shoe rack. The hall is yours for the taking! The same goes for any available corridors.
Under the Bed/Couch
Boxes with wheels are the best way to store books under the bed! They’re mostly out of sight, but easier to roll out if insomnia hits and you need a good book to fall asleep to.
If you want to store your books upright, for easier access, make sure the bottom of the box is even, to avoid unnecessary pressure on your books, which may damage them. Remember: snuggle them well, but not too tightly.
Vine baskets might be your best bet, though, as they are functional and pretty, and it’s easy to apply some wheels to them (click those links for some DIY). You can usually get them cheap at thrift stores.
To protect your books from the dust, which gathers faster on floor level, place some fabric on whichever box you use before storing them.
I lived all by myself for a long time, but having some extra stools at hand when friends visited was essential for me.
If you are a book lover in need of extra space for books, you can use stools as something more than just seating for visitors: while they are not being used, try placing a few books on top of them. If you follow bookish Instagram accounts, you’ll see many photos of books on stools, and it works great!
Instead of keeping that old chair inside your bedroom with unfolded clothes on top, use another extra stool and keep books there.
When people visit and you need the stools for seating, you can put all books on top of the bed, just like that guy whose toddler walked in while he was talking to the BBC.
In the Bathroom
If you don’t have a lot of room in your bathroom, a storage unit like this one not only offers some extra space to keep things, it also allows you to store books in there. And what do we do with that extra space above the cabinets? You know it!
You might not want to store books you really love there, what with the humidity and all.
By the Side of the Bed or…
I used to have a small bed pocket from Ikea hanging at the side of the bed, where I kept a bottle of water and other relevant items at hand. They work great for books which aren’t too thick, and they’re easy to make. Some fit the side of the couch as well!
Fabric/vine baskets hanging from the wall are also great for storing books. And they look so pretty!
…Above the Headboard
(no, not that pic you saw going around on Instagram with books placed on top of an actual not-so-thick headboard; that’s a precarious situation and you’ll end up with a concussion.)
Nowadays, I have a shelf above my bed, high enough that I won’t hit it when getting up, but still within reach.
I have a lamp hanging from there too, that I use as a reading lamp, so it’s not only an extra shelf space, it also allows me to have a lamp without using the space on top of my bedside table. Extra space for TBR pile!
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Use the Space at the Foot of the Bed
Maybe you don’t have a lot of room left in your bedroom, but what if you buy a few square wooden boxes, or even the old vine baskets (so useful), and place them at the foot of the bed, using it both as book storage AND clothes storage? Wooden boxes and small shelves turned on their sides can also double up as a bench. Or, you know, just fill it all up with books, that’s why we’re all here anyway.
Frame Them on the Wall
An actual frame with enough depth can be a great storage place.
Here’s another DIY because I’m a Capricorn and Capricorns don’t spend money if we can do it ourselves.
If you follow bookish Instagram accounts, I bet you have seen this Ikea cart, which looks like it just came out from your local library. I have one, and I love it!
I first bought it to store my embroidery material, but it works great as extra book storage, especially if you want your TBR set aside from your other books.
The upside of this cart, besides the obvious, is that you can just roll it around to wherever suits you best at the moment. Bedroom, living room, or bathroom? Just wheel it away. And it looks great on pictures.
Set the librarian in you free!
How To Store Books in a Storage Unit
Whatever the reason you have for wanting to store your books in a storage unit—lack of space, or simply to keep them away from damaging hands—there are a few things to consider.
First, and especially if you are keeping editions that are important to you either emotionally or monetarily, make sure it is a secure space. They should have staff during opening hours and offer other security measures to lower the chance of a break-in. Secondly, choose a unit with climate control. A lot of security units are all concrete and metal—too cold, too hot, or too humid. You may not want to take any chances when it comes to your beloved books.
For storage, choose small but sturdy cardboard boxes. Cardboard will reduce the chance of mold in comparison to plastic, and it will allow books to breathe better.
Wrap your books in cloth for extra protection, making sure they are dust-free before being put away. Again, tuck them in nicely, leaving a bit of room to remove them easily.
Use shelves, tables, or wooden pallets on the floor. It is best not to place the boxes directly on the ground because they may absorb some of the moisture from the concrete, so if you have the chance and manage to get some nice shelves from a thrift shop, that would be ideal.
Make sure you keep some sort of storage order: by genre or by author might be easier. Or you can separate them by fiction, nonfiction, favourites, etc. Because you may store the books there for a long time, make sure you make it easy to find what you are looking for, in case you need a certain book at a certain time.
Visit the unit regularly, to keep things in check.
I hope this has been a useful article for book lovers out there! Here are a few other articles written by our contributors which you may find relevant.