Cool Non-Literary Uses for Books

I know you Neatoramanauts are a smart bunch, so I know most of you would rather read a book than destroy it. That being said, there are still far too many books in this world that are destroyed or contain terrible stories. Even if you like a book, you might end up with a copy you just can’t get rid of because there have already been 10 million copies of that book printed. So if you have a few extra titles you have no further use for, here are a few ways you can still use your books even after the words inside have lost their value. Before I get started, I want to give a special thank you to WebEcoist and WebUrbanist, who provided a wealth of inspiration and research to this article.


Starting on the big scale uses for leftover books, you can build entire structures with them. While Slovakian artist Matej Krén’s building inside The Museum of Modern Art in Bologna (above) may not be structurally sound enough to exist outside another building, the Yellow Pages building (below) might be able to hold its own in a storm. Students from the Dalhousie University Department of Architecture in Nova Scotia built the house using a few wooden and metal beams to hold the thick books in place. Of course, even if a book building could survive the elements, it would soon become subject to destruction via mold and insects.

Home Insulation

Just because your home can’t be made completely from books doesn’t mean they can’t improve your home though. According to Joel Rickett, deputy editor of The Bookseller magazine, books are an excellent form of insulation, so even if you don’t want to read certain titles any more, they still can be useful for filling up bookshelves that line the exterior-facing walls of your home.


Artist Jim Rosenau specializes in making bookshelves and book cases from old books. Why bother chopping down trees to make wood for these book holders when you already have all the materials you need in your pile of books to get rid of?


If you have a lot of books and need a desk, you’re in luck. All it takes to turn a bunch of books into desk is a nice heavy slab of wood or glass in order to press down on the volumes and give you a smooth writing surface. Both the Brunswick Bound bookstore of Melbourne (above) and the library at the Delft University of Technology (below) are equipped with these stylish and incredibly inexpensive desks.

A Couch

If you need a couch more than a desk, a lot of unwanted books and some tape can be used to make a couch that’s certain to get attention. While the idea comes from “Paper Man,” a Jeff Bridges movie where a frustrated writer uses unsold copies of his first book to create a new couch, the idea is entirely possible –the set designers used real books and packing tape to design the furniture.

A Chair

For something with a substantially smaller book investment, these paperback chairs by artist David Karoff are always a good option. He designed them for a Rhode Island bookstore called Myopic Books, so since they were made to be used by customers on a regular basis, they’re probably quite a bit more comfortable than the book couch.


“Light up your life with books” sounds like something you’d see on a cheesy library poster from the eighties, but in this case, it’s actually a decorating tip. While you can always buy a beautiful $550 book chandelier from artist Lucy Norman (above), it’s surprisingly easy to make your own less sophisticated model, like the one below, at home. All you need is a lamp shade, a lamp kit, a few hardcover books, a clamp and a drill. Shauna Smith Duty teaches you how in this article on Thrift Fun.

Ceiling Décor

While these books hanging from the ceiling may not provide any useful function, they do look really cool and will certainly make a home with really high ceilings feel a lot more personal and cozy. The original art installation is by Richard Wentworth, but if you wanted to adapt this to your own home, I’m sure some fishing line and a drill would be all you would need.

Christmas Tree

Why chop down a tree when you can make your own out of the same basic material? To be fair, most people couldn’t find enough green books to create a whole tree and even if they did, they might be disappointed with the lack of lighting and ornament options, but for the Gleeson Library at the University of San Francisco, the tree was a perfect holiday decoration. Image via Shawn Calhoun [Flickr]


One of the coolest things about using a book as a planter is the fact that you’re using something that was once a living plant to provide care for another plant. I wish I could tell you more about these cool planters, but the company that makes them, Gartenkultur, is Italian and their website doesn’t have an English language version. Using the Google translator though, I was able to discern that they use some kind of insulating materials to ensure the plant can be watered without ruining the book.


Similarly, these book vases by designer Laura Cahill can be filled with water because hidden inside each papery base is a test tube for water collection. Miss Cahill also makes a great lamp out of book pages and a fun stool out of hard covers.


If you’re not interested in decorating your home with books, what about your body? This stunning ball gown by Ryan Novelline is comprised of the covers of discarded Golden Books.


If you need some jewelry to go along with your new Golden Books dress, Little Fly has just the thing –rings, necklaces and more made from the laminated pages of discarded books.

Kindle Case

Are you afraid people will make fun of you for owning a Kindle? Do you hang out in bad neighborhoods where it’s best to hide your valuable possessions? Either way, Etsy seller BustedTypewriter’s carved out book that works as a Kindle case might be just the solution you’ve been hoping for.

3D Artworks

These days, most people are willing to acknowledge that the best part of a Pulp Fiction novel is the cover. Artist Thomas Allen took this idea to a whole new level by cutting and folding these covers and then shooting the images with a shallow depth of field. The result is a fascinating narrative that is even more artistic and vivid than the original artists could have ever hoped for.

Cutout Arts

Brian Dettmer uses a similar medium as Thomas Allen. Only instead of photographing the covers of books that he has moved into position, he instead cuts away at pictures inside of books until the many layers of pages form an all new image. The results are amazingly detailed and strikingly beautiful.

Art Canvases

When most people see a book, they see a series of pages that form a story. Mike Stilkey sees a blank canvas. While he doesn’t exclusively paint on book covers, some of his most eye-catching artworks take advantage of the unique canvases. The only problem I see with the art is how you would take it down if it needed to go to a new museum or to a buyer’s home? Of course, you can always give your books away to Good Will if you don’t have the motivation to tackle any of these projects yourself. Have any of you ever used your books for non-literary purposes? If so, please share your stories in the comments.

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amazing stuff! i have to say though for those of you who still think books are ment to be read - you can give your old books and get the onse you want for them - it's fun, easy and free at
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I love hollowing out books!

I've been wanting to do ones specifically for e-readers, but haven't gotten my hands on one to take dimensions yet...
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Took plant holder on casters designed for large, hard to move plants. Glued books together like the lamp. It became a rolling endtable in our high school library. Stood a book up on the top so students would not sit on it. Looks great!
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