One reader’s quest for the perfect bookshelf

Readers, I’m delighted to welcome our What Should I Read Next media production assistant Holly Wielkoszewski to the blog. I’ve been following her quest for the perfect bookshelf with interest, and thought you would enjoy hearing about it as well, so I asked her to share her process and results here today. Welcome, Holly! – Anne

I’ve moved 12 times since I got married in 2004, and as a result, my beloved books have spent a lot of time sitting in boxes. I’m thrilled that’s no longer the case, and I have our What Should I Read Next Patreon community to thank! 

I’ve always enjoyed displaying my books in my home. Some of this is aesthetic, but some of it is my personality type: if a book’s not in front of me, in my line of sight, I won’t read it. 

At the conclusion of our latest move, I knew one of my priorities was to free my books from storage and to acquire a new bookshelf. But, how to find the right shelf? Shopping for—well, anything these days—can be so overwhelming.  I put up a question in our Patreon community, asking for suggestions. And wow, did our patrons deliver!

Today I’m sharing a few of our patrons’ recommendations that I considered.  If you’re in the market for a new bookshelf, I hope you might find something to inspire you here, too!

Finding My Bookshelf Aesthetic

I generally love Scandinavian/modern design, but bookshelves in this aesthetic often feel too minimal for my actual life. On the other hand, so many of the #bookstagram shots that inspire me feature floor-to-ceiling built-ins filled with color-coordinated, original hardcover books. My reading collection is much more haphazard and eclectic, and I’ve tried the color-coordinated shelf organization before and found it did NOT work for me. 

I decided to look for something both consistent with the styles I love and practical for my life right now. (Can I maneuver it up the two narrow, winding flights of stairs in my townhouse?)  

My Top Bookshelf Picks

Nathan James Theo 6-Shelf Tall Bookcase

Wendy suggested this modern industrial wall-mount shelf, and it fit many of my criteria: clean and modern lines, not too bulky, and able to hold a variety of books and potentially other items. However, we’re currently in a rental property, and I’m trying to reduce the number of holes we put in the walls. That means a wall-mount shelf was never going to be my first pick.

West Elm Mid-Century Bookshelf

This mid-century bookshelf, recommended by Lauren, reminded me of the ladder shelf trend that seemed to reach its peak in my circle of friends about 10 years ago. I’ve always liked this style, and I appreciate this bookshelf for its sturdier construction that still gives the feel of the leaning ladder.  I’ve been a fan of West Elm’s products before, and I like the fact it’s made of sustainable wood.  Ultimately, the shape of this shelf felt less like a bookshelf and more like a display shelf for other household items, but it came in a close second.

Floating Bookshelves

One unique suggestion that wasn’t quite right for me was Renate’s idea of floating bookshelves. While I enjoy the simplicity of this design (and the ease of relocation!), I might be be reluctant to use it for fear of disrupting the stack or toppling the books off the hidden platform. Plus, I think I’d spend way too much time obsessing over which books to group together on each floating shelf. 

The Container Store Stackable Folding Bookshelf

A bonus suggestion that was Anne’s favorite, and also appealed to the “easily moveable” criteria, was this folding bookshelf, suggested by Lois. (I prefer it in brown). While I opted for something with a little more style for my primary shelf, if I add more bookshelves to another room in my house this is the one I’ll go for!

The Winner

This 5-tier, S-shaped bookshelf recommended by Stacie! This bookshelf is sturdy, with modern & industrial flair, and easy to assemble from a flat-pack box. (I put it together by myself in under an hour.) I love the unique shape and the open style on the end of each shelf, and I’m already in love with how it displays my book collection.

If you’re curious about the special book covers on the third shelf, it’s the Juniper Books set for A Court of Thorn and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas.

Now What?

My new bookshelf is assembled in my office and I’ll be spending the next few days arranging my books and deciding what else might merit shelf space. I might pick up a few more accessories, like these simple, sturdy bookends, to add a delightful pop of color to my collection. My new bookshelf is already bringing me joy, and I’m so glad I made it a priority. 

What bookshelves do you recommend? Please share your own bookshelf aesthetic and favorite bookshelves in comments!

About the author

Holly Wielkoszewski is a Media Production Assistant working on What Should I Read Next episodes. Her go-to genre is Fantasy or Sci-Fi. You can find Holly on Instagram @hollyfromthebigsky.

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25 comments

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  1. Janna says:

    Good morning–I love your new bookshelf!! And I enjoyed viewing the other options–I’m with you, the one you chose would have been my pick too. Nothing weird about your post–it was enjoyable!

  2. Dolle says:

    Welcome Holly! I truly enjoyed your post, especially about your thought process for the various options. Your pick is the perfect bookcase for you. Hope we see more posts from you.

  3. Marie-Claire says:

    Very cool options–I never heard of the folding one from the container store–that looks really useful for finicky spots. Great post!

  4. Adrienne Wooley says:

    Great stuff here! There’s no link for the Umbra Conceal Book/Record display shelf. Do you have a source for it?

  5. Mary Ann Christman says:

    Beautiful new shelf! I showed it to my husband and he pointed out my books would not all fit on that though.

    • Holly Wielkoszewski says:

      That’s always the challenge, right Mary Ann? I’ll definitely have some more books to stack elsewhere, but I also have a bad habit of double-stacking books, which I’ll probably do here eventually too!

  6. Korin b says:

    Hooray. I’ve been on a hunt for TALL bookshelves that don’t cost a fortune. I’m now strongly considering the metal ones you posted. Thank you.

    • Holly Wielkoszewski says:

      Excellent! Yes, I liked that this style came in a few different heights, but this one fit my needs. Good luck on your own hunt!

    • AG says:

      Hi Korin! Just wanted to throw out the suggestion to see if there are any local woodworkers (either through Craigslist, Etsy, etc) that could custom build your bookshelf! Sometimes custom doesn’t cost that much more once you factor in shipping from bigger stores, and it supports a local craftsman 🙂

  7. Pm Weizenbaum says:

    Please tell us: What is the trilogy at the left of your chosen bookcase? I can’t read the titles, but the design is gorgeous?

    • Holly Wielkoszewski says:

      That’s the Illumicrate (a UK based book box) special edition books & covers of V.E. Schwab’s Darker Shade of Magic trilogy! I’ll admit to owning that trilogy in two editions….😅

  8. Mary Duncklee says:

    Love your choice! I have a couple of the Container Store ones – so handy as they fold up and also there’s no assembly required.

  9. Karen says:

    I feel your pain! When I finally unpacked my books last year (after 3 moves in boxes), it was so exciting to see some old favorites again! (Some haven’t been unpacked since 2002.)
    My solution: A friend of ours builds with wood as a hobby and had run out of things to do at his house. Enter the bookshelf I needed (narrower than most – the depth it sticks into the room so depth?). Perfect! The shelves I needed in the bathroom, custom made to fit over the toilet! And just delivered: The narrow pantry for the kitchen without a pantry. It could only fit in one place and again the depth was narrower than normal. (And yes, he’s getting paid for hours working on his hobby.)

  10. Beverly J Wrigglesworth says:

    The selected bookshelf above is looks very nice, but I prefer bookshelves that are completely enclosed on both ends so that books do not fall off of the bookshelf. And my bookshelves are packed, end to end, all eight of them.

  11. Rea says:

    Love the one you chose. My bookshelf aesthetic is ‘closed on sides and back.’ My DREAM bookshelf would be to replace the railing in our living room with this https://www.houzz.com/hznb/photos/dpc-pacific-heights-residence-traditional-san-francisco-phvw-vp~48298

    My current bookshelf is a cast-off from a friend, I repainted it in a cream color, pried off the back and replaced it with beadboard that I’d painted a light turquoise to match some sea glass I had. I think I’d do something similar again, except cover the back with a fun wallpaper…something I love but don’t want ALL over my walls.

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