How to Fit More Books on Your Crowded Shelves

For true book lovers, books are life—the source of all that is good in our existence. As a result, we have a tendency to acquire quite a lot of them, and many, if not all, of them have such a place in the emotional tapestry of our lives, we simply can’t give them up. Which means we spend far too long contemplating book management, a process that starts with buying a lot of bookshelves and ends with books piled on the floor, on the kitchen counters, on the bed, and everywhere else.

If your bookshelves are full, don’t despair. Spend a few hours this weekend trying these hacks, and you’ll be able to cram more books on those shelves—guaranteed.

Load-Bearing Books

First step: Make use of your air rights. Unless your bookshelves go all the way to the ceiling, chances are you’ve used the top of the bookshelf as an ersatz shelf as well. Have you hit the ceiling yet? If not, go get another shelf of some sort, and place it on top of the books up there. It makes getting the ones at the tippy-top difficult to get, but it instantly increases your top-of-shelf book storage. Hey, these are desperate times.

Add a Shelf

Under the category of Super Obvious Thing a Surprising Number of People Don’t Think Of, why not make your five-shelf bookshelf into a six-shelf bookshelf? It’s easier than you think. For maximum efficiency, you can sort all your books by height, then adjust each shelf so each category of book just barely squeezes in there. See how much space that leaves you at the bottom, and add one or two shelves, depending on the height of the remaining books. You might need a drill and some shelf hardware (and you might need to cut a piece of wood to make a shelf), but it’s really not as hard as it sounds. Bonus points: if you paint the bookshelf when you’re done, no one will ever know which shelves aren’t original.


Desperate book owners have been putting two rows of books on shelves since the dawn of the printing press, but this usually renders the back row of books difficult to access, or even see—and if you can’t spend hours gazing lovingly at your books, why keep them? While layering by itself doubles shelf capacity, a simple hack to make it more workable is to put the rear row of books on a platform. This could either be a half shelf cut to size and installed with brackets, or a few boxes of appropriate size for the books sit on top of. Boom: you just created a bookshelf that’s bigger on the inside.

Jack ‛Em Up

A slightly more involved, but also more useful way to use dead space is to place your bookshelf on top of boxes, cartons or other sturdy, squared-off storage container, then put books inside the boxes. Simple particleboard storage cubes can be inexpensively purchased at a lot of stores, and they’re generally strong enough to support a normal bookshelf while creating a whole new level of storage down below.

Everything is a Bookshelf

Of course, there are physical limitations to what you can do with a piece of discrete furniture, and after you’ve hacked yours into new usefulness into your shelf, you might (probably) still have books left over—let’s be honest, you’re bought two new books even as you read this article, didn’t you? Don’t forget that every wall is an opportunity for a beautiful shelf. Every staircase can be transformed into a bookshelf. Closets can be emptied and filled with shelves, dresser drawers can be filled with books, and even kitchen cabinets can be stuffed with them (though we wouldn’t recommend putting them in the oven).

If we helped solve your book storage problem, let’s celebrate by buying more books!

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