Are you looking for sustainable craft ideas? Are you looking for the best creative things to do with old books? Read on for a realistic and inspiring list of ways for reusing old books!
Books are sacred, am I right? Maybe it’s the English major in me speaking, or maybe the child that was scolded one too many times for writing in or dog-earring a page in a treasured novel, but there is a preciousness to books in our society.
Books are an opportunity to exchange ideas, broaden horizons, challenge existing norms, and evoke joy, sadness, excitement, reverence, empathy, and inspiration.
However, like all other treasured possessions, books fall victim to wear and tear over time. They also just live out their useful lives, or their information becomes “dated.” What happens to them, then? Jen put together a fabulous article on how to dispose of old books.
But what about the books no one really wants to read anymore? As the steward of a Little Free Library, I can tell you your 1971 copy of “Modern Chess Strategy” will be a hard sell, and so is that casserole cookbook that’s basically a tour-de-mushroom soup.
Well, guess what? Despite what your kindergarten teacher told you, it’s absolutely ok to write in books, fold the pages, and even rip the covers right off in your quest for creative things to do with old books. No one will even make you stand with your nose touching the blackboard for an hour – was that just a Catholic school thing?
Books are a fantastic material for an impressive array of creative projects, and we’ve rounded up 20 fun ideas for reusing old books. This list is organized into three sections, depending on the state of the book you’re looking to upcycle: book cover crafts, whole book crafts, and things to do with book pages.
Book Cover Crafts
Old Book Cover Wall Art
Judge that book by its cover! If you’re working with a book with an especially beautiful cover or a book that’s of personal significance, try removing the cover and framing it as wall art. This clever way of reusing old books allows you to use the rest of the pages in one of the other crafts below.
This clever DIY transforms an unwanted hardcover book (or one with water-damaged pages) into a cute and functional box. I’d love to see someone make a recipe box from an old cookbook.
One of the most hip and creative uses for old books circulating on the Internet right now has to be this adorable zippered book clutch from See Kate Sew. It does require some sewing skills, but the end product is precious.
Whole Book Crafts
Reuse Vintage Books as Home Decor
Listen, old books are having a decor moment. (Do we have Joanna Gaines to thank for that? Probably.) Just because you’ll never actually read that old encyclopedia or first-edition grammar book doesn’t mean you can’t still get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Tuck vintage books into your shelves, stack them sideways to use as risers for other knickknacks, or artfully arrange them to create some interest in a bare corner. If you’re unsure how to get started, this Town & Country article contains plenty of tips.
Are you looking to add some flare and interest to your next tablescape? You guessed it: put a book on it! One of my favorite creative uses for old books is tucking them beside floral arrangements and candles on the dining room table. Stick to one color palette for a sophisticated vibe, or mix it up for a boho look.
Take your crafting skills to the next level by reusing old books to make rustic vases. These beautiful vases are definitely best with dried or fake flowers, and you’ll need to be comfortable working with a Xacto knife or box cutter.
Vintage Book Succulent Planter
If you don’t kill every succulent you touch (It’s me, hi! I’m the problem; it’s me!), try this vintage book succulent planter for a stylish and functional way to upcycle an old book. I haven’t personally tried this one, but I’m betting you’ll need to be really careful with how frequently and how much you water your plants.
Bundled Book Pages for Elegant, Nostalgic Decor
Add a touch of nostalgia to your home with bundled book pages. This easy DIY is a way to reuse old books, especially ones with damaged covers. If you’re in love with the sewn bindings, you’ll need to peer down the length of the spine to see that your book is stitched and not glued before you go Godzilla on ripping the covers off.
This lovely hanging shelf is one of the more creative uses for old books. This sustainable crafting idea requires hardcover books, some patience, and a basic knowledge of how to operate a drill safely, but it leaves you with a new, functional home decor item.
Upcycle Old Books into an Ottoman
I’m a huge fan of DIY upcycled furniture, but reusing old books to make an adorable ottoman was a new one for me! I couldn’t find the actual DIY behind this one, but check out this post for inspiration.
Vintage Book Lamp
Shine a light on clever upcycling with this DIY book lamp. The detailed HGTV tutorial features plenty of photos to help you create the rustic-industrial lamp of your bookworm dreams.
Book Paper Crafts
Upcycle Old Books into Wrapping Paper
Colorful books with large pages, such as coloring books, kids’ books, maps, sheet music, or cookbooks, make excellent wrapping paper. Check out DIY Eco-friendly Gift Wrap from Books for some inspiration to get you started.
Add boho flair to your favorite bookshelf with these creative mini-lanterns made from old book pages. The author does admit that you may need to modify the craft to actually hang them, and you should never put an actual candle inside (I’d hope that was obvious), but they would be a fun addition to your tablescape, coffee table, or shelves for a party.
Children’s books endure heavier wear and tear than most adult fiction, but the colorful pages and adorable illustrations offer so many opportunities to get creative! These easy-to-make cupcake toppers are a precious way to enjoy a dog-eared favorite one last time.
Another incredibly creative use for old books? Wallpaper. While the idea of gluing anything to my walls gives me pause (the commitment factor there is not to be underestimated), the end result is gorgeous.
Book Page Greeting Cards
Let the colorful pages of your favorite soon-to-be retired children’s story, cookbook, or illustrated gardening tome live on as greeting cards. This simple DIY won’t break the bank and is kid-friendly!
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About the Author
Reese Moore is a photographer, content creator, and pickle connoisseur who divides time between Charleston and Lake Lure. When she’s not behind the lens shooting stunning images for Reese Moore Photography, Reese loves to spend her time wandering the woods with her dog Gatsby or adventuring with her husband Logan in their Airstream Basecamp.