Arts & Entertainment

DIY Roundup: 7 New Uses for Old Books

Written by Anna Inabinet

What?! You mean people use books for things other than reading? Come to think of it, I have bought a box of old books at a yard sale or auction only to get home and find a few that were in miserable shape. And there is that one shelf full of books that are just so awful I can’t believe they were even published–so bad I couldn’t even give them away, but also couldn’t bear to throw them out. Why not reuse or upcycle them into something I can enjoy?

Book projects range anywhere from super quick and easy to over-the-top projects requiring a workshop or an engineering degree. I’ve scouted out a list of projects that any of us can do at home, with minimal materials or cost.

  1. Wrapping paper – Sure, you’re not going to be wrapping huge presents with a book, but as they say, the best things come in small packages. And those old yellowed book pages are perfect for wrapping jewelry, gift cards or cash. This one is pretty self explanatory, but you can add some color by using brightly colored ribbon for your bow. Or take it up a notch by dyeing your book pages first, using food coloring, coffee, tea or ink.
  2. A book safe – Even though you’ve spent years accumulating your favorite books, your library isn’t the first place a burglar is likely to go. So why not stash your valuables in plain sight by hiding them in a book? Here’s what you’ll need: a book (preferably hardback), an X-Actoknife,adhesive and brush, and these instructions.
  3. Journal or scrapbook – You can easily turn an old book into a new one, specifically a journal or scrapbook. This project is not difficult at all, but does require more time and materials. To get started, find a hardback book with a cool vintage cover. Detailed instructions can be found here at Craft’s website. Or, you can make this project a lot easier by leaving the book in tact and painting the pages with gesso primer et voila–instantly blank pages, ready for your innermost thoughts, doodles and pictures!
  4. A lamp – What better way to read than by the light of a lamp made from books? Anything electrical is out of my realm, but I’ve seen book lamps around and they’re just lovely. You’ll need a stack of books, a lamp wiring kit, a shade, a drill, and if you’re like me, a little courage.
  5. Decoupage – Decoupage is literally the art of decorating an object with pieces of paper, so this is a no-brainer for book pages–and a great use for scraps of pages left over from other projects on this list. Apartment Therapy has a great how-to for decoupaging items around the home. I especially love the illustrated book pages they used.
  6. A bunting – Nothing is cuter than seeing a bunting hanging in a window, across a room, or even on the front porch. They’re so simple to do and can be made from just about anything. For this project, you just need some string, scissors and book pages. You can put it all together using tape, staples or a hole punch. Can it get any simpler? And these are so easy and versatile, you can make new ones as often as you feel like changing things up. Here’s a simple tutorial to get you started.
  7. Mulch – You probably have lots of leftover scraps and pages from all of these fun projects; don’t let them go to waste. If you compost, throw them in your compost bin, or just shred them up and put them in your garden. Old newspapers are great as mulch, too!

Another great resource for using old books is “The Repurposed Library: 33 Craft Projects that Give Old Books New Life” by Lisa Occhipinti. A friend gifted this book to me last summer and it is full of beautiful ideas and beautiful photographs.

About the author

Anna Inabinet

After studying English and journalism in college, Anna worked as a writer in many capacities, but, in 2006, she left that all behind to pursue her other passion -- photography. Along the way, Anna also added graphic design to her repertoire. Having established herself as a freelance photographer and graphic designer, she's inching her way back into the writing field.

Anna, her husband and her two babies -- well, cats -- recently relocated from Chicago to her home state of Georgia. When she's not photographing or designing, she is re-learning how to be a proper Southern lady. Her list of loves is long: books, peanut butter, travel, junky antique stores, coffee, flea markets, buying (and sometimes using) craft supplies, board games, colorful Sharpies, anything that can be cooked in a slow cooker, living close to her family again, and of course hanging out with her super awesome husband and insanely furry cats. She believes life is too short to list things she hates (but she admits to strongly disliking talking on the phone, olives, and grocery shopping).

You can see Anna's work here.