The Objectified Book, Or, What to Do With A Book (Other Than Read It)

Most book lovers would agree that the intangible story contained within a book, not the book itself, is what’s important.  Yet, reading is a physical experience as well as an intellectual one. As this article from Scientific American explains, our brains perceive letters of the alphabet as material objects, not abstract concepts. Furthermore, the majority of readers prefer paper books over ebooks for in-depth reading largely because we like the  haptic sensations that paper provides.

If you are like most bibliophiles, you probably enjoy the physicality of books more than you realize. You like to run your fingers down their spines, inhale their crisp scents, listen to the rustle of their pages, feel the weight of them in your hands, and admire them in all their bookish glory. It’s hard for most of us to get our fill of books, so it’s fortunate that there are many ways to enjoy them!

Below are some things you can do with books in addition to reading them.  Some suggestions are appropriate for a public setting, such as an office, classroom, or library, while others are better suited to a more personal space, such as your home, bedroom, treehouse, or secret garden.  Perhaps you’ll be inspired to come up with your own ideas!


Decorate with them.  Books are beautiful, so show them off! Stack books of different sizes unevenly and you can even create a two-or three-tiered shelf for knick-knacks.  You can also make a display with books and objects on a similar theme, such as the ocean (think Moby Dick, a handbook on tying knots, seashells, a ship in a bottle, and a lithograph of a whale).

Sleep with them.  If you’re currently sleeping solo, or if you’re temporarily away from your partner, why not take Mr. Darcy, Sherlock Holmes, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, Harry Potter, and Huckleberry Finn to bed with you?  The more, the merrier!  You’ll feel so cozy with all your friends snuggled around you. 



Write in them. Marking in the margins is really tough for some people. Of course, you can’t write in a library book, but it can even feel sacrilegious to take pen or pencil to the pristine pages of the books in your personal collection.  But go ahead. Do it. Every reader brings his or her own meaning to a book anyway, so you might as well make your thoughts permanent. Be bold! You can change the ending, kill off a character you never really liked, or add some drawings to create a flip book that complements the text. The possibilities are endless.

Build something with them.  This can be as simple as using books as blocks to build a tower, or as complex as building a castle or a piece of usable furniture.  This is a great activity when you have boxes of books sitting around that you’re not ready to part with.  Just be prepared to knock your drawbridge down when someone wants to read a book in the castle’s moat!


Paint or photograph them. If you love books, why not take a picture of them?  Or draw them? Or use them as models for a sculpture? Or even make a looks-so-real-but-tastes-so-good book cake? Many bibliophiles also have an interest in one of the visual arts. Combine your loves and double your pleasure.


Give them away.  You can go the tried-and-true route and donate books to your local public library, but there are other options as well. Consider dropping off a book in a little free library (or start one yourself). Or, simply leave a book in a public place. You can register it with, find out who claims it, and then follow where it goes next.


Sit on them.  Most of us don’t have phone books anymore, but we do have fat books: think art, decorating, or cookbooks. When the chair’s too low or the table’s too high, voila! Instant booster seat.




Throw them at someone. All right, so generally when you throw a book at someone, it’s done metaphorically. If you do plan to literally throw actual books at real people, paperback is best. You’re not as likely to give anyone a concussion, and if a book gets damaged, it’ll be cheaper to replace.



Play games with them.  Try this game described in detail in the New York Times. It’s called “novelist.” Players make up the first line of a novel based on the blurbs on the back of the book, trying to fool the player who is “it” into guessing theirs is the novel’s actual opener. Better yet, invent your own entertaining book game!


Organize them. This one seems obvious, but get creative! What works best for you?  Organizing by genre? By author? By size? Do you like to have all of your favorites together?  Try something fun, like putting together a shelf of your most colorful books in rainbow order!




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