What to do with old books | Select

As someone who adores books, especially old ones, it always pains me to see them being thrown away. I realize that sometimes it’s the only thing that can be done with them because they may be moldy or ruined from getting wet or being chewed on by a puppy, but often it’s books that are in perfectly fine shape that are being tossed.

Libraries and used bookstores can’t absorb all the books that people want to get rid of, so many books end up in the trash. Before you throw out those old books, though, I’d like you to consider turning them into art. After all, we know the adage that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and you might be able to turn an old book into an item that someone will treasure.

First, here are a few simple ideas. If it’s a hardback book, you can cut a square out of all the interior pages to create a keepsake box. If you know some basic origami, you could then create cute little shapes like paper cranes out of those square pieces you removed from the interior of the book. If you enjoy folding paper, you could also learn how to fold the edges of the pages of an old book to spell a word like “love,” “smile” or “family.” You can also bind a few books together to serve a variety of uses from holding kitchen knives between the pages when the books are standing upright to being a simple decorative piece on a side table under a small lamp.

For the more artistically minded people, here are a few ideas. First, you can simply remove the pages of an old book and paint on them. You can shred the pages and use them for papier-mâché projects. You can use a jigsaw tool to cut the entire hardback book into the shape of a letter. You can use the pages of a book, folded in various fashions, to create a wreath. You can turn the spines of old books into bookmarks, make mobiles out of interesting illustrations, clip passages for “found poems” or cut the interiors of the books into any number of interesting shapes.

If you have a lot of hardback books, you can turn them into ottomans or larger pieces of furniture, and if you are good at stacking them just right, they can be used as a Christmas tree or any other unique form you can then decorate or add lights to. The pages of many books can even be turned into clothing such as wedding dresses with elaborately folded pages serving as a train.

There are so many things you can make out of old books. To find ideas, simply look online. Pinterest is chock-full of photos to help you visualize what you could do with those old books besides throw them away.

Naturally, I will always be in favor of leaving books in their original form and simply finding new homes for them if you don’t want them anymore because a book, in my opinion, is already a piece of art. However, if you don’t want the books anymore and can’t find anyone to take them off your hands, consider getting creative with some of them before you throw all of them away.

This month’s reading selection is “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius.


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