It wasn’t my intention to post back-to-back about books this week, but while we’re on the subject… I wanted to address a topic and question I’m often asked about: thrifting books. Whether you’re thrifting them to read, to decorate or style throughout your home, or to add interest to your coffee table or shelving, I’ve definitely got some tips to share when it comes to buying secondhand books! Books can really get expensive when buying new, so I like to supplement my new reads, design books, or coffee table books with thrifted ones. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to create a curated collection that fits your aesthetic and preferred subject matter, when it comes to reading material. Click through for the post…
I can almost always find an interesting or unique book at the thrift store. It’s the one section I feel is always a guarantee when thrift shopping. My local thrift store sells their books for anywhere between 50 cents and three dollars. Here are some things to consider when making your book selections…
- Does the subject matter interest you?
- Remove the jacket to see what is underneath.
- Consider the color of the book.
- Is the book in good shape?
- Where might you style this book?
- Is this book for decorating, reading, or both? I try to only buy books that fall into the “both” category.
- What is the cost of the book?
- Is this book the right size for your shelf, table, etc?
THINGS TO LOOK FOR
I think the most fun thing about thrifting books is uncovering unique finds. From pretty gold leaf typography hidden beneath the jacket to pressed florals or notes left inside by someone else- I enjoy finding these little details that tell the story of the book’s journey. Here are some things to keep an eye out for while you shop…
- Golf leaf or foil typography
- Embossed text
- Linen, fabric, or leather bound books
- Unique content or subject matter
- Signed copies or first editions
- Notes, pressed flowers, or other personal touches inside the book (just for fun)
- Large sized coffee table books
I also want to address the cleanliness factor that accompanies used books. I get a lot of these type of messages…
- “You’re bringing used books into your home? Ew.”
- “Are you worried about bed bugs or other pests?”
- “Don’t you feel like used books are gross?”
I’d say I’m a self proclaimed germaphobe, but buying used books or thrifted decor has never really bothered me. I do take precautions and give everything a good clean before bringing it into our home, but for the most part- I’m not freaked out by that. I feel like it really isn’t any different than checking out a library book (those books go through a lot of hands). When it comes to selecting secondhand books, I do try to choose ones that are in good condition, don’t have a funky odor, and have been well taken care of. Here are some cleaning tips if that’s a big concern for you:
- Dust, vacuum, or wipe them off. I like to remove the jackets anyway, so those go straight to the recycling bin.
- Let the books air out before bringing them into your home. I just keep mine in the sun or in our garage for a day or two before hauling them inside.
- If your thrifted books have a funky smell, you can put them in an enclosed airtight tote or container with a jar of activated charcoal, baking soda, or talcum powder. I’ve also heard of people resting a book in rice or cat litter to remove odor or moisture.
- If insects or bugs are your main concern, put the book(s) in a plastic bag and stick them in the freezer for a week. That will kill any bugs or eggs.
- If a book has any marks or scuffs, often times those will come up with a gum / kneaded eraser.
I know a lot of people turn to thrift stores to buy books solely used for styling. If that’s your goal, be sure to keep project notes with you while thrifting. What color of books are you looking for (warm tones, cool tones, all one color, etc)? What size will best fit your space, built-in, or bookcase? Having these dimensions, color palette, or even book styling inspiration images saved will make the process easier.
I’ve talked about styling with books on the blog before. If you’d like to check out some past posts from the archives on that topic (more design focused), here are a few posts to reference…
- Design Discussion : Shelf Styling with Books
- 10 Tips for Styling with Lots of Books
- How to Change the Overall Appearance of Books (for holidays or special occasions)
I will say, filling up a large shelf or expansive built-in takes more books than you might expect. If you’re thrifting solely to style, it may take multiple trips to thrift stores to acquire the amount of books you need. If you have the time, patience, and enjoy a good thrifting trip- then this is an excellent option! However, if you’re looking for cohesive books for styling and don’t have the time (or desire) to thrift, you can also purchase curated book bundles. Books bundles are usually grouped by size, color, subject, etc. Depending on what you’re looking for, that may be an easier option for your book styling project. I’ll link some bundles at the bottom of the post for you! I found lots of options on Etsy, and even at Pottery Barn (which was a surprise).
Let me know if you have any other questions about thrifting books. I’ve been doing a lot of shopping to finish filling my home office built-ins, so this topic has been on my mind lately! Emmett went to the thrift store with me last week (to push the cart filled with heavy books), and he was amazed at my selection process & criteria. Ha! We found a lot of good books we’re excited to read! He ended up with a bag of his own books, which included one on cabinet making, a finance book, and a fiction book he had been wanting to read for fun. Anyway, I hope this post is helpful. I’m sending you all the good thrifting energy- here’s to finding some beautiful books. I promise Friday’s post won’t be book related. Ha!