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Worthy Ways To Upcycle Your Old Books

old book on wooden background
Image: Reinhold Leitner/Shutterstock

As a book lover, you probably have a collection that includes a few you know you won’t be reading again. If you love the look of all those books, and don’t necessarily want to give them away, why not try a few of these ideas to reuse your old books?

Light Up Your Literary Tomes

Turn a stack of old books into a stunning table lamp with these instructions.
For this project, you’ll need:

  • Several hardcover books (the number will depend on their width and your lamp hardware)
  • Lamp kit (available at woodshop craft stores or online)
  • Lamp shade
  • Drill and bits
  • Box cutter
  • Clamps
  • Screwdriver and screws
  1. Stack your books on the work table. Measure the center rod from the lamp kit and subtract one inch. That’s the maximum height your stack of books can be. View your stack of books critically and determine the arrangement that is most appealing to you according to which one you want at the top, bottom, etc.
  2. Move the stack of books, keeping just the bottom one. Clamp the bottom book to the table. Use a ½ inch bit to drill into the center of the book (through the front cover), up to halfway through the book.
  3. Open the book to the where you stopped drilling, and use the box cutter to cut the pages and make a channel for the wire. (To clarify, this bottom book will serve as the lamp base.)
  4. Insert the center rod from the lamp kit into the hole you drilled, and tighten it with the washer and nut from the lamp kit.
  5. Guide the wire into the rod starting from the bottom channel you created. Leave plenty of exposed wire at the top of the metal rod so you can attach your lamp fixture.
  6. Lay the book flat with the rod up, ready to receive the rest of the books.
  7. Screw two screws into the book, from the top cover down to the bottom cover (to prevent the book from opening if the lamp ever falls.)
  8. Drill ½ inch holes in the centers of the remaining books. Insert them onto the rod in the order you wish, one by one. Each time you place a book, use two screws, diagonally positioned, to secure the book closed from the top cover through the top cover of the book just below it.
  9. When you get to the top book, screw it in place as you did the others, but this time, screw with the top cover open (so the screw heads won’t be visible when the book is closed).
  10. Finally, follow the instructions that came with your lamp kit to finish off the lamp assembly.
  11. Use Modge Podge to seal the books together and allow to dry. Top the whole thing off with a lampshade.

Make a Statement with a Literary Lamp Shade

Why not top off your book lamp with a lamp shade that complements the concept? This Literary Lampshade project makes use of old book pages. You’ll need:

  • Lampshade
  • Pages torn from an old book
  • Modge Podge
  • Scissors


  1. Basically, you’re just going to decoupage an old lampshade with your torn book pages. For the lampshade, those cheap vinyl ones from the discount store will work perfectly.
  2. Dip the pages in a shallow container of Modge Podge. Lay them on the lampshade in any pattern or order you like. Trim off the top and bottom edges with scissors. Brush on a layer of Modge Podge and allow to dry thoroughly.

Bank on the Bindings

You can use your old books to hide money. I’m not talking about digging out a cavity from the inner book pages. This is much easier than that, and you can do it without destroying the book.
Each time you come home with a few extra bills in your wallet, tuck them into one of your favorite old books. Make sure you choose just one and keep using it. Otherwise you’ll have a dickens of a time trying to recall which book you hid your vast wealth inside. At the end of a year, shake the book down and enjoy watching all that cash fall into your lap.

Illuminate Ancient Luminaries

Those genius writers of old deserve a chance in the spotlight. Why not give it to them by decorating those glass votive jars you have sitting on your mantel? Just cut a few choice pages from an old book, size them to fit and wrap around the outside of the votive jar. Secure with clear tape down the back side. Insert your tea candle and enjoy the way the light shines through the words of wisdom.
The only thing you should be mindful of when re-using old books is to avoid deconstructing a book with intrinsic or personal value to you. You don’t want to regret tearing pages from a first edition or from the last book your grandmother ever gave you. Other than that, it’s probably better to repurpose a book than to let it leave your possession.

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