A bookcase is an essential addition to any home library. Without a bookcase, books can get piled up around the house or stacked on tables. This not only looks cluttered, but it also makes it difficult to organize your books and find a particular text.
However, a wide variety of bookcase options are available. When choosing a bookcase, you may wonder which bookcase will fit your space and your book collection and also complement your decor preferences. This guide walks you through some key criteria to consider when shopping for a bookcase and highlights some of the best bookcases on the market.
- BEST MODERN: AllModern Dodds 61” Geometric Bookcase
- BEST MIDCENTURY: West Elm Mid-Century Bookshelf w/ Drawer
- BEST TRADITIONAL: Pottery Barn Livingston Bookcase
- BEST FARMHOUSE: HSH Solid Wood Bookshelf Rustic Etagere Bookcase
- BEST BUDGET: Casual Home Montego 5-Shelf Bookcase
- BEST HORIZONTAL: Walker Edison 2 Shelf Industrial Wood Metal Bookcase
- BEST WALL-MOUNTED: Nathan James Theo 5-Shelf Modern Bookcase
- BEST LARGE-CAPACITY: Crate & Barrel Beckett 6-High Shelf Sable Bookcase
- BEST WITH STORAGE: Anthropologie Fern Storage Cabinet
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Bookcases
As mentioned, several considerations come into play when choosing the best bookcase before snuggling up with a good book and a reading light. Consider the material, type, size, capacity, style, and color to determine which bookcase best suits your needs and preferences.
A variety of materials are used to make bookcases, including:
- Solid hardwood: Solid hardwood, such as maple, walnut, or oak, creates sturdy, stable, and fashionable bookcases. However, a solid hardwood bookcase often is more expensive and can be heavy.
- Wood veneer: In wood veneer, a thin layer of wood covers a heavy-duty, sturdy material such as plywood or MDF (medium-density fiberboard), also known as manufactured wood or engineered wood.
- Metal: Metal bookcases, which are quite sturdy, are commonly made of stainless steel or iron.
Some bookcases may feature a mixture of different materials such as glass and metal or wood and metal.
A few different types of bookcases are available:
- Vertical: These bookcases typically offer between two and eight shelves.
- Horizontal: Horizontal bookcases generally have either two or three wide shelves.
- Cube: Instead of shelves, cube bookcases contain cubed compartments.
- Modular: For a modular bookcase, users purchase two or more interlocking pieces and combine them to suit their needs.
- Ladder/leaning: Sometimes called “ladder” bookcases, this type of unit balances against or mounts to a wall at an angle. Their bottom shelves often look deeper than the upper shelves.
- Folding: A space-saving solution, a folding bookcase has removable shelves, and the sides fold.
- Corner: A corner bookcase has fan-shaped shelves that are wider in the front and narrower in the back.
- Wall-fixed: Mounted at any height, they can be positioned above furniture.
- Kids: Kids’ bookcases often are painted in bright colors. A sling unit, which is a bookcase style almost universally specific to children’s needs, displays books facing outward to show off covers rather than the spines. Any bookcase designed with kids in mind also may have curved edges to make it safer.
Size and Capacity
Size should be your first consideration when deciding on a bookcase. Before you begin your search, start by thinking about where you plan to put the bookcase and how much space you have for it. You will also want to determine the approximate number of books you’d like to put on the bookcase (both now and in the future), and look for an option that will offer sufficient space to hold your budding library.
Once you’ve assessed your needs and wants, take a careful look at the product dimensions of the bookcase you’re considering to ensure they’re an appropriate height and width for your space. You should also note the number of tiers on the bookcase, as this will help you determine how many books and other items your shelves will ultimately be able to hold.
Next, consider the bookcase style and whether it complements the decor. Bookcases come in a number of styles, including:
- Traditional: Evenly proportioned and usually crafted from wood, some traditional bookshelves incorporate carved details or filigreed accents.
- Modern: Modern bookcases, which are often made of chrome or stainless steel, incorporate 20th-century straight-lined, minimalistic designs.
- Contemporary: These bookcases complement the latest trends and styles.
- Midcentury modern: With the minimalist designs of modern bookcases, midcentury modern bookshelves may have decorative accents and offer a retro feel reminiscent of the 1950s and 1960s.
- Rustic: Often crafted from natural and untreated wood, these bookcases may look as if they belong in a cottage in the woods.
- Coastal: With a beachside style, these bookcases are crafted from materials with a weathered or sun-bleached appearance.
- Industrial: Constructed with heavy-duty metals and wood, these bookcases often deliver a more masculine or rugged feel to a space.
Also consider the color and finish of each bookcase. Look at the color of the home’s decor, reading chairs, and other furniture items and any artwork or decorations to find a bookcase that looks as if it belongs in the space.
If you require shelves that can hold heavy hardcovers, an ample number of books, and sturdy bookends, weight capacity is something you should consider when selecting a bookcase. Most small units are capable of holding 15 to 25 pounds of weight per shelf, while larger units can hold up to 50 pounds per shelf. Before selecting a bookcase for your space and arranging heavy items on it, consider how much weight you intend to place on each shelf.
Some bookcases offer specific designs or features that make them more flexible, such as:
- Mobility: With wheels, bookcases move easily throughout the room.
- Foldability: Some lightweight bookcases fold for easy storage.
- Adjustable shelves: Set the height of each shelf to accommodate taller books or decorative items.
- Storage cabinets: Storage cabinets allow for hidden storage to maintain a clutter-free look.
- Room divider functionality: Doubling as a room partition, these units are freestanding.
Our Top Picks
Considering the criteria outlined in the previous section, the following list includes a variety of bookcases in a range of styles, sizes, materials, price points, and more. Continue reading to identify the best bookcases to organize a home library.
While many bookcases on the market have a standard vertical or horizontal style, this option from AllModern is unique and eye-catching. The geometric-style unit features modular shelves that make a major visual statement. With dimensions of 63 by 61 by 13 inches, it’s large enough to function as a room divider in open-plan spaces.
The unit is constructed from manufactured wood and is available with a wide variety of finishes to suit various decor styles. Each shelf has a 110-pound weight capacity, ensuring they don’t buckle or warp under heavy weights. Full assembly is required, and the manufacturer suggests that it’s a two-person job.
- Material: Manufactured wood
- Tiers/Shelves: 5
- Shelf Depth: 13.4 inches
- Dimensions: 63 by 61 by 13 inches
- Many finish options available
- Eye-catching design
- Functions as room divider
- High weight capacity
This stylish midcentury bookcase from West Elm has a timeless aesthetic and features a combination of open and closed storage. The large bottom drawer opens on smooth metal glides and can function as a lateral filing cabinet.
The frame and legs are made from solid eucalyptus wood while the shelves are constructed from a combination of engineered wood and acacia. The wood is responsibly sourced and is certified by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). The metal hardware has an attractive antique bronze finish that suits the midcentury aesthetic. Shoppers can choose from two wood finishes: white and acorn. With West Elm’s White Glove delivery service, the shelf will be fully assembled for no added cost.
- Material: Eucalyptus wood, engineered wood, acacia wood
- Tiers/Shelves: 4 shelves, 1 drawer
- Shelf Depth: 11 to 13 inches
- Dimensions: 38 by 15 by 70.25 inches
- Includes a combination of open and closed storage
- GREENGUARD Gold Certified
- Made with FSC-certified wood
- Assembly included
- Shelves are not adjustable
Pottery Barn’s Livingston unit is a traditional bookshelf that is suitable for a wide variety of decor schemes. The unit comes in four finishes: Gray Wash, Montauk White, Dusty Charcoal, and Brown Wash. Pottery Barn even provides wood swatches, making shopping online a more comprehensive experience.
Three of the shelves are adjustable while two are fixed. There are four cord cutouts placed throughout the unit, allowing users to place electronics on the shelves without unsightly cords ruining the aesthetic. The bookcase comes with an anti-tip kit, ensuring safe installation. It’s important to note that each shelf has a weight capacity of only 20 pounds, meaning this unit isn’t ideal for storing heavy items.
- Material: Meranti wood, engineered hardwood
- Tiers/Shelves: 5
- Shelf Depth: 10.5 inches
- Dimensions: 35 by 14 by 80 inches
- Anti-tip kit included
- Includes cord cutouts
- GREENGUARD Gold Certified
- Four finishes available
- Shelves have low weight capacity
- Shallow shelf depth
Farmhouse style has been popular for years and carries a rustic charm that works well in either an urban or rural setting. This bookcase features shelves made from solid wood that are distressed to create a less refined effect. It features four fixed shelves and an X-shaped metal frame for optimal durability.
The steel tube frame is incredibly sturdy, and each shelf has a weight capacity of 120 pounds. Leg levelers ensure that the bookcase is as stable as possible, even on uneven flooring. The included anti-tip kit allows for safe installation and prevents accidents and injuries.
- Material: Solid wood, metal
- Tiers/Shelves: 4
- Shelf Depth: 10.6 inches
- Dimensions: 10.6 by 41.3 by 55 inches
- High weight capacity
- Anti-tip kit included
- Leg levelers included
Like all the best bookshelves on the market, the Montego bookcase from Casual Home offers a spacious design and five shelves, each of which can support up to 25 pounds. At 63 inches tall, the Montego features solid wood construction.
The contemporary X-design on the sides and rich espresso finish help this bookcase complement a variety of home library decor styles. It also comes in three other colorways to match your space. Its four legs support, balance, and protect books and other items stored on the shelves. Basic assembly is required.
- Material: Wood
- Tiers/Shelves: 5
- Shelf Depth: 11.75 inches
- Dimensions: 29.5 by 11.75 by 63 inches
- Affordable vertical bookshelf
- Ample shelf storage
- Comes in 4 colorways
- Easy to assemble
- Shelves have 25-pound capacity; not ideal for heavy books
Though it is not considered to be among the cheap bookshelves on the market today, this mid-priced horizontal bookcase from Walker Edison features three long shelves to hold books, decor items, book stands, and more. Each shelf can support up to 50 pounds.
This horizontal bookcase adds an industrial design to a home library. It features a powder-coated black metal frame with brown “barnwood” MDF shelves. Assembly is required, but users can follow the step-by-step instructions from the manufacturer to simplify assembly.
- Material: Wood veneer and metal
- Tiers/Shelves: 3
- Shelf Depth: 15.75 inches
- Dimensions: 15.75 by 60 by 25.59 inches
- Suitable for large spaces
- Each shelf holds up to 80 pounds
- 9 colorways included
- Comes with instructions
This versatile bookcase from Nathan James features five distinct shelves that will provide plenty of space to hold and display your favorite books. Each shelf is 24 inches wide and 12 inches deep, making this a suitable option for tighter spaces. If you aren’t tight on space, consider purchasing a pair to place next to each other for even more room for your books and collectibles.
This unit also comes with floor protectors on the metal frame to avoid scuffs and scratches. This ladder-style bookcase is available in numerous attractive color combinations, including white and gold, dark oak and gold, gray oak and white, natural brown and white, and warm walnut and white.
- Material: Metal
- Tiers/Shelves: 5
- Shelf Depth: 12 inches
- Dimensions: 12 by 24 by 73 inches
- Suitable for a small living space or library
- Comes in 20 colorways
- Floor protectors included
- Easy to assemble
Crate & Barrel’s Beckett bookcase features six shelves that are made from solid mango wood, which each have unique wood graining that adds character to the unit. The slim metal frame provides stability, and the unit’s large size makes it suitable for use as a room divider.
The shelves feature a clear lacquer coating, and the iron frame is powder coated with a sleek black finish. Shoppers who opt for in-home delivery will have the shelf fully assembled in the location of their choosing. Adjustable feet allow users to ensure the shelf is stable regardless of the flooring conditions in their home.
- Material: Mango wood, iron
- Tiers/Shelves: 6
- Shelf Depth: 13.75 inches
- Dimensions: 80.25 by 13.75 by 79.5 inches
- Solid wood shelves
- Can function as a room divider
- In-home assembly available
- Not compatible with abrasive cleaners
Anthropologie’s Fern Storage Cabinet is equal parts stylish and functional, with a unique arched design and a combination of visible and closed storage. The soft-close doors feature tempered glass panels, allowing for cherished items to be proudly displayed inside. Six drawers provide plenty of room to store things that you’d rather keep out of sight.
The shelves are adjustable with 2-inch gaps between each level, and the lowest shelf is made from Carrara marble. The majority of the unit is made from ash wood that’s sealed with a clear lacquer for added durability. Choose from Slate Blue, Sage, white, or black framing to best suit your home’s decor style.
- Material: Carrara marble, tempered glass, ash wood
- Tiers/Shelves: 3
- Shelf Depth: 11.5 inches
- Dimensions: 74 by 38 by 16.25 inches
- Made using high-quality materials
- Includes both open and closed storage
- Unique style
After reviewing this guide, you now know more about shopping for a bookcase for your home. We recommend the AllModern bookcase for a modern option. Those seeking out a midcentury-style bookcase may appreciate the West Elm bookshelf, destined to be perennially in style.
How We Chose the Best Bookcases
Years of experience covering home and furniture products as well as extensive product research went into creating this guide. We explored more than 25 bookcase options and weighed a number of practical considerations before making our recommendations.
Bookshelves need to be sturdy, so we prioritized units made with durable materials like solid wood, engineered wood, and metal. There are many different types of bookcases on the market that serve a variety of needs. Our goal was to include examples of several different types to showcase the breadth of options available. One of the primary considerations for shoppers is a bookcase’s style, and since aesthetic preferences vary widely, we aimed to include options to suit a variety of different tastes.
To learn more about bookcases before making a final decision, this list of frequently asked questions and their answers offers additional information to assist you as you shop for the best bookcase to organize your home library.
Q: What is the difference between a bookshelf and a bookcase?
While the terms “bookshelf” and “bookcase” are often used interchangeably and both are used to store books, there are in fact subtle differences between the definitions of the two terms. Generally speaking, the term “bookshelf” refers to a single wall-mounted unit, while a “bookcase” typically encompasses several shelves that may or may not be built in.
Q: Which type of wood is best for bookcases?
Solid hardwood oak, maple, or walnut bookcases are a high-quality, sturdy choice. However, hardwood bookcases are heavy, challenging to move, and more expensive than those made with other materials. Plywood or wood veneers are a less costly alternative.
Q: How large does a bookcase need to be?
The number of books you own and the available space in your home impact the size of bookcase that’s right for you. To find a bookcase (or multiple bookcases) large enough to fit all your books, count the total number of books in your collection and estimate their average width. Multiply the average width by the total number of books to determine the amount of shelf space required.
To determine shelf space, multiply the width of the bookcase by the number of shelves. For example, a 25-inch-wide bookcase with six shelves provides 150 inches of shelf space.
Q: Do bookcases need to be affixed to the wall?
No, bookcases don’t have to be affixed to the wall. However, if they are, you can place furniture and other items beneath the shelf to provide a less cluttered look to a space and remove concerns about the bookcase tipping over.