Bookends have one functional requirement: they must stay put. Essentially, a bookend is a heavy object that keeps the books on your shelf from falling over. Yet bookends can be an opportunity to express yourself, thanks to the wide range of materials, sizes, and shapes available. Bookends are more than just a prop for the tomes in your personal library. They can be a statement-making accessory and utilitarian item that works as a sculpture.
The best bookends for you depend on how often you take your books off the shelves, whether you plan to use your bookends in pairs or split them, and your personal aesthetic. Here are the considerations to keep in mind when shopping for the best bookends, along with several recommendations.
- BEST OVERALL: Pandapark Wood Bookends
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: MaxGear Universal Premium Bookends
- BEST MODERN: SRIWATANA Decorative Metal Book Ends Geometric
- BEST VINTAGE: Bellaa 20881 Gear Bookends Industrial Vintage
- BEST NOVELTY: Noble Collection – Harry Potter Hogwarts Express
- BEST UNIQUE: JIC Gem Home Decorative Polished Geode Agate Bookends
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Bookends
Not all bookends are created equal. Learn some bookend basics before shopping, so you can buy the best bookends for your shelf. Then, you just have to slip out a favorite novel, flip on the reading light, curl up in your reading chair, and escape.
Size, Weight and Capacity
Consider the bookend’s size in relation to the books it will be holding up. An oversize bookend might look silly holding up tiny books, while a small bookend will be dwarfed by large books. If you buy a bookend that’s 14 inches tall for use on shelves with 10 inches of clearance, the problem is obvious.
Think about the books you own. If the majority are paperbacks, lightweight bookends will work. If you’re a hardback collector, you may need heavier bookends that can prop up many pounds of books.
The weight capacity of your shelves needs to be considered, too. Heavy books paired with heavy bookends on a flimsy shelf could end in disaster. Prevent this by ensuring your bookshelf is properly hung. Also consider how often you move your books. If you use your library often, consider getting lightweight bookends that are easy to reposition.
Material and Finish
A bookend’s weight will be a critical factor in its ability to do its job, and its weight will be affected by the material from which it’s made. Wooden bookends tend to be lighter than stone or metal bookends, so consider what sort of books you have when choosing the best bookends for you.
Material and finish matter for reasons of aesthetics, too. If your decor style is modern or contemporary, consider bookends made of metal or glass. If traditional, transitional, or eclectic is more your taste, look into wooden, stone, or even repurposed antique pieces to use as bookends.
It’s important to choose a bookend designed to be stable. A tall, skinny bookend won’t work with tall, heavy books. Wooden and metal bookends are notorious for sliding, so look for bookends with nonskid bottoms or stick-on rubber pads to keep the bookend in place. And, of course, a heavy bookend will be more stable than a lightweight one.
Before you shop for the best bookends, take a moment to study your shelf and the room it’s in. Notice any common colors, materials, and the room’s aesthetic. Look for bookends in a style that will fit the room. For example, a sleek, sculptural bookend could look great in a contemporary style room, while an eclectic piece might work best in a transitional room.
Our Top Picks
Here are the top picks for the best bookends in several categories.
Pandapark’s wood bookends will fit into almost any style room, thanks to their minimalist style. And they can prop up everything from paperbacks to the Oxford English Dictionary due to their simple L-shaped design that uses the weight of the books to stand firm and not slide. They’re small, standing just under 6 inches tall, and have a slim profile, so they won’t call attention to themselves in the room. They do their job of propping up your books without adding visual clutter. They’re made of beech and come in eight finishes.
If holding up your books with a fancy bookend is not your style, these might be the best bookends for you. Not only are these black metal bookends affordable, they are also nearly invisible when doing their job. Their L-shaped design allows them to use the books’ weight to hold themselves in place while giving the appearance that nothing is there. This is a good design if you have other objects to showcase on your shelves instead of a bookend. Made of black metal, these bookends come with anti-slip foam pads on the bottom to keep them stationary and prevent them from scratching your shelves.
If you’re looking for bookends with modern style and sleek lines, check out these metal, L-shaped bookends from SRIWATANA. They use the books’ weight to hold themselves up, so they can support heavy books, despite their lightweight construction and small size. They would look good in a midcentury modern, contemporary, or eclectic-style room. These bookends are small, just 7 inches tall, and come with a felt base that will prevent scratching and slipping. They are made of powder-coated metal and available in black or white.
If you want to prop up your books with a vintage treasure from an antique store but don’t have time to comb through a slew of shops, check out these resin-cast bookends made to look like ancient, rusted gears. They will look great in a loft or an eclectic-style room where you want bookends that double as a statement piece. These bookends look like they weigh a ton, but they’re made of resin, not metal, so they weigh only about 2 pounds each. That means they won’t be hard to move when you need to get a book off a shelf. However, it also means they may not be able to prop up superheavy books.
If you want bookends that make a statement, these Hogwarts Express bookends may fit the bill. Made of resin and metal and hand-painted, these bookends feature a creative design that gives the illusion of a train tunneling through one side of the books and out the other. They’re 5.5 inches high and 7.5 inches long, so they fit on most shelves.They are sturdy enough to hold an entire set of Harry Potter books, paperback or hardback. This pair of bookends is a great choice for the book-loving Harry Potter fan in your life, even if that Harry Potter fan is you.
If you want bookends that are one of a kind, not cast from a mold, take a look at these natural geode bookends. They’re made by Mother Nature, not a factory worker, so each rock is unique. The stones are cut and polished to fit flat against books. Each bookend weighs about 1.5 pounds, so they can hold up heavy books. These geode bookends come with rubber pads that adhere to the bottom to keep them from slipping or scratching furniture.
FAQs About Bookends
Still have questions about picking out the best bookends? Here are some of the most commonly asked questions.
Q. What are bookends for?
Bookends are used for holding books upright and providing visual interest in a room.
Q. How heavy should bookends be?
The proper weight for the best bookends depends on the types of books you have. Oversize books and hardbacks need a heavy bookend, while paperback books will remain upright with lighter bookends.
Q. How do you make bookends stay in place?
Bookends should stay put by virtue of gravity and their own weight. Simple L-shaped bookends are designed to use the books’ weight to keep the bookend in place. Some bookends have nonskid rubber pads on the bottom to prevent the bookend from sliding under the weight of the books.