Best bookends

Supplies

William Stebbins Barnard patented the original bookend in 1877. Materials used for centuries included bronze, wood and marble.

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Which bookend is best?

If you have a sizable collection of books, you know the struggle of trying to keep everything organized and upright on the shelf. Entropy takes over, and books end up toppled over or stacked on top of each other. Leaning, sagging books tend to become damaged as the spines warp under all that pressure.

Bookends are an excellent way to corral your books and preserve their quality. They also add an organized aesthetic to your library. Bookends can be decidedly minimalist or highly decorative. They come in a range of styles with varying degrees of functionality and durability. For a set of bookends that keeps your books organized and supports even the heaviest of books, Officemate Bookends are the top choice.

What to know before you buy bookends 

Function 

The primary consideration for most people buying bookends is function. Bookends keep your books supported by holding up each end of a row of upright books. To do this effectively, you need sturdy, nonslip bookends. For more information, take a look at the full bookends buying guide from BestReviews.

Design 

The most common design for bookends is the basic L-shaped model with a thin metal base that slides underneath books for support and a vertical wall that holds books in place. Many bookends are also visually ornate or feature other unique design elements. If you’re buying bookends for your personal library, try matching them to other design elements in your space. You can find bookends with wood finishes, chrome finishes, natural stone finishes, botanical wrought-metal designs and more.

Size

Bookends come in large, industrial styles and in smaller sizes for paperbacks and other small books. A standard bookend is between 6 and 12 inches high. When selecting a set of bookends, think about how many books you have and how large they are. You might wish to select varying sizes for different book dimensions in your collection. 

Material

The most basic, budget-friendly bookends are made of a clear acrylic material. Steel and sheet metal bookends are a good utilitarian choice for holding many books without warping or sliding. Stainless steel costs a bit more, but it tends to be extra durable and aesthetically pleasing. If you want more ornate choices, wood, marble and agate bookends are gorgeous options. 

What to look for in quality bookends 

Adjustable

Some bookends feature adjustability that allows you to make them shorter or taller to accommodate all books sizes. You can also find accordion-style bookends with expandable metal bases that secure up to 18 inches of books in place.

Secure

While bookends stay in place primarily through the weight of the books and the force of friction, they can easily jostle out of place when you take a book off the shelf. To prevent this, look for bookends with slip-resistant rubber bases that provide a secure grip to keep your bookends from moving out of place.

How much you can expect to spend on bookends

A basic set of plastic bookends can cost as little as $15. For between $15-$30, you’ll find heavy-duty bookends in a variety of sizes and styles. More expensive bookends feature high-quality stone and wood materials or ornate hand-wrought metal designs.

Bookends tips 

  • For a gorgeous and functional library, try not to fill your shelves completely with books. Leaving a bit of empty space and adding other elements like lamps, essential oil diffusers, vases or sculptures can create a more sparse, thoughtful aesthetic. 
  • To keep your bookends neat and clean, be sure to dust them frequently. 
  • Be careful when using bookends alongside heavy books on shelves that can’t support a ton of weight, such as floating shelves.
  • Bookends work well for organizing other media, too, such as CDs and vinyl, DVDs, board games, files, journals and more.
  • You can use bookends in different places other than shelves, such as on your counter to hold your cookbooks, on your desk to organize your notebooks or on your bar cart to hold mixology guides. 

Bookends FAQ

Are bookends suitable for paperbacks and hardbacks?

A. Paperbacks and hardbacks both work well with bookends. You should only hold hardbacks with heavy-duty metal bookends; otherwise, you may find the bookends warp under the pressure of the books or slide out of place. Paperbacks are suitable for use with most bookends, but keep in mind that a larger set of bookends visually overpowers smaller books, which may create an aesthetic you don’t love. 

How many bookends do I need per shelf?

A. You generally need at least one pair of bookends per shelf in order to effectively keep your books propped up and aligned. If you have long shelves with many books on them, having a couple pairs of bookends per shelf helps ensure your bookends aren’t overly taxed with weight.

Can I permanently affix my bookends to the shelf?

A. Some people like the idea of creating permanent sections on their shelves using bookends. While this is a possibility, it requires getting creative with wood glue or a drill, as bookends don’t feature predrilled holes or fixatives for this purpose. Be sure you really want to do this before you commit. Part of the functional appeal of bookends is that you can move them into any configuration you like, which is especially useful as you grow or shrink your library collection.

What are the best bookends to buy?

Top bookends

Officemate Bookends Heavy-Weighted Steel

Officemate Bookends Heavy-Weighted Steel

What you need to know: It doesn’t get any more durable and heavy duty than this set of no-nonsense bookends.

What you’ll love: These bookends are ideal if you want a minimalist set that emphasizes function over flair. This set doesn’t falter under the weight of even heavy textbooks. They are perfect for spots where you need a very supportive product, such as up high on a floating shelf. 

What you should consider: These are a bit on the pricey side, but they will dependably keep your books upright.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top bookends for the money

CY craft Set of 4 Clear Acrylic Bookends

CY craft Set of 4 Clear Acrylic Bookends

What you need to know: This is a set of four functional, dependable bookends at a fraction of the price of other options.

What you’ll love: The bookends offer a minimal design with a money-back guarantee, and they are ideal for holding everything from books and DVDs to files. They are made from high-quality, durable acrylic. 

What you should consider: Some users report that the bookends aren’t as sturdy as heavier-duty options, although, for the most part, this set is known to support heavy books. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

JIC Gem Decorative Polished Geode Agate Bookends

JIC Gem Decorative Polished Geode Agate Bookends

What you need to know: This heavy-duty pair of decorative bookends is a unique find: aesthetically pleasing, durable and effective.

What you’ll love: The bookends feature pure agate stone in a variety of colors for a strikingly beautiful solution to book organization. Each bookend has a rubber padded base to prevent damage to furniture surfaces.

What you should consider: This set is visually stunning, but won’t fit everyone’s style. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Evelyn Waugh writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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