Books are prone to suffering a sad fate not unlike that of yesterday’s newspaper. Once the buzz dies down and Oprah waves her golden wand of recommendation, a former literary must-have can often be relegated to the “been there, done that” pile quicker than you can say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Aside from taking the obvious donation route by giving old books to a hospital, school, thrift store or local library, or posting them on Craigslist or Freecycle, there are countless word nerds who faun over the prospect of sinking their teeth into good reads. If you are sympathetic to their literary hunger and also feel that the written word deserves to go forth and multiply, you might want to consider participating in online communities such as Paper Back Swap, Bookins, BookMooch or ReadItSwapIt (if you’re a U.K. resident), or organizing your very own local swap party, complete with contributed potluck eats for a festive, social twist.

On the other hand, there are some books that are, for lack of a better word, dreadful. Fortunately, this particular class of written text is the ideal candidate for eco-crafty reincarnation, proving that judging a book by its cover is actually shrewd indeed (especially when you answer the DIY battle cry)!


  • Whimsical book characters leap off of the page (or spine, to be exact) with Mike Stilkey’s outstanding creations, which use enormous stacks of books as his canvas.
  • Brian Dettmer extrapolates the inner artistic workings of old books thanks to his deft handling of a very sharp X-ACTO knife — creating a three-dimensional feast for the eyes — while Kenjio’s Thinker and Sleeper achieve a decidedly different yet touchable sculptural effect.
  • Forgotten Knowledge” by Rachael Ashe incorporates found objects gleaned from Mother Nature amid the pages of 25 Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias.
  • Boukje Voet’s fantastically fanciful book art makes shredding the written word seem far less sacrilegious.
  • Jacqueline Rush Lee’s organic book art reinterprets old tomes in countless quirky ways.

Fashion and tech

  • Rebound Designs crafts handbags from old books, but if you’re the artsy type, you can just as easily make your own DIY version.
  • Kathy Kelly’s line of far roomier Bookbags, using outdated legal texts and other assorted titles plucked straight from the shelves of the law library she works at, feature book covers sewn right into the front panel of each design.
  • Children’s books are transformed into colorfully whimsical bags with Repurposed4You’s extensive collection of offerings.
  • Turn the spines of old books into a colorful assortment of snap-on bracelets.
  • Repurpose an old paperback into an iPod case.
  • Make book beads, or for expert crafters, tear a page from Jeremy Mays’ book by creating literary baubles such as rings and bracelets using hand-lacquered book pages.

Judge a Book by its Cover

Household décor