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Fake Books for Décor: Fabulous, Atrocious or Ridiculous?

Book shelf with lots of books in home

I can’t help but view fake books for décor as totally ridiculous and entirely lacking of any taste whatsoever.  I don’t do it. I wouldn’t do it. I have no plans to do it.

We have a few bookshelves loaded with books; real books.  Most of which one of us in the house has read. It’s where we put our books when done reading them.

I’m not against other faux décor concepts such as faux ceiling beams, faux brick exterior or faux wood.  I’m not even entirely against fake plants.  I’m not saying I’m all for it but I don’t consider it ridiculous, yet I consider using faux books for any part of interior design to be ridiculous.

After further thought, I realized there is indeed a difference between fake books and other faux décor concepts and that is using fake books is an attempt at making some sort of statement about you and/or people in the house rather than just trying to make something look better for less money.

What do I mean by there’s a difference between faux wood and faux books?

Why do bookshelves loaded with books look good?  I don’t think it’s the fact that it’s a series of shelves with books that does it on the face of it.  It’s more than that. It’s the meaning behind it; it declares accomplishment, learning, education and perhaps even elevated class status.  

Faux wood, beams and stone merely attempt to make interiors look nicer; perhaps trying to make the home look more expensive and fancier than it is but it’s not attempting to bolster the perception of people in the house like faux books do. That’s the key difference which is why I can’t help but consider using fake books for interior design to be totally idiotic.

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If I were in someone’s house and discovered their prominent bookshelf was full of fake books, I’d laugh out loud. I’m not so pretentious that I’d think less of the people in the house, but I’d consider the faux books a major faux pas.

Types of fake books you can buy

if you can believe it there are different types of fake books that you can buy.  Here they are (I don’t recommend any of them).

1. Fake book sets

Here are two examples a fake book sets you can buy on Amazon:

B&S FEEL Wooden Antique Book Box, Set of 2

ANZON MORIES Decorative Box Set, 3 Packs, Memory Book Box Modern Magazine Style Storage for Secret Hidden, Home Bookshelf Décor, Large 12", Med 10" Small 8"

Source: Amazon

2. Concealing fake book sets

You can get larger fake book shells that offer private storage on a shelf. Check it out:

CovoBox v2— Hidden Storage Book Box | Electronics Hider | Hide Router, Cable Box, Modem, Cords, Plugs, Outlets, Money, Secret Documents, or Jewelry | Made with Real Used Books | Closed Tops

CovoBox v2— Hidden Storage Book Box | Electronics Hider | Hide Router, Cable Box, Modem, Cords, Plugs, Outlets, Money, Secret Documents, or Jewelry | Made with Real Used Books | Closed Tops

Source: Amazon

3. Fake books as a storage box

Similar to the above but different in design, these small storage boxes double as fake book sets.

Chris.W Wooden Antique Book-Like Bookends with Hidden Storage Box Classic Decorative Library Book Ends, Set of 2(Large + Small)

Source: Amazon

4. Decal bookshelf

This is wild. You don’t even need the shelf. It’s a large decal that looks like a built-in shelf loaded with books.  You just paste the decal on the wall.  Hilarious.

Wland 35 inches x 24 inches Fake Book Shelf Colorful Various Books Wall Decal Stickers for Classroom Office Bars

Yes, that entire built-in shelf and bookshelf is a decal.

Source: Amazon

5. Fake bookshelf backdrop

YongFoto 10x7ft Retro Wooden Bookshelf Backdrop Old Books Vintage Bookshelf Bookcase Library Photography Background Back to School Graduation Congratulations Prom Students Graduates Photo Studio

Source: Amazon

The fake bookshelf backdrop makes sense for photographers but that doesn’t mean I think it’s a good idea for your home office for video calls.  I’m sure many folks use them but I wouldn’t.

Decorative vs faux books

There is a difference between decorative books and faux books.  Decorative books can be (and should be) real books.  They might be books you buy for the main purpose of putting on a bookshelf… but they’re real books. Faux or fake books, on the other hand, are boxes created and painted to look like real books.  Big difference. IMO, it’s best to decorate bookshelves with books you read or plan to read, but decorative books are passable.

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Use your shelves for décor but in an authentic way

If you load up shelves with fake books that’s not you.  If you don’t read, don’t pretend to read in a ridiculous effort to come across as smart or learned.  Instead, use your bookshelves as way to decorate and portray who you and your family are.  Framed photos are great.  Plants are great.  Do you have any hobby projects or crafts you’ve done that you can display? For example, our oldest son loved doing pottery when he was young. He made a lot of pottery over the three years he was in it as a young boy.  We display that on one bookshelf.  Visitors almost always comment on it.  It’s a big part of our family that’s far more authentic than any set of books would be.

What if the fake book sets offer storage, is it okay?

Some books sets aren’t just fake books but they’re small storage boxes which admittedly does give them some functionality.  However, I can’t justify it even if they do store things. There are better storage box concepts.  If you’re curious what I’m talking about, check it out:

ANZON MORIES Decorative Box Set, 3 Packs, Memory Book Box Modern Magazine Style Storage for Secret Hidden, Home Bookshelf Décor, Large 12", Med 10" Small 8"

Source: Amazon

Is it important to have read every book on a bookshelf?

I’m not that much of a purist. No, it’s totally fine having books you won’t read on your bookshelf.  I have a few (my wife probably read them though).  Chalk it up to books you might read down the road… you need to legitimately store those as well.

What types of books are best for bookshelves?

In my opinion, books you’ve read or will read are a great start, but not a prerequisite.  There are a variety of different types of books you can put on shelves.  Consider:

  • Hardcover books: These are the best but also the most expensive.  That said, paperback books are nicer and larger than they were 25 years ago. Both are totally fine.
  • Fiction: Our shelves are mostly fiction books because that’s what we read the most.  However, non-fiction is totally cool.
  • Literature: This is tricky. I’ve read SOME literature, but not much. I prefer contemporary fiction (Grisham, Wilbur Smith, Tom Clancy, etc.) so that’s what ends up on my bookshelves. While putting the top 100 books of all time (i.e. literature) on your shelf if you haven’t read them or plan to read isn’t all that terrible, I tend to prefer my bookshelves as a place to store the actual books I read.
  • Textbooks:  We have a good number of old law school textbooks that we put on the bookshelves. Yup, we read them.  Yes, they do look great with the hard cover and all.  So we put them on the bookshelf but it’s fitting for a couple of lawyers.
  • Childrens’ books: You may be into your kids but childrens’ books should not go on your bookshelf in the living room or office. Put them on a shelf in our kid’s room.  that’s what we do. We’ve accumulated a lot of kids’ books over the years and they make up a couple of small bookshelves. They help spruce up the décor of our kids’ rooms.
  • Cookbooks:  I think cookbooks are okay on a living room bookshelf but better on a shelf in the kitchen or even the dining room.
  • Magazines: Yeah, magazines can look great on a bookshelf. My in-laws have hundreds, maybe thousands of old National Geographics.  A row of magazines like that look fantastic.
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Think twice about various genres if you don’t want to reveal too much about you

If your bookshelf is in a prominent area or will be on Zoom calls, be selective about the books you put on your shelf.  Probably best to leave out the following genres that could suggest any of the following:

  • Marriage issues
  • Self-help
  • Extreme politics
  • Sensitive health issue
  • Religion

These books, if you have them, should be on a bookshelf in a more private part of your house such as the bedroom.

Maybe you disagree with me on this point but I’m more right than you might think.  I know folks who are really into various genres such as self-help think the entire world needs to hear about it but they don’t. I won’t get started on the self-help industry but believe me, broadcasting to the world your self-help book titles won’t do you any favors.

Cater books on the shelf to the room or situation

If you’re really into using books for interior design, consider customizing the books to the room or situation.  For example, keep the business books in the office, fiction in the living room and any more sensitive topic books, keep in the bedroom.  Consider the following:

  • Books for living room bookshelves: Fiction, stylish textbooks that reveal something about you, literature and/or magazines.
  • Home office books: Fiction, non-fiction, textbooks, books related to your profession or job and/or literature.
  • Kitchen: Talk about a great place for your cookbooks and recipe books.  It’s ideal, including any scrapbooks/binders you’ve assembled with recipes collected.
  • Bedroom: All the books you don’t want visitors to see or folks on the other end of a Zoom call.
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How to organize the books on your bookshelves?

This is an interesting question because you can organize the books on your bookshelves in many different ways.  Here they are:

  • By color:  If you have enough books to organize by color for each row or bookshelf, go for it. That could be interesting.
  • By height:  This actually makes sense to me… please similar-height books on the same row.
  • Alphabetical order: I wouldn’t do this after all my house isn’t a library and it makes us come across as pretty neurotic but it is an option.
  • By genre or type of book: This makes sense as well.  Put fiction on one shelf or row.  Recipe books on another and so on.
  • Random: Just chuck the books on the shelf and call it a day.
  • To impress: If you lack self-esteem and have a constant need to impress, you can intentionally put your literature in the more prominent locations such as eye-level rows or on shelves that are most prominent in your house.

Is it okay to create a faux bookshelf in the home office for Zoom calls?

3 years ago this wasn’t much of an issue but now it sure is.  I’m going to say “no, fake books are not a good idea as a background for Zoom calls” and here are the reasons why.

First, if something happens and people on the call can tell your shelf is loaded with fake books, you’ll look like an idiot.  It’ll compromise you.  There’s a huge potential downside with little upside.  In fact, too often the bookshelf background comes across as a bit pretentious.

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Second, there are so many tasteful ways to create a background.  Use a shelf, which is a great idea because it can take up the entire background but you don’t have to put books on it. You can put some plants, perhaps a few books, office supplies, pictures, etc.  Be creative. Don’t try to come across as someone you’re not.

Is it okay to buy used books for a bookshelf to save money?

Yes, it’s totally fine to go out and buy inexpensive used books for a bookshelf. In fact, this is a great way to get piles of books… you can find used books for $5 per book.  If a book is one inch thick on average, you only need 36 books for a 36-inch wide bookshelf (one row).  That’s 36 x $5 totaling $180 per row.  If your bookshelf has 6 rows, that’s $1,080.  While that might seem expensive, don’t forget you end up with 216 books you can read.  Used books are far less expensive than new books.

In fact, you can buy sets of used books (real books) for decoration purposes on Amazon. Check it out:

Real Books by Color for Decor | Choose your Colors | Used Hardcover Books | Perfect for Office or Home Décor, Interior Design, Wedding Display, Stage and Set Props, or Instant Library

Source: Amazon

I doubt I’d buy them but apparently, you receive boxes of real books for your shelves.  It’s relatively inexpensive.

Aren’t physical books obsolete with digital books?

Nope, and I don’t think they will be. I have Apple books and have bought plenty of books on the Apple books store but I much prefer reading physical books.  The only time I buy a book on Apple books is if I’m out of books and need something right away. Otherwise, I buy physical books (used and new).  I don’t think I’m alone in this regard; I think a lot of people still prefer reading physical books.

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