The best bookshelf

Stacey L. Nash

Open bookshelves make excellent room dividers. However, if you want a clear line of sight, use models less than four feet tall.

Whether you're a bibliophile or simply need extra display and storage space, a bookshelf is a sound investment. The right model should provide adequate shelf space and have a design that accentuates your home décor. Pictures, plants, and knick-knacks may also find their way onto your shelves, so give yourself some room for the extras.

From the number of shelves to style and finish, you've got some decisions to make. Check out our buying guide to help you sort through the options. Our top pick, Sauder's 5-Shelf Bookcase, features plenty of shelf space and durability, and it's the perfect balance between price and quality. 

Considerations when choosing bookshelves

Types of bookshelves

Standard: A standard bookshelf has a closed back and several shelves, some of which may have doors.

Open: Open bookshelves do not have a back, allowing you to see from one side to the other. These shelves help small rooms appear larger and can be used as a see-through room divider.

Ladder: Ladder bookshelves are a kind of open bookshelf. They have the light, airy feel of an open bookshelf but are designed with shelves that get progressively deeper the lower they are on the ladder. They're perfect for displaying artwork, pictures, and other decorative elements.

Corner: Corner bookshelves have a back built at a 90° angle to better fit in corners. These models are an excellent use of space and can have shelves of varying depths.

Folding: Folding bookshelves are perfect for college students and families who frequently move. They include hinges that allow the bookshelf to be collapsed for storage or moving. While they are convenient, folding bookshelves aren't as sturdy as other designs, nor can they hold as much weight.



Our advice is always measure, then measure again. Measure the area where you want to put the bookshelf and make sure you get a model that falls within those dimensions. Bookshelves are generally three to eight feet high and/or tall with three to eight shelves. However, there are ceiling height bookcases that may be taller and wider. 


Don't forget about shelf depth, as it changes the kinds of items you can display. Deeper shelves give you storage options. Certain types of bookshelves, like ladder models, have shallower shelves at the top and deeper ones at the bottom.


Wooden bookshelves comes in many different finishes, can be painted, and if they're solid wood, can be refinished, too. Wood is strong, durable, and brings warmth to any space.
Particleboard looks similar to wood but lacks the same durability. However, it's an easy solution if you're on a tight budget. Keep an eye on the weight limit for these models as they can't handle heavy loads.
Metal brings a modern, industrial vibe. It's strong and durable -- just make sure it works within your design scheme.


Bookshelves with adjustable shelves are a good use of storage space because they allow you to tailor the shelf height to your display and storage needs.


Wooden bookshelves are found in varying shades, finishes, and stains, as are particleboard bookshelves. Metal bookshelves are more limited in color, with black and silver being the most common. Keep in mind that darker colors look more formal while whites and light colors are casual and lighten a room.


Bookshelves range in price from a mere $20 to over $1,000. Three- or four-shelf models made of particleboard, metal, and wood can be found for less than $100. The bigger the bookshelf and the more shelves it has, the higher the price tends to be. Four- and five-shelf models of any material run from just over $100 to almost $400. Large bookshelves with six or more shelves fall in the $400 to $1,000+ range.


Q. Do I need to take extra safety measures with a bookshelf to prevent it from tipping over?

A. Most bookshelves include a security strap or bar that attaches to both the bookshelf and the wall. While securing the bookshelf to the wall makes it safer for everyone, it's especially important for families with children who may be tempted to climb the bookshelf like a ladder. If your bookshelf doesn't have a safety strap, they can be purchased at a local hardware store.

Q. I like to rearrange my furniture often. Do any bookshelves come with wheels?

A. Locking wheels can be found on some larger bookshelves. These are a great feature for bookshelves in an office space or open floor plan where frequent layout changes are made.

Bookshelves we recommend

Best of the best: Sauder 5-Shelf Bookcase

Our take: Durability and design help the Sauder stand out from the competition. This bookshelf holds some weight and looks great doing it.

What we like: It's packaged well, so there's rarely any damage during shipping. Assembly is straightforward and doesn't take long. What we really love is the impressive durability and spot-on style.

What we dislike: The screw covers are not of the same quality as the rest of the bookshelf.

Best bang for your buck: Yu Shan 3-Shelf Folding Stackable Bookcase

Our take: The Yu Shan brings stability to the portable world and does it for a decent price.

What we like: It arrives fully assembled, and for the size and price, offers a surprising amount of storage space. We like that it's both lightweight and durable.

What we dislike: It's not as sturdy as a standard model.

Choice 3: Altra Furniture Lawrence 4-Shelf Ladder Bookcase Bundle

Our take: You'll have double the storage space with a set of ladder bookshelves. If you're creating a symmetrical look, this is the modern bundle for you.

What we like: We love the sleek ladder design and shelf depth options. It's also available in fun color choices like white and gray for the modern home.

What we dislike: The wood lacks heft, and sometimes pieces arrive damaged.

Stacey L. Nash is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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