Updated January 2022
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Buying guide for Best bookends

Furnishing and decorating any room in your home is a balancing act between functionality and aesthetics. The bookend is a curious item to shop for because it can be almost solely functional, solely aesthetic, or a little bit of both. It’s an item that can be a necessity for your shelves or a cute decorative piece that attracts attention.
Bookends sit on shelves and prop up books, which is especially useful when you have open-ended shelves. They can also serve to divide the shelf space so that other items can sit securely without being knocked over by a falling book. Still, bookends can also be decorative, stylish, or amusing trinkets that rest on shelves but may not necessarily be there to hold up books.
While they are simple, bookends come in a wide range of styles, sizes, and degrees of effectiveness. 

In general, hardcover books can stand upright on a shelf, but they’re heavier than paperbacks. Flexible paperbacks need added support to stay upright.

Key considerations


Primarily, bookends are sturdy items that keep upright books from tipping, sliding, or falling over on shelves. Unsupported books are unlikely to stay standing on end for long. Bookends at either end of a row of books will keep the upright books in place. 

Many bookends are L-shaped, with a thin foot that slides under a few books at the end of the row and a vertical portion that presses up against the end book. By securing the end book, the bookend can support an entire shelf’s worth of books. The most functional bookends are fairly large and wide enough to fully support the end book. 


Many functional bookends also have decorative appeal, but there are also bookends that serve as mostly aesthetic items with little functionality. You’ll find options that may be attractive but offer little in the way of support for more than a few books. Some of these bookends are also humorous: among the most popular are human figures that appear to be holding up the books. Another common type features an animal head at one end and the tail at the other.
There are many styles of bookends, so there are some that are sure to fit with your décor. Bookends may be simple, rustic, ornate, industrial, nautical, or modern. They may feature sports motifs, animals, or beloved characters from movies, TV shows, or books.  


The size and weight of a bookend correspond to the number of books it can hold in place. However, the bookend’s shape and design also play a factor. Consider the number, size, and type of your books (hardcovers are larger and heavier than most paperbacks). Most L-shaped bookends are between 6 and 12 inches high. More decorative options vary greatly in size.  


Bookends are made of a variety of materials, with heavier options generally being more durable and stable. Plastic and sheet metal bookends are less expensive, while wood, marble, stainless steel, and other metals are more expensive. Another popular option is agate. This type of rock, which can be multicolored and glittery, has long been used for decorations and jewelry.

You can find bookends in the shapes of letters, with A at one end of the shelf of books and Z at the other.




Height: Some L-shaped bookends are adjustable to accommodate taller books. This is helpful if you have books or shelves of different heights.

Length: Some metal bookends are connected to each other at the back with an expandable accordion-like mechanism that can be changed to accommodate more or fewer books. 


Some bookends stay put via a slip-resistant base or come with adhesive, stickers, or other means to help them adhere to the shelf. Keeping the bookend from slipping will greatly improve its stability and strength so it can support more books.

Bookends don’t just keep books from tipping over, they also keep books in good shape. Bending or dropping books can damage spines and fray edges.

Bookend prices


You can find simple, traditional L-shaped bookends for $15 or less per pair. These will be functional but not especially decorative.


Spend between $15 and $30 and you can find many bookends in a variety of materials that blend functionality and aesthetics for something decorative and effective.


Spend over $30 and you can find elaborate, decorative bookends that are functional, decorative, and even unique.

Many decorative bookends are strong enough to support a long shelf of books, but consider the look. You might not want too much clutter to detract from your pretty bookends.



  • Don’t crowd your shelves. There is a tendency to completely fill up a shelf with books, but it can look cluttered. Leave some empty space or alternate books with other decorative objects like small sculptures or plants
  • Dust your shelves. Bookshelves are dust magnets, especially if you don’t use the books frequently. Make sure to dust the books as well as the bookends, too.
  • Don’t overload your shelves. Books are heavy, and some bookends are made of marble or concrete. Make sure your shelves can support the weight.
  • Use the bookends for more than books. Bookends aren’t just for books. You may find them useful for supporting media like video games or Blu-rays, or for journals, notebooks, or even board games.
Get creative with your bookends and the books you display. You can line up a series, books that are especially colorful, or simply those that are next on your list to read.


Q. How do I know if a bookend is sturdy enough?

A. Bookends offer a great deal of support provided they’re designed to be stable. A large, top-heavy bookend won’t offer as much support as a smaller one with a wide base and lower center of gravity. It’s important to make sure the bookend can’t slip. Some come with a slip-resistant bottom for more friction.

Q. How many bookends do I need?

A. If your primary concern is functionality, you’ll need a pair of bookends for every shelf of books (or media) in your home. However, if you have a lot of books on a shelf, you might want to get several of the less expensive L-shaped variety. A bookend doesn’t have to go at the end, and the L-shaped options can work as dividers to add some support in the middle of a long row of books. Decorative bookends likely come in pairs, although you can buy some individually, and one may be all you need.

Q. Can I permanently affix my bookends to the shelf?

A. Most bookends don’t have holes or other means by which to connect the bookend to the shelf, and it’s not necessary or advised. Felt pads and other methods to prevent slipping are effective. What’s more, most bookends can effectively support a lot of books, so permanently attaching the bookend isn’t required.


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