The first time I came across a book tree, I couldn’t help letting out shrieks of delight! I was captivated by this fascinating objet d’art. It was a small tabletop tree in a local school, artistically arranged but inconspicuously placed on a side table. I’m glad it caught my eye. I later saw a huge one in my town library and since then I’ve been seeing them everywhere. I knew I had to attempt making one myself to satisfy my inner book nerd. Besides, it would be just the right tree for our family as all four of us are voracious readers. I also knew that arranging all my books together into one piece would be the perfect way to declutter for the holidays. The whole family was involved in this rewarding activity and each person got the opportunity to showcase his or her favorite books.
Assembling a book tree is an economical and eco-friendly project as you don’t need to buy anything. All you need are a few books and a few eye-catching decorations. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to assemble one yourself:
- Go around your house, collect your books and sort them by size. You will need books in a variety of shapes and sizes and a mix of paperbacks and hardcover books. You can choose to arrange your tree according to a theme like sports books, gardening guides and magazines or cookbooks, or you could stick to an eclectic mix. Make sure there are no library books buried in the pile. Imagine the hefty fine you’ll have to pay!
- Select an area to display the book tree. An ideal spot would be the corner of a room. If you have a large living space and hundreds of books, go ahead and build a gigantic one in the center of the room. It would make a stunning centerpiece! The corner of a room works well for smaller homes and is safer if you have young children around. With a corner tree you can hide the shabbier looking books behind, away from the main view.
- Place heavy and wide books like encyclopedias and dictionaries in a circle to create the base of the tree. I even put my children’s SAT workbooks at the back of the tree. Place a large cardboard box or two smaller ones stacked one upon the other inside the circle to provide a sturdy base. They are going to be hidden anyway. Build a few layers of the same width and fill in the gaps with thin paperbacks or magazines. As you continue piling the books start narrowing the layers and taper off when you reach the top. When you reach the top you can stack one book on top of another. Let the titles face outwards if you want others to see and admire your collection. The arrangement doesn’t have to be orderly but we don’t want it to topple. In fact it’s more interesting if the books are placed a little haphazardly and there are gaps for you to put trinkets and knick- knacks. A little sloppiness is just fine and looks natural like a lived in home, a little cluttered but welcoming.
- Rummage through the house for an interesting tree topper. While a traditional topper like a star or an angel is always attractive, it’s more fun trying to find things that tie in with your theme like kitchen utensils, natural items such as pinecones, a mini poinsettia plant, a little gingerbread house, or you could simply top your tree with your favorite book. I came across an old ‘Anne of Green Gables’ doll belonging to my girls and made it the tree topper for my tree last year.
- Jazz up the tree by using bookmarks, book ends and little pocket books as decorations. Tuck them in between the books. You can even put in a library card, but don’t forget to remove it when you disassemble the tree. The best part is putting your little personal touches to the tree. It will smell heavenly too. There’s no need for artificial pine scents and air fresheners. You will have the perfect old book smell- dusty and musty with notes of sandalwood and a hint of vanilla.
- Wrap a string of lights around the tree, et voilà! Your bibliophile’s tree is ready to be on display. I prefer clear lights to make my books stand out more. LED lights are wonderful as they do not get hot.
If you don’t own many books, don’t despair. You don’t need a huge collection of books. A tabletop tree with just six to eight books would still make a great impact. I made a tiny tree with just ten classics from children’s literature. I used a cake plate as the base of the tree and placed a Jo March doll against the books. I thought the doll inspired by the delightful and literary-minded Jo from ‘Little Women’ made an apt decoration for the tree. An ‘Alice in Wonderland’ teapot depicting a scene from the Mad Hatter’s Tea party added just the right touch of whimsy for the top of the tree.
What I enjoyed the most about assembling the tree was bringing out the books gathering dust on the shelves and giving them a new life, books that I even forgot I owned! I vowed to re-read some of the novels I had read years ago. I had forgotten that I was the proud owner of all the works of Forster and I was surprised to discover that I owned two copies of Hemingway’s ‘The Sun Also Rises’ and three copies of Thoreau’s ‘Walden’. I immediately resolved to give them away as gifts to friends. What could be more comforting than getting back in touch (literally and figuratively) with your old books and rescuing them from oblivion?