Columns > Published on August 17th, 2020

The Best and Worst Book Furniture

The comfortable chair will always have a place in reading. The gizmo in the reader’s hands might change, but the chair has been pretty similar for just about as long as we’ve had legs and activities that make those legs tired. Sure, there are cosmetic changes once in awhile, cup holders because we’re too lazy to hold objects, reclining ability because why not always sort of be in bed?

But I’ve always felt there’s something else out there. Something more that I’m missing. Something new in furniture for book lovers. So, readers, I took a look. And I’ve returned from my internet sojourn with some good news and some bad news.

Worst: Chair In Bookshelf

Let’s start with how low this chair is. Am I supposed to crawl on the ground to get in a chair? Doesn’t a chair, meant for comfort, kind of defeat itself if I have to crawl around to get in it?

Let’s middle with how much this guy looks like he’s returned to the uterus. I got nothing against a good uterus. It’s just sort of the same way I feel about high school: served its purpose, and I’d prefer not to go back.

Let’s end with how annoyed I would be when every time I got in, some books would wobble off the shelf. That’s what I need, a reminder that I’m fat coupled with a chore every time I sit down. What a winner.

Worst: Wheelchair. But Not THAT Kind of Wheelchair

Sometimes I like to look at a piece of furniture and say, “What problem does this solve?”

When you read, do you have to move your entire book collection with you? No. Because books come in these convenient, carry-able units called...books. Pick one out, take it to the chair, and if need be, move the chair.

With this chair, you move the entire book collection, and the chair, all at once. Which is not something anyone has ever needed to do.

Here’s the 3-part, design-lite solution:

  1. Buy a chair you can move around. Wheels are good, carpet skates work if you’ve got carpet. Alternatively, just put the chair where you want it and don’t move it around. What are you, a Bezos? You have so much room at home you need to move chairs around? Buy another chair, then. Or hire someone to move your chairs for you.
  2. Put your books somewhere. When you need one, move the one you need. Leave all the other ones you don’t need right where they are.
  3. Some of you might be thinking it’s convenient for moving. I have a better answer: Wheelbarrow. A ramp and a wheelbarrow make any move a snap. And what are you thinking, that you’ll take multiple trips with this book chair? That’s insane. That thing is way heavier than a wheelbarrow, it takes a lot longer to load it up with books. Trust me, wheelbarrow is where it’s at.

Worst: Bed Bugs and Beyond

There are two very popular vectors for bed bugs that I know of: Books and Beds.

I applaud the book industry for somehow foisting bed bugs onto the bedding industry and getting them named “bed bugs” instead of “book bugs.” We dodged a bullet on that one BIG TIME. 

The plus here is that if you do have bed bugs, you can super concentrate them in one part of the house. I’ve tried this with spiders. I let them have certain territories, and if they stay in those territories, we’re good. Recently an earwig violated the treaty completely, and everything’s been chaos since.

Maybe some see a whimsical sleeping arrangement here. I see a platter on which you’re served to bloodsucking pests.

Best: Reading Chair With Wall

Let it be known that I am a fan of furniture that blocks out the world in one way or another. Even the attempt makes me happy because I feel like, “Okay, someone else out there gets it, everyone is annoying.”

Part of a reading chair’s responsibility is to what you ARE doing, which is reading, and part of that chair’s responsibility is to what you’re not doing, which is interacting with other people.

I don't love that the person in this READING chair is laptopping it up, but whatever, good enough.

Worst: Kickstool

The standard kickstool is a brilliant piece of engineering, and there’s a reason you see them all over. For those who aren’t in the know, your standard kickstool has spring-mounted casters, which means the stool is mobile when there’s no weight on it, but apply even a small amount of weight, the springs compress, and instead of sitting on wheels the stool lowers and the ring at the bottom makes solid contact with the floor. Which means you can stand on it without taking a hilarious pratfall.

Any stool with any other wheeled setup is stupid. Even with brakes. Do you trust those brakes with your life? Because you know, eventually, you’re going to stand on this. Just to do something “real quick.” “Real quick” is a phrase that precedes almost every household accident.

If you like these, I guess consider which titles you’d like to look at as you pass in and out of consciousness because you broke all of your bones standing on a charming wheeled stool instead of the practical version that has been around for 60 years.

Best And Worst...Can't Decide: Throne of Books

My main complaint, whenever you see something like this, is that the books usually suck. It’s a catch-22, possibly made of Catch-22. On one hand you can use shitty, mass-produced books. You could open a factory devoted to making these chairs out of Alex Cross novels 24/7 and you would never run out.

On the other hand, who wants a chair made out of lousy novels? Do I want to be enveloped by Reader's Digest Condensed Books? Do I want an 800-pound pile of shitty books in my home?

But then, on a third hand you didn’t even know about and I just busted out from under my sweater, if I use books I like, isn’t that a waste of books? Isn’t this whole seating thing a job better suited to, I don’t know, wood or metal or plastic? Like, chair materials?

Worst: Book Bath Tub

I like orange Tic Tacs, and I like steak. My Orange Tic-Tac Crusted Steak was NOT popular at this summer’s cookouts, aka me alone in the kitchen cooking a steak at 7 am because fuck it.

Point being, combinations aren't always the sum of their parts.

Best: Rail Ladders

This is the piece that separates The Men from The Boys. I mean that very literally. This ladder would allow you to shelve alphabetically distant things quite far apart, and The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson would be a good distance from The Boys by Garth Ennis.

It really is the furniture that makes a shitty pile of books seem like a Home Library, or maybe even A Study. Maybe because it provides the illusion that you’re futzing with books ALL THE TIME. So much so that you’ve purchased furniture and attached it to the wall.

If you want to show off your book love without being a dick about it, rail ladders are the way to go. These other fancy pieces, they’re showy, but they’re really more about an eye for design than a love of books.

Best-to-Worst: Sunflower Chair

Maybe I've been a little hard on this stuff. After all, it's art. It's design-y. And design isn't always meant to be useful.

So I took a look into this one. What if I decided to buy it?

Here’s how it works with this fancy furniture: You find the designer. They link to the manufacturer. The manufacturer is in Italy or Japan. You can email them to inquire about the prices. They don't list prices, you ask them to consider giving you a price. And I don’t know how much it costs to get something shipped from Japan or Italy, but I’m pretty sure the raw materials alone would break the bank.

If I wanted to spend thousands of dollar on a chair, I'd get one of those chairs that holds 4 or 5 people and has an engine on the front. 

Best: Book Safe

I’m partial to a good booksafe. I bought a cheap, plastic one from a catalog when I was a kid. It took 8 weeks to show up, and even though it’d been 8 weeks, I hadn’t managed to save any cash to put inside it by the time it arrived. I mean, I was like 10. Also, it was all plastic, so I suppose it wouldn’t be an effective safe anyway.

I made a second booksafe after high school. I had to buy a complete Shakespeare for class, and it was of a thickness that would hold any items I wanted to save. My brother, however, correctly pointed out that Shakespeare stuck out like a hemorrhoid among all my comics.

Worst: Pallet Furniture

I hate pallet furniture. You see this shit all over, but let me explain a little something: Pallet wood is cheap. Lotsa times it’s coated in crazy chemicals. You know what pallets are great for? Stacking a bunch of goods on and then moving with a pallet jack or forklift. That’s it. And they’re really good for that. You know what they’re not good for? Everything else.

Best: Book Bench

Why am I tortured by things that I like and turn out to be designed for kids? Target, listen up, idiots: Make the kids’ clothes in adult sizes. 

I like this idea. I'd sit down to put on my shoes, next thing I know, BAM, I'm 40 minutes late for work because I got absorbed in a book. 

Buy DIY Furniture: A Step-by-Step Guide by Christopher Stewart at Amazon

Buy 1000 Chairs by Charlotte & Peter Fiell at Bookshop or Amazon

About the author

Peter Derk lives, writes, and works in Colorado. Buy him a drink and he'll talk books all day.  Buy him two and he'll be happy to tell you about the horrors of being responsible for a public restroom.

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