A seasonal alternative to bookshelves: DIY book Christmas tree

My sister-in-law sent us a text with a picture of a christmas tree made out of books, possibly as a joke. One month, a set of fairylights and all the book piled in the hallway later, we’re set up for Christmas in the new flat.

When we moved out of  Newcastle, I got as far as dismantling the gorgeous bookshelves a friend’s father had built into the nooks either side of the old fireplace in my typical downstairs Tyneside flat. The dismantled shelves are still in storage in an obliging friend’s workshop, but all the book are in our new place in Edinburgh. After several months of moving cardboard boxes from one cupboard to another pile and several unsatisfactory attempts to build furniture out of the boxes of books (instant bedside tables!), I decided to unpack the books and pedantically sort them into categories, in preparation for sorting out the shelving crisis.

Play & theatre texts are stacked around the husband’s desk in the sitting room, with poetry tucked away by his feet. Also in the sitting room are dictionaries, reference, travel, foreign language books and large-format non-fiction, with humour/novelty/coffee table books under the coffee-table. Writing & academic reference books are on the bureau in my study/the spare-room, and my mixed  to-read pile is on the mantelpiece. Cookery & food has a satisfactory home under the sideboard in the kitchen. Which left fiction and paperback non-fiction stacked all along our hallway, in the two zones the shelves will hopefully be re-built when I get round to sorting a van for it.

This all translates to there being several large stacks of books in teetering piles. Build no.1 went less well than hoped: we trialled  building in a hollow semi-circle against a wall, so that we could suspend fairylights in the centre of the tree to flash-through the gaps. Everything went fine in a build-your-own-igloo-walls kind of way until we started tapering in the tree and realised a full circle was necessary for structural integrity.

first attempt


The second build- as seen in the video – was much more successful. We have a small niece living nearby so as well as using a full circle, Andy decided to fill the centre with books so it was less likely to come crumbling down if a small person (or a drunken older visitor) knocked into it. Battery-operated LED fairlylights (leftover from our wedding decorations) strung round the outside, and topped by a less-than-seasonal knitted bride and groom made for us by a friend and voila, our first christmas tree in the new place and as a married couple.

DIY book-tree advice:

  • use larger. heavier books on the lower layers
  • keep spines facing out for a coloured effect or have end-papers facing out for a neutral effect
  • Experiment with a hollow tree only if you have a very even floor, and suspend fairylights down the middle by duck-taping one end of the string to the top book (nb- incorporate the controls into the build so they’re accessible from the outside, hidden round the back…)
  • For greater stability, fill your tree with books or do a (filled) semicircular build against a wall

GREAT FOR: cheering yourself up if you’ve just moved house and are living in a depressing, cardboard-box jungle and don’t know where to start unpacking. Surprising your flatmates/partner. Celebrating print books.

TERRIBLE FOR: anyone with a puppy. Alphabetising pedants. Uneven surfaces. People with a lots of christmas baubles.

Author: Viccy

I write prose, experiment with digital and collaborate with interesting people.

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