How Deep Should a Bookcase Be?

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We all know books come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Thus, it can be difficult to know exactly how deep a bookcase should be to house a plethora of books. If you’re looking to build a bookcase yourself, it becomes even more important to know the depth that will suit most of your books. So how deep should a bookcase be? We’ve done some searching and have the best information for you.

A freestanding bookcase should be at least 10 – 12 inches deep. Each shelf should allow 8 – 12 inches of height for optimum storage. When choosing or building your bookcase, consider how many and what size of books you’re looking to store.

Now that you know the standard measurement for a bookcase’s depth let’s discuss bookcases in more detail. We’ll talk about bookcase sizing in general and answer some other questions you might have. Continue reading!

Interior of a gorgeous modern living room with a gray sofa, gray ottoman, gray carpet, and a bookcase on the background, How Deep Should a Bookcase Be?

Are there different styles of bookcases?

Bookcases come in a variety of styles, colors, and shapes. You’re sure to find something that will work for your purpose. The two most important considerations before you start shopping are the sizes of the books you’ll be shelving and the amount of space you have available for your bookcase. Let’s look at some options and discuss their measurements.

Homfa Bookshelf 6-Tier Bookcase

View this bookcase on Amazon.

The Homfa 6-Tier Bookcase has a modern, stylish design. It stands at about 75 inches tall, 28 inches wide, with the shelves being just over 9 inches deep. This bookcase gives a lot of vertical space without being too wide. The interesting design makes this shelf great for mixing and matching knick-knacks and books. 

There are some disadvantages to this type of shelf. Since it is backless, the wall it is placed against runs the risk of getting scuffed with frequent removal and replacement of books. The shelves themselves aren’t very deep, so large books likely won’t fit well on this shelf. 

Sunon Collection 5-Shelf Wood Bookcase

View this bookcase on Amazon.

The Sunon wooden bookcase has the traditional bookcase appeal. This shelf is made of Cherry and has a beautiful warm color. The measurements are 59.8 inches in height, 36 inches wide, and 11.6 inches deep. With measurements like those, this bookcase would fit large photo albums as well as books.

One of the best parts of this particular bookshelf is that it does have a back enclosure, so you know your books and wall will be protected. The construction is sturdy and would give you years of use.

The only setback to this type of bookshelf is that it does take up quite a bit of space, and if you have small children who like to climb things, this would be a heavy piece of furniture to tip over. 

Bamboo Desktop Organizer

View this organizer on Amazon.

If you are seriously short on space, there are ultra-small bookcases/ desk organizers that can help house your books in a pinch, or they make an easily accessible place to keep text or workbooks. This organizer is tiny but can support up to 20 pounds. It even has a few small drawers. This type of bookcase would be ideal for a kitchen countertop to hold your cookbooks.

The natural wood finish is lovely and would work well in a space decorated in farmhouse decor.

Giantex 2-Tier Bookshelf S Shaped Bookcase

View this bookshelf on Amazon.

The Giantex 2-tier bookshelf can double as a nightstand as well as shelve your favorite books. The overall dimension of this bookcase are rather small and would fit nicely in any bedroom. The neutral color and simple style leave you with plenty of flexibility to express your personal style.

This bookcase is 33 inches tall, 23.5 inches wide, and 10.5 inches deep, so the shelves have plenty of space for multiple sizes of books.

Tribesigns Triple Wide 5-Shelf Bookcase

View this bookcase on Amazon.

If you have a lot of space and many books, something like this Tribesigns bookcase would be excellent. It is spacious enough to fit many books or any shape or size. Not only that, but the large space in between shelves gives ample space if you need to display houseplants or sculptures. 

This bookshelf is 70 inches in height, 70.86 inches wide, and 12.59 inches deep. Each shelf can hold up to 75 pounds. This monster of a bookcase combines wooden shelves with metal attachments, giving it an industrial look. 

How deep should a built-in bookcase be?

Built-in bookcases tend to be a bit deeper than freestanding. The added depth on a freestanding bookcase can make it difficult to maneuver and fit the space, whereas built-in bookshelves are a chance to fit your space around your bookcase. Built-in bookcases are generally at least 11 – 12 inches deep.

When creating a built-in bookshelf, take this as your chance to fully customize and make the shelves work for you. Are you just storing books? Will you need room to grow? What else do you want to keep on your bookshelf? Ask yourself all these questions before having that bookshelf built-in or before launching a DIY project.

How do you measure a shelf?

To measure a shelf, use a standard tape measure. Measure the height by starting at the floor to the tallest point of the overall bookshelf. Next, measure the width from side to side starting at the outside corner or each opposite corner. Measure the depth from the outside edge of the shelf to the very back.

If you wish to measure the compartment’s size, measure from the top of the chosen shelf to the bottom of the shelf above it. This lets you know how much space you have. Some bookcases have different compartment sizes, with large compartments for bigger, heavier books placed on the bottom. 

How do you organize a deep bookcase?

If you have an exceptionally deep bookcase, you can feel free to layer it with artwork in the back and books in front of the prints to add a pop of color to your space. You can also alternate stacking books horizontally and vertically to add an area of interest to the eye. Feel free to intersperse artwork and any conversation starters, such as an interesting vase or houseplant. 

If you’re looking to have books on your bookcase, put your largest volumes on the bottom shelf. To maintain a sense of cohesion and order, pair books of similar size together. The books should get smaller and shorter on higher shelves. Alternatively, you can organize your bookshelves alphabetically, although this could leave your books looking haphazard. Still, alphabetical allows you to easily find your favorites if you have a multitude of books.

Interested in knowing how to organize and decorate the shelves in your kitchen? We have a post for that

A white colored bookcase with books, picture frames, and other furnitures inside

In Closing

Having a deep enough bookshelf can be more important than you’d think. Be sure when you’re choosing your bookshelf, you get one with the dimensions to best suit your needs. If the searching doesn’t go well, please create your own bookshelf with your custom dimensions. Have fun shopping for or building your next bookcase!

Read our post, “How to Build Shelves Under Stairs (3 East Steps),” and learn how to DIY your way to some built-in shelves. 

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