Book Review: The Repurposed Library

There may be some stalwart bibliophiles who cringe at the thought of altered books, but carefully practiced, it's an art that produces stunning book objects. In her new book, The Repurposed Library: 33 Craft Projects That Give Old Books New Life, Lisa Occhipinti takes "orphaned books" and turns them into such household items as a chandelier, a lampshade, and a "narrative vase." The "story time clock" is one of my favorites, and the "lettered wreath" made up of sculpted paper rosettes would be wonderfully welcoming on any book lover's door.

The decoupage "biographical bracelet" would be a great project for girls, and the "kindle keeper" (complete with library pocket) perfect for the bibliophile who enjoys his e-reader as well as old books. The illuminated switch plate looks simple enough for anyone to attempt and would make a neat accent to bookish decor.

Occhipinti is responsible about discussing the types of books she uses--bookstore remainders and unwanted ex-library books--and gives a brief overview of collectible books and how to avoid using a valuable book for an art project in chapter one, "Books, Tools & Techniques." She acknowledges that "spotting rare and collectible books is an art form in and of itself, replete with loopholes and expert-only savvy," and she offers some basic instruction. I have one minor criticism here. She suggests that, when in doubt, you consult your local librarian. No offense to any local librarian, but that's a terrible idea; with very few exceptions, local public librarians have absolutely no training in rare books (and are far too busy with summer reading programs and reference queries). If you don't have a knowledgeable bookseller nearby, a few good searches on Abebooks or Biblio might be preferable.

Occhipinti's "repurposed" books are truly beautiful art objects, and whether or not you're crafty enough to give them a try yourself, her book is thoroughly enjoyable.

To read more about Occhipinti, take a look at this Q&A from the New York Times.