Reading books can be an unrivaled pleasure. Staring at them in piles around your home, not so much.
Instead of storing those books spine-out, in a typical rectangular bookshelf, experts and designers recommend creative arrangements, re-imagined shelves and unconventional uses for bound volumes.
To start, try organizing books by size and color instead of author, title or subject, says Marie Proeller Hueston, author of ''Decorating with Books.''
That might sound like judging a book by its cover; how to find that favorite book, now hidden in the ''tall, green'' section? But a new arrangement needn't be the antithesis of literary organization.
''People who have a lot of books that want to find them and read them know where they are,'' said Henry Petroski, author of ''The Book on the Bookshelf.''
''It seems to be part of the nature of readers that if you care enough about the books you imprint their location in your brain.''
The standard spine-out organization of books is a relatively recent innovation, as is the idea of a rectangular bookshelf. In the middle ages, books were rare and displayed cover out, Petroski said. As books became more available, the storage system changed.
''It was the pressures of space that led to books being placed vertically,'' Petroski said.
Now, some designers are challenging the tradition of an upright bookcase with surprising innovations, even building book shelving into a bathtub.
''There seems to be a sudden spurt of creativity,'' Alex Johnson, an English author who compiles a blog on bookshelves (theblogonthebookshelf.blogspot.com), wrote in an e-mail. ''Some of the designs featured on the blog are as much modern art and feats of engineering as they are shelving.''
The Italian company Nobody&co designed a ''Bibliochaise'' chair that can also hold about 16 feet of books. The idea came from a designer living in a small apartment filled with books and nowhere to sit, says Alise Matta, copywriter for Nobody&co.
''Sitting and living in the middle of your favorite books is a very strong feeling, it's like sitting in the middle of yourself, of your mind, every book you read becomes part of you and of who you are,'' Matta wrote in an e-mail.
Nobody&co also created the Piola bookcase, which uses a series of wooden prongs to hold and display books.
Leni Leth, owner of Book Dcor, a California company that specializes in refurbishing and selling leather-bound books, suggests forgetting the shelves, instead using books as risers for candles and lamps, on coffee tables and even in bathrooms.
''Books can be like flower arrangements, but can last longer,'' Leth says. Books can even create the furniture. A stack of large art books topped with a piece of glass becomes a coffee table.
Hueston said she has seen others use books to make end tables.
''It's about changing your view of a book, to see it in this new way,'' Hueston said.