I'm a writer and recent college grad with a background in teaching, writing, and editing.
If you work in a library or a bookstore, you know that one of the best ways to move books off of your shelves is with a book display. But you probably also know that coming up with new and original ideas for your display can get pretty difficult after a few months. If you’re stuck, here are a few ideas that might give you some inspiration:
Do a little research and haul out all of the books you can find that were written by authors from your city or state. People take a lot of pride in their local celebrities, so this tends to attract a lot of interest. This is also a popular category for local aspiring writers who are looking for some inspiration from other authors in their area.
Books Made Into Movies
I was in charge of a book display one year when it seemed like every movie being released in theaters was a retelling of a classic novel. People were flocking to the library to check out the original books. So, in addition to the newly popular titles, I dragged out some other books that had been turned into movies—many of which people had never heard of outside of the cinema. Try placing some of the more obscure titles next to the newly popular ones; it’s likely they’ll be noticed by whoever wants The Hunger Games and someone will leave with two books instead of just one.
Sometimes what a book display really needs is shock factor. If you’re out of ideas for themes or authors, try finding as many books as you can that have a bright cover—orange, neon green, yellow, etc. This will catch the eye of whoever passes the display and it has the bonus of likely supplying books from a variety of genres, so more of your readers will find something of interest.
The Bestseller’s List
I like to do this one with a twist: instead of putting up this week’s bestsellers, I do a little Googling and pick the bestsellers from a random year—anywhere from a few years ago to back in the fifties. This is a great way to renew old classics, thrillers, and popular fiction that might not have circulated in a while.
This is another one you can do with a twist. Instead of just asking your co-workers to pick a favorite title every week or month, pick a theme. For example, what was their favorite children’s or YA book? Adventure story? Nonfiction book? You can also have them pick their favorite title—literally. Bringing in more people means more ideas and more variety in book selection, which your customers will definitely appreciate.
Most libraries have summer reading programs to encourage kids to keep reading over the summer break. Make a display featuring books from the Common Core reading lists or some of your own personal favorites. I also like to add books for parents, like books on arts and crafts or home science projects. Trust me, your parent customers will be grateful for ideas about entertaining their kids now that school is out!
Comic Books, Graphic Novels, and Anime
I’m going to go ahead and say it: people can be really snotty about these categories—and they are way underrepresented in a lot of libraries and bookstores, despite being incredibly popular. I’ve personally noticed that a lot of the patrons at my library devour comics and graphic novels, but they have to dig around in the back of the library to find them. Help them out and earn some loyalty by putting their favorites on display where they can easily find them. Even if you know nothing about these genres, it’s not too hard to find out what some of the most popular titles are. Bonus points if you coincide your display with the release of a new Marvel movie.
Sci-fi or Fantasy Novels
Again, a lot of people who work in the book world ignore these genres even though they’re wildly popular. But a lot of novels in this genre are great pieces of work: think The Hobbit or Ender’s Game, or Brave New World. And if you’re not into either of these genres, I bet you know a few people who are and who can give you great recommendations about what to put on display.
If vacation season is coming up, decorate your display with guidebooks, travel writing, and fiction about travel or adventure. You can even pick a specific location as your theme, if you like. I personally find it helps to really know your customers here. Some of them might actually be able to take a trip to Europe, but others might appreciate a guide to local attractions that are more affordable.
People tend to push fiction with book displays, hoping to work with the entertainment factor. But—especially if you work in a library—books are used as much for learning as they are for pleasure. You can do a lot with nonfiction, and even more if you pay attention to your customers and to local events. Is the Humane Society hosting a big adoption event soon? Put up some books about pet care or memoirs featuring cherished pets. Are there any clubs that meet regularly at your store or library? What kind of books would they find helpful? If it’s springtime and you’ve got some gardeners in your customer pool, throw some gardening books up there. Cooking and baking books are immensely popular, too. The possibilities are endless!
Got any other ideas for great book displays? Share them below!