In search of the elusive mid-priced bookcase

The "Threshold Carson" bookcase" from Target is on sale now for $95. (Courtesy of Target) The “Threshold Carson” bookcase from Target is on sale now for $95. (Courtesy of Target Brands, Inc.)

Getting 150 books a day is like working in a candy factory — that candy factory that Lucy and Ethel worked in. Years ago, I used to take dozens of books home every week, but that’s a fool’s errand. I couldn’t read them; I couldn’t even keep them organized. Pretty soon, I had stacks on every table; then they started to accumulate like a coral reef around the walls of every room.

But in this line of work, even if you complete a 12-step program and learn to stop slipping books into the house when your spouse isn’t looking, the publishers conspire against you. Once they’ve got your home address, your mailman will hate you. Our little foyer fills with packages; the recycling bin is always stuffed with envelopes. A few years ago, one of my colleagues (his initials are J[on] Y[ardley]) tried to turn off the spigot by sending out a stern note telling publicists to stop mailing books to his house. But resistance is futile. Two of my former Book World colleagues rent storage facilities for their extra books, which is like building your own public library — without comfy chairs or windows or tax support.

Hoarders, anyone?

When we moved down here from Boston, my wife and I decided we weren’t going to buy cheap press-board bookcases anymore: only real furniture for us from this point forward. A pair of nice wood bookcases  — cherry stained, though not actual cherry — set us back about $800. Hardly Thomas Moser, but it was a lot of money for us.

Too much, in fact. As the books began to pile up again, we sulked back to the white press-board bookcases of our graduate school days.

This year, though, we’ve discovered a great compromise: the “Threshold Carson Bookcase” from Target. It feels substantial. It’s got simple trim that makes it look more like a piece of furniture than a dorm-room staple. We bought two white ones, but they come in black and three different shades of brown, too. We paid $110 apiece for the five-shelf version. (It just went on sale for $95, and some of the colored versions are even a few dollars cheaper.) You won’t find anything nicer at that price. With a Target Red Card, you get 5 percent off, plus free shipping (a $25 value). What’s better, UPS brings each 67-pound package right to your door; no breaking your back to get it in the car.

Assembly takes about an hour using just a screw driver. (Ron Charles/Washington Post) Assembly takes about an hour using just a screw driver. (Ron Charles/The Washington Post)

Assembly with a screw driver took me about an hour. (My dad did one; I did the other.) The instructions are clear, and the dozens of special screws and brackets are helpfully compartmentalized so you know exactly which ones to use at each step. But pay close attention: Shelves that initially look identical have important differences that will become crucial as you near completion. The only difficult part was attaching the backboard with legions of little screws. My wrist is still recovering.

This should hold us for the next few months. But I think I just heard the postal carrier drop off a package…. Chances are it’s another book. Watch what you pray for.

@RonCharles

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.

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Emily Yahr · July 26, 2013