It all began with a bookish dream.

K.L. Kranes, writer, book-lover, author of The Travelers (and its soon-to-be-released sequel The Gateway), and creator of unrealistic home improvement schemes, wanted to do one thing during the holiday season–create a holiday tree made of books.

Armed with only determination and what she thought was a large enough collection of literature, she began to build.

Her first “tree” attempt, using as footstool as a base, made it two feet before collapsing from unsteadiness. Undeterred by failure, K.L. started anew, gathering books from every corner, from under every bed to increase the mass and reinforce her tree. From this, she made a sturdy, solid base of only books. But she didn’t have enough books! (Was that possible?)

To complete the tree, she was forced to negotiate with her then pre-teen daughter for the release of her beloved Harry Potter books from their hiding place. Said daughter finally consented, under much pressure. With a warning that if anything happened to Harry, K.L. might find herself in serious trouble, the first “bookmas” tree, aka holiday book tree, was finally finished.

Although imperfect and a bit disproportional (aren’t we all?), the tree was a hit with family and friends.

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Fast forward one year…

Not content to simply do the same thing twice, K.L. wanted to innovate. Her imagination created even crazier book-tree schemes—how to make it taller, wider, grander! Instead of choosing one of those options, she went for weirder. After seeing a store mannequin with fake green Christmas tree branches as a skirt, she knew just what to do. Also inspired by Leslie Knope’s wedding dress, she went to work.

After many, many grueling hours and days, bookmas tree 2.0 was born. This time the tree received a name, Merry Shelley, a nod to the author of Frankenstein. The amount of work to make the tree was herculean. Well, herculean was perhaps an exaggeration, but K.L.’s thighs burned from all the squatting and standing, a sign of either the massive undertaking of bookmas trees or her lack of physical fitness. She liked to pretend it was the first one. Still, the outcome was worth it.

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By year three, K.L. was busy writing the sequel to The Travelers and needed to be practical.

It took too many books to make the tree and too much time. K.L. needed a faster way. After several (super embarrassing) failed attempts at bookmas tree 3.0 involving chicken wire, unicorn heads and plastic funeral vases, she got an assist from her hubby and settled on using an upside-down laundry hamper. Topped with a bow and white squirrel (an inside joke only those in her neighborhood would understand), K.L. completed the third installment of the bookmas tree in record time. (Not counting all those super embarrassing failed attempts to thwart the laws of Newtonian physics.)

Not wanting to neglect the mannequin that made bookmas tree 2.0 such a success, she also created a companion for the tree, a version of Merry Shelley called Merry-corn. She outfitted the mannequin with a unicorn head, a tree skirt and a top made of book pages, complete with an ascot. K.L. has a very strange imagination… (She also quickly learned some ideas should maybe stay ideas. Her Merry-corn creation seriously disturbed Cupcake, the frisky family dog. And her daughter looked at it like it might come alive and attack her in the middle of the night.)

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Now in the fourth year of bookmas tree building, K.L. decided to do the smart thing. (Finally… it only took four years…)

20191207_113633She wanted to return to the mannequin design of bookmas tree 2.0, but with the sturdy, efficient construction of bookmas tree 3.0. However, the two designs were not compatible. To solve this problem, and avoid another embarrassing chicken wire/funeral vase blunder, she finally did the smart thing. She enlisted the help of someone with actual building skills, her father.

The former furniture builder and real-life MacGyver (seriously the man can fix anything with golf tees and duct tape), presented her with several elegant solutions to her bookmas tree problem.


Together, the father-daughter team eventually landed on a variation of the laundry hamper combined with foam circles. They employed a new, more flexible, hamper base. Using a manual hand drill forged some time around 1900 (not joking), Pop Pop, as he is affectionately called in K.L.’s house, drilled a perfectly sized hole in all the separate pieces. The mannequin’s “leg” was threaded through the holes and the bookmas tree 4.0’s base was complete.

From there, the remaining construction of the tree went quickly, as evidenced by this time-lapse video that in no way trivializes or simplifies the actual work that went into making the book tree. 😉

All joking aside, the book-building portion of the tree went much faster than previous years. In fact, the biggest issue this year was in the realm of technology. Note how said time-lapse video cuts off the top mannequin part of the tree. K. L. spent more time trying to make a time-lapse video with vertical pictures than she spent on the entire tree. In the end, she had to settle for only showing a portion of the tree.

(Anyone with tips on the time-lapse process, please feel free to leave a comment. Note: the recommendation to take pictures in landscape and not portrait in the future has already been made several times by K.L.’s hubby. But unless he can invent a time machine, that won’t help for this year.)

On the “good news” front, the shorter build time for the tree base of books allowed K. L. to get creative with decorating. This year she fashioned wings from old book pages, making Merry Shelley a true book angel. She also became a master in the art of paper snowflake creation thanks to many helpful tutorials on youtube.

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In the end, this year lacked much of the drama, hi-jinx and embarrassing, but funny, mistakes of yesteryear. Still, flanked by a new set of beautiful bookcases, K. L. and her family agreed this was the best bookmas tree yet. They deemed bookmas tree 4.0 “very cute.” Not baby Yoda cute. Nothing is that cute. But as far as holiday trees made of books, the family thinks the newest Merry Shelley is pretty great.

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