Book Pumpkins – Thank You Reader’s Digest

Readers’ Digest Condensed Books –  They were published for 47 years (before being rebranded) and it has been estimated that about 10 million copies were sold per year. That’s a lot of books that are still living in boxes in the attic or displaying a pleasing shelf full of books with similar spines!

The current value of these books, however, seems to be about $0. They are not rare and the fact that the stories are condensed reduces the value to today’s readers.

What should I do with a box of Reader’s Digest Condensed books?
– Make Door Stops…
– Just don’t leave two of them alone in a box in a dark room or you end up with a whole ‘litter’ of them.

I recently inherited a box of these books from a relative who knew I was not adverse to ‘mutilating’ books.   I thought I would try making them into Book Pumpkins. There are quite a few sites on the web that tell you how to do this. Usually they say you cut the pumpkin shape with scissors but I found that quite time consuming and not so kind to arthritic fingers. A better tool, for me, was The Car Guys Scroll Saw!

The finished Book Pumpkins – top view.

Here are the my instructions for this project. For more detailed photos, see the photos below.

Trace and Cut: I traced a half pumpkin shape on the book cover, cut the shape out with a scroll saw, then took the cover off.

Prepare the Spine: I removed some of the binding material off the spine to make it more flexible.

Make the Center of the Pumpkin: I cut a piece of dowel that was a few inches longer than the height of the spine and the right diameter such that the spine would wrap around it. The front and back edges of the spine should meet.

Hot Glue – OUCH: I hot glued the spine around the dowel, leaving about an inch of dowel above and below the spine.

Make the Base for the Pumpkin and Spray Paint: The Car Guy cut a circle from some scrap lumber. He drilled a hole in the middle of this base. The hole was slightly larger than the diameter of the dowel. We mounted the bottom piece of the dowel into the circle, leaving a slight gap between the top surface of the circle and the pages of the book. This leaves the pages free to fan out nicely. I spray painted my pumpkins with Rust-oleum Hammered Copper.

Make a Pumpkin Stem and Decorate: I used a piece of tree branch that was a larger diameter than the dowel. I cut the branch into ‘stem’ lengths and drilled a hole in each that was slightly larger than the dowel. Then I glued the stems onto the dowel, making sure the pages were still free to fan out unhindered. I decorated the pumpkins with wood shavings and crinkly paper.

Pumpkin shape. Ready to cut with a scroll saw.
This is where the dowel will be glued when the book has been cut and the covers removed.
This is the base with the dowel inserted.
The twig stem and decorations.

Do tell – how many Reader’s Digest Condensed Books do you have on your book shelves!

30 thoughts on “Book Pumpkins – Thank You Reader’s Digest

  1. How creative! I remember when I was a child, my mom would make Christmas trees (I think as a Girl Scout project) in a similar way. Instead of cutting the paper, they would fold it to resemble an upside down V, and then spray paint it green and add glitter. I thought they were gorgeous…..although your pumpkins are better!


    1. Have you been looking over my shoulder!? I just finished two of those folded trees and will post the pictures soon! The only downside to the trees is how long it takes to do all the folding. The pumpkins are quite a bit quicker, though using power tools makes a big difference!

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  2. These are gorgeous! I hate to mutilate books but this would be OK. Years ago I made a Christmas tree out of one. It was easy, just folded a page down. Yours are so unique and keeps them out of the landfills. Happy Halloween!


    1. Hopefully most discarded books get recycled and don’t end up in the landfill!

      I agree, the trees are pretty easy, though they get harder if there are a lot of pages – the whole thing gets so ‘fat’!


  3. Those are absolutely adorable and I believe I have everything needed to make them! I even purchased a scroll saw at a thrift store a few months back and have never used it yet! I see a craft day in my future. Thank you so much Margy for the great idea.


  4. Love these pumpkins. They’re so rustic and nostalgic, and a perfect use for the Readers Digest Condensed Books.
    A Scroll Saw is a handy idea. You clever girl. The tutorial photos are great. Thanks so much.
    Well done, you!


  5. So creative! I have zero RDCBs on my shelves but I remember them well. Funny how I never took the time to read any of the full books after (almost like the “Cliffs’ Notes approach to reading). Is Reader’s Digest still around, and if so would it resemble its past form? I remember the repeating elements, including the humor section and the edge-of-your-seat stories they would call “Adventures in Real Life’ (or something similar).


    1. The Reader’s Digest Magazine is still being published and seems to have many of the old elements. The Condensed Books are now called Select Editions.
      My dentist has the magazine in the waiting area – or at least they did until Covid!

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