One of the main reasons I thought it would be a good idea to build my own bookshelf was that I would know exactly what went into it and I could avoid some of the dangerous materials in furniture (like formaldehyde, and VOC's in paint). I also wanted it to be the exact measurements I thought would be best and I didn't want to deal with the cheap furniture sold at most places.
But as it turns out, it's difficult to turn this:
It was a great lesson in knowing what is going into a product you want, being willing to do something yourself if you want it, and learning a new skill I had no real knowledge of before. All in all it was stressful, it took much longer than expected, and my dad and I had a great time building this piece that will last me for years and years to come.
If you are interested in having furniture that is safe for the environment and your indoor air quality, consider buying pre-made furniture that just needs to be sanded and painted. It is a great way to be sure you are getting quality wood that will not gas off harmful chemicals into your air. You can also paint it however you want.