Keep in mind you can paint your bookshelves other colors (besides white), consider tan, taupe, gray, as shown on the bookcases and TV surround below.
Here's a clients home in Irving Park, the wood on the mantle and bookcases is actually a very high quality solid cherry. When you're not willing to paint the wood, you can always use lighter fabrics - notice how the off white sofa brightens the room more than the brown sofa.
|After Above, Before Below|
Here are some photos of rooms (before and after) with painted shelves & mantle instead of stained wood.
1) Paint the back wall only, in off white.
2) Apply linen fabric on a thin board inserted on the back wall - this creates a big impact
3) Paint your ceiling trim & doors only, but leave the mantle in brown stain
4) Introduce lighter fabrics (see top photo - we brought an ivory sofa to replace their brown one)
Whether to paint your bookcases and mantle is a personal choice - the majority of people telling us they love a clean lighter look of paint instead of stain, but if your wood is high quality you could try several other options first, to see if it solves what you don't like about the room.
For more mantle and shelf before after photos, click on this link: