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Book shelf speakers are great for small home theaters, or low-powered amplifiers. They're perfect if you don't require high SPL's and lack the space for tower speakers. Used with a powered subwoofer, a decent set of bookshelf speakers will give most tower speakers a run for their money. Not only does the subwoofer give you the low bass of tower speaker but, because the main speakers are so small, your speaker placement options are broader.
As with any choice, do your research and audition many different speakers, to see what appeals to you. Ideally, audition the most likely speakers in your home before you buy.