Bookshelf speakers are not what their name implies. Sure, they can be placed in a bookshelf or cabinet, but that doesn't mean they're designed to operate at their best amongst the books.
No, the oddly named small two-way loudspeakers are, like any speaker, heard best when away from the confines of boundary walls and cabinet restrictions. Place them atop a credenza and they work fine but you're going to affect the tonal balance of the speaker—not as much as on a bookshelf, but none the less, anything but optimal.
It's no accident that bookshelf speakers sound their best mounted on a stand. That's because a properly designed loudspeaker stand pulls the small box speaker away from walls, floors, and their namesake, bookshelves.
The type of stand you use is also important, and in ways easy to remember if you'll recall the problem of boundaries: stands should be as physically invisible as possible. That's somewhat of a tall order when we also hope stands are rigid, unmoving and acoustically dead—attributes normally associated with high mass objects.
Many speaker stands are hollow with the expectations users will fill them with lead shot or sand and that's a good way to go. Others sacrifice acoustic inertness for invisibility using the least amount of material possible.
It's hard to underate the importance of stands when it comes to maximizing the performance of a bookshelf speaker.
Perhaps we should change their name to Stand Mount Speakers.