Building a Personal Library

I’ve been a library patron for as long as I can remember.  Though I was a frequent library user, I’ve also been privileged enough to always own books. My collection evolved from things like The Baby-Sitters Club series to John Grisham paperbacks to whatever was $1.99 at Value Village. As I entered adulthood, I decided I wanted a large, well-curated library of my very own.

When I embarked on this dream I sort of ignored the “well-curated” part. I bought anything I thought looked interesting thanks to thrift stores and used book sales. I just wanted to have a lot of books, and I wanted them immediately. But over the years, as my reading tastes have changed and what I want to spend money on has shifted, I’ve finally become choosier about the books I purchase. Here’s what’s important to me now when I add books to my library.

1

IT’S A BOOK I KNOW I’LL WANT TO WRITE IN.

If I want to read a book to learn something specific, chances are I’m going to buy it. I don’t tend to write in fiction books very often, but my nonfiction shelves are full of books with my underlining and marginalia. (I love that word so much.) I don’t tend to write terribly detailed notes, but I do like being able to flip through a book to see what ideas I thought were important. Books that fit into this category are usually theology or writing guides. I mark up my poetry books quite a bit, as well.

2.png

IT’S A SPECIFIC EDITION.

Do I need three different editions of Moby-Dick? No. Do I own them anyway because they’re pretty? Yes.

As a kid, I was always collecting something. I loved building mini-collections of everything from snow globes to rocks (a.k.a. gravel from my driveway). There are a few different editions of books I collect, and I’m always eager to add to them. One is the Penguin hardcover collection designed by Coralie Bickford Smith. I think these books are beautiful. I love the feel of them and how they look on my shelf. I also collect the Drop Caps series designed by Jessica Hische. While the hardcover books are elegant and classic, the drop caps are bright and fun. I love their boldness and the colorful edges that match the cover.

3.png

IT’S BY AN AUTHOR I LOVE.

There are certain authors whose books are immediately on my to-buy list. They could write books about how to use a hammer or what crafts to make with dryer lint, and I’d probably still buy them. These authors include Donna Tartt, Celeste Ng, David Sedaris, Roxane Gay, Marisha Pessl, and Liane Moriarty. I know I love the work these writers put out so I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase their latest. (I even bought Pessl’s recent release, Neverworld Wake, even though it’s far outside my wheelhouse. Andrea + Marisha = Love)

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I READ A LIBRARY COPY AND NOW I NEED MY OWN.

The most recent book this happened with was The Nix by Nathan Hill. I listened to this book (the audio narration is excellent, by the way) and I absolutely loved it. I wanted to give it a hug, but you can’t hug audio files from OverDrive. I had to get the book. If you’ve read this far, I trust you understand.


Do you like buying and collecting books? If so, what guides your choices?

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