This month’s discussion dives deep into the highly scientific and not-at-all impulsive book buying process for building the personal library of my dreams. I know I’m not the only book lover who’s dreamed about having their own Beauty and the Beast library. I know my formative years were spent watching my VHS copy until it broke and no matter how old I get, I can’t get floor-to-ceiling bookshelves with a sliding ladder out of my mind.
This discussion was inspired by Charvi’s discussion on how she’s building her personal library (yes, this has been in drafts for six months lol).
A Minimalist’s Approach to Books
Despite what my bookshelves would lead you to believe, I’m a minimalist. I don’t like clutter and prefer the items I own to serve a function, yet I most definitely imprinted on Belle On The Bookshelf Ladder as a child. (I contain multitudes.) The truth? Books are the one thing I love to collect! But that doesn’t mean that I want just any books on my shelves.
My Book Buying Process
I’m pretty picky when it comes to buying books for my collection, but my habits have definitely changed since I started book blogging. In the Before Times, I would almost exclusively buy books I’ve already read and loved. Truth be told, my former book snob ways had a lot to do with this: for some reason I wanted the books people saw to say something to people.
Nowadays I care more about how a book makes me feel rather than what people think about it when seeing it on my bookshelves. If I read an loved a book, chances are that I will seek out a copy for my collection, and I often buy secondhand to get the exact edition that I want. I’m fortunate to have access to a great library and a good track record with eARCs, so provided I find the time I can read books before buying them.
But I don’t only buy books that I already read. Part of this is due to the aforementioned lack of time, but I also like to pre-order books to support the authors – especially debuts and authors of color. I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying books I’m likely to enjoy so chances are good that I won’t wind up disappointed, but no track record is perfect and I do unhaul books. I also have a book boner for leatherbound classics, so I’ve been slowly building a collection of those over time… but I may opt for the Penguin Clothbounds instead? IDK anymore lol.
Questions I Ask Before Buying a Book
- Have I already read the book?
- For backlist titles, is there a specific edition I want? (I check Better World Books – affiliate link)
- Is the book by an author I’ve previously read and enjoyed?
- Is the book by a debut author or author of color?
- Is it a special or limited edition that will likely hold value if I wind up not liking it?
- Is there a pre-order incentive? (I’m a sucker for signed bookplates!)
My Book Unhauling Process
While full bookshelves definitely warm my heart, I prefer that the books I physically own be ones that I love. The best way to ensure this is to read books before buying them but that isn’t always possible (or fun). Would I even be me without an owned TBR shelf?
Just because I buy a book doesn’t mean that it will live forever on my shelves. For one thing, I live in a small apartment and I’d quickly run out of room. But also because sometimes my “book choosing skills” do me wrong and I wind up disliking a book that I thought I’d enjoy, or the author acts like a jerk that I don’t want to support any longer. (Looking at you, JKR.) Or in some instances: both (Emily Duncan).
When I decide to get rid of a book, I text a few friends to see if they’re interested in it as we pass around our books. If no one is interested, I usually will list them for sale on eBay whenever I get the energy to do so. Just because I don’t like a book doesn’t mean someone else won’t love it!
Questions I Ask Before Unhauling a Book
- Did I enjoy this book?
- Does seeing this book on my shelf spark joy or anger?
- Is this an author I want to support?
- Am I likely to re-read the book? (Not always a requirement, but if its presence sparks anger this is useful to consider.)
- Do I have a friend who’d enjoy the book? Is this something my Little Free Library could use?
- Will I regret selling the book later?
My Personal Library Dream
Ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted two things: Belle Bookshelves and a Secret Room. I’ve always been fascinated with stories of castles and old buildings with hidden corridors and secret rooms to hide all my precious treasures. So imagine my surprise when I found out that Home Depot sells hidden bookshelf walls (The Murphy Door… more than just beds now).
When I buy a house someday (lol I doubt that’ll happen if I stay in California), a bookshelf door is on my list so I can make a magical reading hideaway! I envision a room full of bookshelves, tattered and well-loved tomes interspersed with pristine first editions, a window seat, and windchimes. No internet will be allowed and it will be my special place to read and disconnect.
One day I also hope to expand on my leatherbound classics collection. No matter how much of a genre loving reader I become, part of my soul will always belong to its classics-loving origins and I love the way leatherbound editions look. Can we just skip the whole dustjacket thing and go back to imprinting on the hardcovers please?
💬 What is your book buying process? Do you prefer to own or borrow your books?
💬 How do you decide which books to unhaul?
💬 What tips do you have for mindfully cultivating a personal library?