Not too long ago I posted a photo of my current shelves on Twitter and got a lovely response. I also got some questions and comments and had the idea for a post to answer some of them!
So you want a home library? Best advice is be patient, come up with a plan, and enjoy the process.
Also first I want to stressbthat this is literally years of collecting and evolution. I started this back in 2015 or so with one broken roadside freebie shelf and there are photos at the bottom 😅
What do you use for shelving?
- I had mine custom made and fitted by a carpenter friend. Not cheap but they’ll last forever. It was my one real homeowner goal
- Before that I literally just surfed craigslist and garage sales and had all sorts of random secondhand shelving piled everywhere.
- Ikea or Amazon shelves aren’t a terrible deal either. The fake pressed ones pop up on craigslist / Facebook marketplace a lot too. You can always advertise locally for used shelves and see who offers
I wish I could afford that many books! Where do you get them?
Probably my top asked question
- My best advice is: don’t buy new. Wait a bit on those shiny new books and find them on a discount site like Book Outlet! Unless you’re a too influencer, no one cares if you’re reading new releases in the first wave (and even then…)
- A tip for Book Outlet: don’t buy individual books, wait for the big sales! They do quarterly sales like buy-two-get-one-free or spend $100/get $25 free etc. $100 seems like a lot but if you add items to your cart/wishlist and then wait for the big sale, you can walk with 30+ books for that price and it’s free shipping 🤷♀️
- ARCs: this isn’t an ARC post. Some of my books are ARCs but ARCs ≠ free books for collecting purposes and they come with responsibilities
- Library sales: library sales contain 100% cheap books and they usually get cheaper each day of the sale. Become a Friend/Patron of your local library to get first dibs on the sale, then go back on the last day for the BAG SALE!
- Garage sales and antique markets. Over the years I’ve found hundreds of books of all ages and genres. Personally I won’t spend over $2 for a hardcover or 0.50¢ for a paperback at a garage sale. Most people don’t think of antique marts but there’s almost always at least one regular used book stall in there somewhere
- My favorite used book dealer is tucked into an antique market and sells for around that 1-2$ range. Plus if they know you you’ll usually walk out with extras 😂
- Lots and estate sales: if you search craigslist or Facebook marketplace, often times people are unloading boxes of books for a set price. It can be hit or miss but don’t cherrypick, just offer a price for the lot and I’ve gotten seriously lucky before. I think my best lot haul was 4 boxes of fantasy books for $20, and probably half of them were nice hardcovers of known authors
- Local indie stores with used sections are good too. These are trending up in price but still cheaper than buying new. That said though, I won’t pay high costs for used books of any type unless it’s hard to find or a collectable
Curating Your Collection
The best tip I have for enjoying your home library is this: YOU DO YOU. Collect what you love and don’t hold onto books that you didn’t like. Trying to impress people won’t get you anywhere in the long run. Don’t get caught up in marketing fads. Just, do you.
- I think the level of book ownership vs enjoyment changes for each person
- Your tastes will change over time and that’s great. Evolve your shelves
- At first I just wanted ALL the books. Then I wanted to impress people on Bookstagram so I started buying popular authors. I’d even keep books I hated because the names look “right” to have on the shelves. But you want to know what made me happy? When I gave away a 1/1 set of SJM hardcovers and dumped my VE Schwab books. I’m 100% happier now.
- If you hated a book, you won’t enjoy looking at it, so get rid of it when you’re done. I don’t care what anyone else thinks. Personally I’m much happier looking at my shelves now since I only keep books that I really like.
- Organizational tastes will change too. Don’t be afraid to wreak havoc and dump everything on the floor and start over if you want to rearrange your books! I’ve done everything from alphabetical to genre to color to height, where I’ve finally settled. I can’t find one given book to save my life but it’s nice to look at, and I’ve separated out fiction from fantasy from sci-fi from thrillers and mysteries to help.
Here are my current shelves vs what they evolved from! This took me YEARS and I started with a roadside freebie shelf that was broken and had half the screws missing! Let me know what other questions you have!
Now, vs all the mismatched used shelving of the past!
To the now!