5 tips for starting a book collection

5 Tips for Starting a Book Collection

In Expert Tips, For the Love of Reading by Kevin Gray

5 tips for starting a book collection

People collect all manner of items, from coins and baseball cards to antique thimbles. We’d never besmirch a collector and their prized possessions, but nothing engages the mind quite like a good book — or rather a highly curated collection of books.

Countless leaders, business tycoons, philosophers, and authors insist that reading is key to learning. But whether you read for pleasure or for personal growth, it’s always a good idea to surround yourself with books. Even if you mostly read on your phone or tablet, filling your shelves with first editions is a noble hobby. Here’s a quick guide to building an enviable book collection.

5 ways to jumpstart your book collection

1. Start with your personal favorites

Book collectors collect books for various reasons. Unless you’re collecting solely for profit, there’s no point in owning books you don’t want to read. Stock up on your favorite authors and genres; acquire books you’ve already read and others you want to read but haven’t yet gotten to. If you love sci-fi or fantasy, load up. If you prefer history and biographies, focus there first. Once you’ve established a solid baseline of your favorite books, you’ll be ready to expand your collection.

2. Mix in the classics

Start with your favorites, but don’t neglect the classics. Many important works are classic for a reason and deserve a place on your shelves. Pick up a few you’ve read and some you haven’t, and aim for a diverse lineup of authors covering different eras, backgrounds, and locations. Even if these books aren’t what you reach for when you’re settling into your favorite chair, know they’ll always be there for you on a rainy day or whenever you’re ready to dive in.

3. Add a few aspirational titles to the list

There’s nothing wrong with owning more books than you can possibly read in a lifetime. Keeping a full library means you have access to wisdom, insight, and humor at a moment’s notice. James Joyce, William Faulkner and some of the Russian greats aren’t the easiest authors to read, but they’ve also penned some of the most lauded works in history. You don’t have to read every volume in your possession, but having important, conversation-starting tomes at the ready may encourage you to finally pick them up.

4. Go deep on a specific author or topic

Once you’ve amassed a collection of your favorite books and can’t-miss classics, you may want to focus on certain topics or authors. For example, if you’re a fan of Margaret Atwood or Kurt Vonnegut, try sourcing all of their works, even some of the more obscure titles. Or if you’re really into cooking, travel, or space exploration, line your shelves with more titles on those specific topics. It’s a great way to add depth and purpose to your collection.

5. Organize. Organize. Organize. 

Arrange your books alphabetically, by author or by topic. Do whatever works best for you; just ensure that a system is in place so you’re not rummaging through your shelves or digital collection trying to find a particular title.

Also, don’t feel like you need to keep every book you purchase in perpetuity. If you want to cull a few titles from your list, go for it. Give away the hard copies, or sell them to a used bookstore, and delete the digital titles that no longer serve you. Curation is more important than quantity.

Digital versus print books

Audiobooks and ebooks have revolutionized the way the world reads, letting you amass a vast collection of works without requiring a single shelf. But as convenient as ebooks are, there’s still something satisfying about holding a hardcover book in your hands. Fortunately, you don’t have to go one route or the other — you can have it all.

If you want to create a reading nook or stock your shelves with hardbacks, great, scour your local new and used bookstores until you’ve compiled an enviable collection. If you want to ensure you always have plenty to read on vacation or while commuting, shore up your digital collection. It’s easy to do both, and you may choose to purchase hard copies — or first editions — of your favorite books to display even if you prefer to read them digitally. There are no wrong answers here. As long as the collection serves you and your reading lifestyle, you’ll be able to add to it, tweak it, and enjoy it for years to come.

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About the Author: Kevin Gray

Kevin is a Dallas-based writer covering all things lifestyle, including food, drinks and travel, and his work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Forbes, Men's Health, and other outlets. The Cormac McCarthy canon sits at the top of his favorites, but he can't resist a good whodunnit.