Building My Personal Library: How Do I Decide Which Books to Buy and Discard?

Every bookworm has a dream to have an expansive and aesthetic library like the one in Beauty and the Beast. I mean that’s why we watch the movie, to drool over that library, right?

Ahem, my point is, libraries are a haven. And what better to have a personal library with cosy nooks and a secret door or two? Okay, a girl can dream. In reality, I’ll be lucky to afford wall sized bookshelves in my future house.

Either way, I’ve already started collecting books for my future dream library. No mom, it’s not hoarding! But as many of you know, I’m just a broke college student. Even though I get some generous gifts and review copies and arcs, I have to be very careful as to what books to buy and then which ones to discard over time. So today I decided to talk about my thought processes behind building my little library 🙂

Building My Personal Library: How Do I Decide Which Books to Buy and Discard?

What I currently call my little library is actually three little shelves in my desk crammed with books. I think I own about a hundred books and I’m so freaking proud of my collection. Sometimes I find myself wondering about the future of these books which gather dust in my shelves for the most part. I hate that a lot of them aren’t being read or re-read on a regular basis, which is why it’s very important for me to justify the books I own.

MY BOOK BUYING HABITS

I rarely buy books. Last year I recorded and severely restrained my book purchases and only ended up buying about 12 books. In general, I’m a puddle of anxiety and I’m always anxious about buying books as I wonder whether I’ll love them or if I’m buying at the cheapest prices possible.

I almost never purchase new releases or pre-order books. Maybe that makes me a terrible reader for not supporting authors but I honestly can’t afford it. I’ve made some exceptions for authors I absolutely adore and idolize or pre-orders and releases that are reasonably priced through Indian sellers cause god knows ordering on sites like Blackwell means I’ll be shelling dollars that I don’t own. One dollar is about 72 rupees so yeah, my parents would kill me if I spend that much on a book.

I usually wait out until the prices go down or listen to books on Storytel since it has a very reasonable subscription. Honestly, Storytel is a boon because I’m able to read so many more new releases! I consider those reads as books I bought in my spreadsheets because technically I’m paying for the subscription, right?

Even with back-list books, I snoop around to check prices absolutely everywhere and repeatedly ask myself if I need that book. I buy more books that I’ve read and loved because I want to either re-read those books in the future or lend them out to others.

But there are times when I may accidentally forego these rules, especially if I’m at a book sale like the times where you can buy books by weight. I’ve made some pretty bad choices in those times…

BOOKS THAT I DISCARD

I try to go through my books frequently and analyse them. There are some books that are just your favourite or very close to your heart so of course there’s no question you’re keeping them. But what about the rest?

My usual criteria is going through questions like how much do I remember and reminisce about this book? Would I ever re-read it? Would I really want other people to read this book and then discuss it with them? Because sometimes I may not love a book but like it enough to keep it around so that I can make others read it. I don’t know if that makes sense though, but it works for me. For example, I don’t love When Dimple Met Rishi, I just like it. But I’ve lent it to some friends who were getting into reading and they adored it. I had so many fun conversations with them about it!

It’s always harder for me to sort through mystery and thrillers because once I’ve read the plot twist and the reveal, re-reading the book might not have as much of an allure. That’s where my question about would I like to lend this book to others plays an important role. I also end up discarding books by problematic authors or books that might have major problematic elements. For example, I recently cleared out my Rainbow Rowell collection which was kind of heart-breaking. I adored her books, and I still have nostalgia surrounding her works but I’m moving on to better books. I feel like the author has been given enough chances that she refuses to take.

And that’s about it! Of course, I get some occasional review copies and giveaway wins and have amazing, generous friends who buy me gifts. Really don’t know where I would be without them. Over the past year I’ve also been going out of my way to make my shelves more diverse in terms of representation. A lot of books available to me tend to be white so yes, it’s about making a conscious effort to pick and choose my books. But as of now, I’m extremely satisfied and happy with my books, no matter how much my mom gawks at them.

Hopefully, one day I can build a small library filled with books that I love and lend them out to people. But of course everyone will have to go through a long checklist to be approved because my books are preciously curated gems 🙂

How do you organise or sort through your bookshelves?

What are your book buying rules and habits?

And what does your dream library look like? Do you already have it?

34 thoughts on “Building My Personal Library: How Do I Decide Which Books to Buy and Discard?

  1. Ooooh I had a terrible book buying spend last year! I mean, I do love the books but…I still haven’t read most of them and considering the total, I just can’t justify buying more. The rules I’ve recently set for myself are reading a book first from the library before deciding to purchase it. I keep the books I want on my wish list. I don’t get to buy any books until I finish my unread library.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahh yes sometimes you go down that road and don’t realise it… Oh those seem like achievable goals! I hope you’re able to read your unread books this year ☺

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  2. Can I steal your post idea? Lol.. but really this is such a relevant post and a real book lover and book collector issue! In the last four years that I picked up my reading habit again, my collection of owned books – aka physical copies (don’t even ask about kindle and audiobooks), has grown monumentally!

    I also long to have a library with a reading nook, I have a picture in my mind but I’m not close to achieve it it. However, this dream of mine also conflicts with my minimalism attitude.. having too many things give me anxiety too. So I really need to re-look at my book buying habits and what I eventually want to own. I have this thought or principle that everything that is important to me (inanimate objects) should be able to fit themselves into a single suitcase should the time come. And I don’t think that’s happening at present lol!

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  3. This is basically my process too! I’m at a slightly different life stage that lets me acquire more books, so my library is bigger than yours, but I do the exact same thing of trying to be really realistic about what books I’ll reread and not. I’m actually about to go through and do a cull of authors whose stuff has become too problematic for me to enjoy — always a sad sort of cull, but I do love the shelf space I get back!

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    • Oh that’s nice to know that someone shares my process ☺
      Yes for more shelf space! My books are all crammed up rn, I really need some more space for them 😩

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  4. That’s a nice conversation! Though I ask myself many questions when picking a book, I now have a need to fill my « not-so-new-now » shelves! So I have to admit I mightve let myself go overboard…

    Discarding books is so hard for me though- before covid my cafe where I work had a free little library so I could leave them there.. but now we removed it because well; you can’t really desinfect books.. there’s some that I dont plan on rereading nor wanna get to anymore; but i still dont know what to dooo!!! (Although dad always said money spent in books is never wasted)
    Personally- i like the idea of taking hints and take of the spin that we mightve not had noticed before while rereading mysteries/thrillers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahhh of course, seeing empty space immediately makes us want to fill it 😛

      Oh that’s so sad, but yes a necessary thing. My city’s library is closed because of the same reason 😔
      Oh maybe you could donate them or make some crafts out of them? Mine are piled up rn, waiting to be given away.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This was really interesting to read! Like you, I’ve started frequently looking through my books and deciding which ones I realistically want to keep and which I don’t. I only really got into unhauling last year, but I think it’s done wonders for my shelves, as I now have a smaller but more concentrated collection of books that I either loved, or I’m going to read soon and will hopefully love. Fab post!

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  6. When I moved into my new place a little over a year ago, I did some major culling of my owned books. There are only maybe two authors that I always buy their books new. Sometimes I find a good deal on book outlet or similar site and buy books knowing that I can donate or sell to a second hand book store if I don’t love them.
    I’m trying to do a book buying ban this year. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Floor to ceiling bookshelves is my ultimate home goal as well – I especially would like a sliding ladder to go with it. 😛 Every single point you’ve mentioned here is something I do as well! I am very careful about the books I do buy. I rarely buy something I haven’t read yet. I aim to only buy titles I think I’ll still appreciate in 30+ years.

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  8. OK so at the moment my books are organised as follows. One bookcase is full of books I intend to keep, it’s double stacked as well some books I’ve read others I haven’t but it’s likely after reading them I’ll end up keeping them. The second bookcase, bottom two shelves are double stacked with books I need to read and after reading I’ll decide if I want to keep them or not. Although for a lot of them it’s likely most will be unhauled. Then I have bookstacks on the floor full of books I plan to unhaul for various reasons.

    My dream library is full of books that make me happy just by looking at them. For some reason I remember scenes and stuff from the book by visually seeing the book. Though for my fav books I can remember bits of dialogue and more by seeing the book 😂 only because I’ve reread them a lot or they left a big mark on me for some reason.

    I’ve actually stopped buying books? Well I’ve become stricter because I don’t want to buy a book only to end up unhauling it later. If I love the authors other books I’m likely to buy the new book. Otherwise I tend to wait and read it on eformat first/on loan from the library and decide after it if I love it enough to want to display it on my shelves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh wow, your bookshelves are divided so methodically! Yesss, what’s the point of having your library if the books don’t make you happy just looking at them 🙂 Omg, same. I’m a very visual person so I definitely think of scenes and characters and then just grin like an idiot, lol.

      Yeah, same I don’t buy books a lot. Also, I hate unhauling books that were either a gift or review copies. Like I just put two review copies in the unhaul pile because I ended up dnfing them 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi there! It’s my first time on your blog, and this was a really interesting read, so I’m glad my random clicking took me here. 🙂 In the last 2 years or so I’d been short on funds, so it got to the point where I was sorting through which books I had to keep and which ones could be sold off. It was a life-changing experience, really, because it let me think carefully about the kinds of books that I genuinely wanted to own and rethink my opinion on books I already owned but had to let go for one reason or another. Gifts, of course, I never dared to sell; most of my childhood books also stayed, simply because of the time I spent looking for them in secondhand bookstores. (Sunk cost fallacy, I know, but huhu, childhood.)

    Nowadays I don’t consider buying physical copies of books unless I’m 110% sure I’ll want them around in the long run. So I live mostly on ebooks and books borrowed from friends, then only get the physical copy if it feels worth saving and splurging money for. This is what my dream library looks like: packed with the books I worked hard to put there. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love how all of us basically imprinted on Belle On The Bookshelf Ladder as children lol. My dream is to have wall to wall bookshelves some day, and I recently found out that Home Depot sells hidden bookshelf walls and uh… when I buy a house someday (lol) I for SURE will be making myself a magical hidey hole.

    I tend to preorder most often these days, typically books I read as eARCs that I enjoyed and want to add to my collection. But also sometimes books I want to read but just want to support the author. 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.

    I unhaul books that I didn’t enjoy or not enough to re-read fairly recently. I don’t mind unreads on my shelves, but books that don’t spark joy? Byyyyeee!

    Liked by 1 person

    • AHAHA YES WE IMPRINTED 😂
      Omg I’m drooling right now, hidden bookshelf walls are the dream I hope you’re able to get them someday!

      Oh nice! I can’t pre order cause bookdepository doesn’t ship to India anymore and any other site is too costly to think about although I do make some exceptions. Oooh I know what you’re talking about, I personally prefer clothbound, the designs also are so gorgeous 😍

      Liked by 1 person

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