Five Thoughts on How to Build an Awesome Personal Library from a Grumpy Old Bookseller

A pursuit that lasts a lifetime…and beyond

Paul Combs
6 min readJul 11, 2023

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Last week, I published an article about how to get started collecting books. The response to that piece has been encouraging because it means people still care about books and collecting them (these days I’ve often wondered if that’s still true). It’s also very encouraging that, according to a recent report, 70% of U.S. readers between the ages of 18 and 29 said they read print books (the myth that the e-book is the dominant format is just that, a myth); people who read print books are far more likely to collect them.

That earlier piece focused on things like first editions, signed books, etc., but what if you just want a personal library with no concern about whether the books are “collectible” or “valuable.” I put those two words in quotes because both mean different things to different people, and books are both collectible and valuable totally apart from any financial considerations. As someone who has both collected (hoarded?) books for five decades and owned a bookstore for a brief but glorious period, I have five suggestions for anyone starting out.

Let me make one point before we begin, a point that should be obvious: collect what you like to read. Don’t be one of those…

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Paul Combs

Writer, bookseller, would-be roadie for the E Street Band. My ultimate goal is to make books as popular in Texas as high school football...it may take a while.