There are some books that are fun to read once…and then you can pass them on to a friend or return them to the library. And then there are the books that you want to treasure forever, displayed on your shelf in a place of prominence. How does a reader create a collection of “keepers”? Well, everyone has different reasons for placing a book there, but here are some categories. Do you have at least one book that falls into each of these?
Personal Connection to the Author
Got an autographed novel from that one time you went to hear a favorite writer speak? No way that one’s leaving your shelf. Or maybe a relative or friend wrote a book and you just have to proudly display it. So go ahead. Name-drop a little. Create a special “I met/know the author” shelf. Put that book in a glass case on a velvet pillow with a heat-sensor alarm system. (Okay, maybe that last one is a little extreme. But we understand your protectiveness.) Those are books worth keeping.
These are “preserve for the next generation” worthy. Some may be tattered, drool-stained, or chewed up, others off-the-shelf new if you repurchased instead of keeping the (ahem) well-loved versions from your childhood. Some might stand up to multiple readings as an adult, and others are mainly nostalgic. They’re like the Velveteen Rabbits of books: you loved them so much as a child that they became real in a special way.
This often overlaps with other categories, but sometimes a book is a keeper not because it was especially well-written or an all-time favorite, but just because it has an important connection to you. Maybe it was a gift from someone you love, or you read it during a hard time in your life, or you and your teenage best buddy bonded over your shared dramatic crush on the main character.
Listen, no one’s submitting these books to the Powers That Be to be recognized as classics. You might even be tempted to hide a few of them. But you know what? It’s fine to love them, flaws and all. Sentimentality can be enough to land a book on the keeper shelf.
Guilty TBR Book
This one didn’t become a keeper book intentionally. It sort of…stumbled into your life. Maybe a friend kept mentioning it to you, or you saw it come up over and over on bookstagram posts, or it’s on a list of books to read before you die, or it was just on sale. So you bought it, fully intending to read it someday…
And the day has not yet arrived. You feel bad. You really do. It’s just that other books have been a higher priority. And you can’t quite bring yourself to pass it along to another home, so there it is, dust-covered spine staring at you, shaming you.
This sort of book has an agenda, dear reader. It will haunt you. Forever.
Some authors I know re-read an inspiring writing how-to book or a favorite novel every single year. You might not be quite that scheduled, but there are certain books that you know you’re going to return to. Whether you’re the sort to underline, bend pages, or otherwise deface books to call out the most personally meaningful parts, or the sort who thinks that should be an actual prosecutable crime, it’s great to have a stock of books to come back to time and time again. (Just make sure the other books don’t get jealous.)
Pretty Edition of Classic
Admit it. You’ve bought a book just because it’s visually stunning. And if you’re like most of us, that splurge was on a beautifully-illustrated hardcover version of a classic novel. Or several. Dozen.
Sherlock Holmes. The Chronicles of Narnia. JANE AUSTEN. (Yes, I see you there, reader who has, like, six different versions of Pride and Prejudice. No shaming here.) You can find gorgeous versions of each to make your shelves look like a design piece instead of just functional book storage. There’s something irresistible about a fresh design on our most beloved characters.
(Although you should also do a search for ugly covers for classic novels—in the land of Public Domain, people will slap almost any image on a story to sell a few copies, and some are laugh-out-loud funny.)
Just Plain *Fantastic* Book
Here’s what’s hopefully your largest category: beautiful five-star books that you keep because you just love them. Whether it was the compelling characters, the twisty plot, or the perfect ending, these are your most recommended books…if someone tries to borrow them, they’d better be careful. You might need to set down some strict ground rules to make sure you get them back in pristine condition. Or maybe you’ve got a no-lending rule for those fortunate books that make it to the highest tier of your reading experience.
Whatever you decide, it’s nice to know you’re in good company–with both other readers and the fictional friends on your keeper shelf.
Did I forget any “keeper shelf” categories, readers? Tell us about one of the books you would never dream of getting rid of.