Seven Types of “Keeper Shelf” Books

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.

Childhood Favorite

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.

Meaningful Backstory

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.

Compulsively Re-Readable

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.

8 thoughts on “Seven Types of “Keeper Shelf” Books

  1. Books by Eugenia Price. I even took a trip to St. Simon’s Island to see the actual places ( church, cemetery where people from the stories were buried and the Lighthouse.
    Books signed by Tracie Peterson, Lynn Austin, and Beverly Lewis.
    The Adventures of Pinocchio which was a childhood gift.

  2. I have 3 copies of the Hobbit on my shelves now. One because it was the 1st one, one because I love the cover and one because it is an older edition that has all the art work in it. I have also been collecting the Cat Who books by Lillian Jackson Brown. Love the series and seeing if I can find them all at thrift stores, used book store and garage sales has been loads of fun. None of the ones I have of this series are “new” copies they all are used.

  3. I have two copies of each book in The Chronicles of Narnia! Love those stories! I have two copies of Jane Eyre. I will always have a copy of all the books in the Mitford Series by Jan Karon. 🙂📚

  4. Maybe a category for “Surprises”– something you thought you should read, so you bought a cheap copy or borrowed (thinking it just wasn’t your kind of book), and it ended up really hitting you (so then you do have to get your own copy). Not a favorite, maybe, but a really good lesson to be open to surprises. Captains Courageous and Carry On, Mr. Bowditch were that kind of book for me and they sit proudly on my shelf along with my Jane Austin collection.

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