For years, I have been collecting used books. It’s become one of my most treasured “me time” hobbies. I often take a weekend trip to my favorite used bookstore right as it opens and fill my cart with beautiful, old books.
I’ve been collecting more than usual, and I thought it would be fun to share some of my tips for collecting affordable used books.
Why used books?
One of my very first part-time jobs in college was in a used bookstore. I loved everything about the experience, but especially organizing and looking through old books. When we moved to Nashville, I had very few books, and when we added floor to ceiling bookshelves, I decided to specially shop for rainbow books.
It was both a design statement and a way to bring more interesting things into our home. I spent more than a year shopping for books and accumulated a huge collection of books on subjects that inspired me: gardening, rocks and minerals, dream interpreting, baby names (haha, I love old school baby name books), decorating and crafts.
At first, I will admit, I was more focused on collecting by color to fill my shelves. Over time, I must have changed via immersion though because now reading is one of my top hobbies.
For that reason, I highly recommend filling your home with books whether you think you will read them all or not— it could change your life!
Used books are affordable (I often buy books for 25 cents!) and sustainable.
My favorite thing about old books is the sense of history. I am currently reading an old copy of Harry Potter with a little girl’s name written in huge letters on the side pages.
I am also obsessed with a Tarot card reference book I have that is full of notes in handwriting that looks sort of like my grandma’s.
I love these little gifts from the past! Occasionally, I buy a used book with a library card still in it … so special!
Best places to shop for used books?
My favorite place to shop is a large used bookstore in Nashville (McKay’s if you are local!). I also always check the book section at any thrift shop or flea market I visit, though I won’t usually make a stop just to check for books.
Estate sales are a great resource. Since the books all come from one person’s home, they often have whole collections on certain subjects. I recently scored a bunch of painting books along with an easel and old oil paints at an estate sale.
When it comes to shopping online, I buy the majority of my books from ThriftBooks. I was joking with Emma that I’m probably about to get a certificate in the mail that says I’m their number one customer.
I also buy quite a few books on eBay. I find eBay is the best place to look for whole collections. I collect Nancy Drew, Goosebumps, American Girls books, and quite a few other nostalgic series that I read as a child.
Do you really read your books?
This is something people always ask me. I think that to some people, seeing a large home library seems wasteful or even selfish. I disagree with that perspective.
While I will probably never have a chance to read every single book in our home, I think of reading as a lifestyle and an effort that is never wasted.
There is value in having a lot of books in your home even if you aren’t reading them yet. It changed my life! I went from being not very interested in reading to reading a book almost every week over the past few years. And I wonder if the rainbow book collection made a difference for me?
For our children’s library, I am hopeful that having access to a lot of books will help my kids get into reading. I don’t want to push them too hard, but I am hopeful that having the books right there will help spark an interest for them. Fingers crossed!
I also collect a lot of nonfiction books that support my hobbies (painting, ceramics, crafts, interior design, and we have a large cookbook collection).
These books are used so often, whether for reference or just thumbing through them for inspiration.
Collecting books by subject
I suggest leaning into your personal interests and passions when collecting books. Above, you can see my ghost book collection. It’s highly specific to me and I LOVE it. I add to it all the time.
I love spooky and supernatural topics, so I collect books that feed my obsessions. I also collect books about witches, vampires, tarot, dream interpreting, and aura reading.
Tips for collecting a series
As I mentioned above, I collect a lot of series for our kids’ library. If you want to skip the work of collecting a series over time, I suggest checking eBay for complete sets.
If you don’t mind taking your time to hunt books down, I suggest making a checklist that you keep in your purse or on your phone so that it’s always with you. I am slow collecting some of my sets and have been working on them for more than a year.
If you try to collect a series without a list to check off, you will accidentally buy a lot of duplicates, so be sure to find a method that works for you!
Here’s my Harry Potter collection. I collected the hardbacks for the past year and then used these matching dust covers to make them into a shiny new set.
I really hope this encourages some of you to begin collecting used books. Let me know if you have any questions— I’m happy to chat in the comments.