By Brenda Nuland
We have always been a bookish family so it was inevitable at this time of year for our thoughts to turn to books as gifts. As both of my children’s birthdays coincided with the Holiday Season, it made it the perfect excuse for spending good money on… great books!
There was almost always a new book to unwrap under the Christmas tree whenever possible, a much longed for volume that could be read and cherished… perhaps even on Christmas Day.
I have always had a small-ish library of favorite volumes, even before my daughter was born. Then as she grew older and later after my son was born (who desired his own boy-ish stories), I came to realize how important it was for them to own their own books.
There is something that brings the written word to greater value when your name is on the flyleaf and you know there is not a date stamped for which it must be returned.
As a young bride, I read books by women I admired and most of them said they found it invaluable to have a bookshelf wholly dedicated to books about homemaking, mothering, marriage, and living life as a Christian woman.
For many, many years my favorite corner of our various homes was where “my bookshelf” was located next to a comfy chair or close to the corner of our sofa. I would often relax there in the evening to read since all the authors on those shelves were my teachers and mentors; books by Edith Schaeffer, Elisabeth Elliot, Vonette Bright, Emilie Barnes, and Anne Ortlund (to name a few).
Later I added often read books by homeschool mentors Sally Clarkson, Karen Andreola, Diana Waring, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, and Susan Wise Bauer. I came to realize I needed to invest part of my budgeted time and money for these books if I was going to be the best homeschooling mother I could be. Never perfect, of course, but always wanting to learn from those who have already walked the path and had wisdom to share.
It was also helpful to learn all I could about various authors and books. By doing so, I knew which authors to look for at library sales and such. For example, there were many years when I collected Landmark books after they were recommended on various websites and by friends. I love talking books with friends!
Books that tell us more about authors and titles have been extremely helpful to me. My two favorites are Sarah Clarkson’s Read For the Heart and Gladys Hunt’s Honey For a Woman’s Heart.
Even with all of this history of books in the family, it wasn’t until we started homeschooling that we began an all out effort to establish a home library. Books for the home library were added as a part of the family budget.
Yes, we were one of those homeschool families who would bring home dozens of books from the library to peruse for the allotted two weeks. But as mentioned before, there is a big difference between books owned and books borrowed… albeit both have their place in the home.
Our desire to own more of our books first came about when we had difficulty finding very good quality books at the library at the same time we needed them in our studies. They were either no longer on the shelves or the one copy was taken out already when we needed it. So we began seriously purchasing books and yes… on a budget!
How did we end up with bookshelves in almost every room of the house? By making it a priority within the guidelines of our budget, which was quite slim.
Below are some of the ways we established our home library.
1) Our best book buys came from library sales where most volumes were fifty cents to a dollar in price. Some books are library discards while many have been donated. I’d say most of our books came from these sales over many years.
We joined the “Friends of the Library” for a minimum amount of dollars each year so we could attend their Friday night “Friend’s Only” sales. Christopher had his own money to spend and over time developed an excellent eye for great books. But even as a young child, buying his own books at the library sales gave him ownership (when he was very young, we quickly perused all books he chose before they were actually purchased).
My son and I also volunteered to work the sales, usually on the Mondays when they sold everything that was left for a dollar a bag. We even took our turn as sorters for a couple of years, sorting through books that were donated and boxing them for later book sales. Dad volunteered to help carry heavy boxes for the set up before sales.
2) At one time you could find excellent books at Goodwill and other thrift stores. It is still possible but all Goodwill stores and some thrift shops now scan their books when they have been donated and sell the better books online.
3) Garage sales and tag sales are still an excellent way to purchase books. As with all such sales, some owners will want a higher price than others. I’ve found wonderful books we have desired for our shelves for pennies on the dollar. I’ve also been quite happy to pay what a seller is asking when I know a book is worth the money.
4) Used bookstores can be bargains or they can be among the priciest places in town. They remind me of antique malls where some sellers want elite antique prices and others are selling “used stuff” and are very reasonable. There is one antique mall in our town where I know I can find old books at great prices once in awhile… and the occasional china tea cup for my collection.
5) One of the best ways in recent years I have been able to add to my home library is through Amazon.com’s Third Party sellers.
For instance, I collect books by Elizabeth Goudge and D. E. Stevenson and some of their hard-to-find titles are prohibitively expensive. But I purchased former library copies for just a few dollars plus shipping as these are unwanted by professional collectors. They are in good condition for my home library and to be honest, I love library discards. I imagine the many people who checked them out over the years. I was recently re-reading a Goudge book where the due dates were in the 1930s.
6) When my kids were younger and there was a book one of them really wanted but was more than our budget, it became a Birthday or Christmas request to those needing gift ideas. This was the way we received many of our beautifully illustrated classic books as well as boxed sets.
7) Many homeschool co-ops have their own book sales and these are great when you want to try out a new curriculum. Sales benefit fellow homeschool families.
8) Through the years I have given away and received many books to and from friends. This way of bartering books is the least expensive way to build a library and a way to bless others.
I still exchange books with friends, especially those paperback novels that would not find a permanent place on our shelves. Unless I find it absolutely amazing, which has happened.
9) At one time I received free books from publishers in exchange for a review on my blog and on Amazon. If you write a blog, you can contact various publishers and ask if they have a reviewer’s program. I stopped doing it a few years ago but it is an excellent way to receive books if you are willing to put in the time and effort.
10) Let it be known that you would love to look through any books friends are going to donate to Goodwill, library sales, and such before they give them away. It can be well worth sorting through these books and then taking them to drop off locations yourself. My husband prefers different fiction than I do and I’ve found many good novels for him this way.
My home library looks somewhat different than it once did. For instance, I read more good quality fiction now that my kids are grown and have homes of their own. There is more time available for the reading of great novels (okay, and a few light paperback stories to take me away from it all).
Although my old favorites are still on the shelves, collected over many years now. Some I still enjoy re-reading or giving a quick perusal. Other volumes make me happy just being on the shelf, knowing should I want to revisit them… they are waiting for me.
Sending our children along their path with… books.
One word of wisdom I found invaluable when we began seriously setting up a home library was to purchase books not only for the age the children are at the moment but to have on hand when they are older. Many of these books have left home with their owners already. Well, not all of them. I’ll explain about my son’s books in a moment.
I gave many books to my daughter, including her childhood favorites, my homemaking favorites, and my books about homeschooling. Over the years she and her husband have been married, they have established a home library which is better than mine. Although I love mine because it shows my taste, of course.
When they moved into the home they now live in, they converted the formal dining room into a library… added lots of shelves… and doors! It is now a library-office-music-homeschool planning room and it is lovely.
My son’s bookshelves contain many books about WWII, including a series of books by Churchill we purchased when he was still a little boy for a dollar apiece. There are volumes of classic literature, Shakespeare, theology (by well respected writers), science, etc…. many of which he hasn’t had opportunity to read since he jumped into a busy career upon graduation from college… but all purchased at little expense because he had already shown an interest in the subject throughout childhood.
I went through his bookshelves about a year ago and filled a couple bags of books for charity, knowing what he would no longer want (with his permission). But what remained is really good stuff… a great beginning for his own home library along with the books Mrs. Christopher brought with her.
His books are mostly still located in a bookshelf in his former room… now my study. I don’t mind them for they remind me of when he was still living at home. Although I have suggested more than a few times that he could take the larger computer related volumes to his office… sigh. Someday he and his wife will move into a house and his books will be moved. At least he took his sword collection (he was at one time really into fencing).
Which reminds me of our family motto, or at least one of them. When his then fiance was looking through all his books she told him there was no way they would have room for all of them. At which time he told her his mother’s favorite motto… “There is no such things as too many books, just too few bookcases”.
What are some of your favorite books?