Thoughts on building a library

I’ve always loved to read as a child but what I read depended mostly on the books I got as birthday presents. As an adult I occasionally bought some books at book stores at train stations. But I never had a strategy how to build a library.

Why do I need a library?

Knowledge is power! Books are the easiest way to gain profit from other people’s experience. You can see books as mentors which tell you valuable life lessons. For example the Game book “I will teach you to be rich” got me started with thinking about personal finance.

What do you need to build a library?

A shelf and your first book!

For starters you can buy an IKEA billy or even a Gersby for way below 50€.

As an entry into a topic you can buy introductory books, e.g. a Science Fiction Almanach which contains stories from different authors.
From there you can dive deeper into subtopics or subgenres or buy more from authors You like.

But books are to expensive!

Buy them used! The great thing about amazon market place is to be able to buy used books. For example I purchased the biography of Ozzy osbourne for a ridiculously cheap 1€ (+3€ shipping)

Remaindered books are a great way to quickly build up your library. You often find them in a supermarket near by. It is a bit like gold digging because those boxes contain a lot of girl porn books (those books where longhaired princes riding on unicorns save the damsel in distress) but the search for the nuggets is worth it. I found my first Dan Simmons book “Terror” that way.

And what shall I read?

I would recommend starting with three categories:

  • Biographies
  • Fictional books
  • Specialist books from your field of work

Non-fictional books are harder to read and you should of course try to apply the lessons to your situation so you will be slower as well.

Which Biographies shall I read?

Learn from the great! For techies: You can start with a biography of Isaac Newton, Kepler or Galileo and work your way to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. (again: Highly opinionated!)

For musicians: read Slash, Ozzy, Rudolf Schenker, Gene Simmons, Motley Crue, and so on.

Other great biographies I read over the last years:

  • Total Recall – Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Losing my Virginity – Richard Branson
  • Mick Jagger Biographie

Do you have any tips for fictional books?

Some of my favorite authors are:

  • Ken Follett
  • Dan Simmons
  • Paulho Coelho
  • Martin Suter

How do I chose from specialist books from my field of work?

Again, read some books about broader topics and narrow down. For programmers, start with

  • Pragmatic Programmer
  • Clean Code
  • Passionate Programmer

Read the classics

  • Extreme Programming
  • Design Patterns
  • Refactoring

Read books from the “Head First” series, because they are really great especially for beginners.

If you are interested in management and leadership read some Peter Drucker. for self-improvement read Marshall Goldsmith, Stephen Corvey, Dale Carnegie.

How shall I read a non-fictional book to get the most out of it?

I’ve tried different things: Writing notes on paper, writing directly into my pc text editor. But when I read I want to be as comfortable as possible, so in the end the only tool I use is a text marker pen to highlight important passages.

Shall I re-read my books?

Yes, you definitely should! Books are like friends, you can visit them over and over again. While fictional books often have a plot twist which you will still remember when you re-read, non-fictional books are often worth a second read especially when they are full of wisdom.



2 Replies to “Thoughts on building a library”

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