Here's how to create a personal library for women over 40.

Hold on to those hardbacks! Create a personal library of real books and leave a legacy of precious reads. How to curate and organize your collection.

Create a personal library and share your story with the next generation.
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Create a Personal Library

When you think about a library, what comes to mind? A cranky, old lady telling you to “shush”, marble columns, or overdue fines?

Most of us have experienced some or all of these kinds of libraries. But you may not have thought of creating a cozy library in a corner of your own home.

No need to be a librarian when you create a personal library.
No need to be a librarian.

There are many compelling reasons to create a personal library, especially for Women Over 40. After all, we’ve reached an age that’s earned us special bragging rights.

Print this Self-Care Checklist for even more great ideas.

We can look back to authors and stories that shaped our past. But we also stand at a crossroad of a new generation to come. If we’re not grandmothers already, most of us soon will be. Who else will take the time to track our literary journey?

Empty Nest Moms have a special opportunity. Now that the kids are gone, we’re faced with downsizing all those books and papers that cluttered storage for so many years.

Use these tips as inspiration and rethink your approach to culling your family book collection.

The Importance of Paper

My son stood in the doorway crunching an apple as I agonized over his childhood favorites. I was attempting to sort through and store all the read-alouds, pull the flaps, and activity books. Each held a cherished memory. How could I part with even one?

He scornfully commented, “No one will use paper books by the time I have kids.” Exactly.

Readers of print books absorb and remember more of the plot than readers of e-books do, according to a study that was presented in Italy in 2014.

Mental Floss

I have a long-held theory that our kids’ generation will grow to crave the sensory experience of turning a page as much as they now long to hold the latest iPhone.

Maybe I’m wrong, and those plastic storage boxes were a big waste of money. But I can envision my grandchildren on my lap, reading the same books their parents treasured-before they were oh so smart.

Where You’ve Been

Start creating a personal library by thinking through your past. Were there special stories your parents read to you? Novels that represent your childhood geography, culture, or family dynamic?

Athough they are no longer considered PC, the Brer Rabbit tales of Uncle Remus were the only stories I remember my father reading. When I stumbled onto a copy at a used book store, I snapped it up.

My children marveled at the “vintage” ink drawings and depictions they’d never seen illustrated. Not only did reading these stories form a bridge to my past, they started a valuable discussion on values and class roles.

Real books even have a smell that evokes memories.
Studies show the smell of paper books evokes memories.

Maybe your family collected Golden Books, Dr. Seuss stories, or Bible story books. If the only copy has been lost or claimed by a sibling, consider hunting for a replacement as you create a personal library.

My husband has special memories of the Tarzan stories, along with Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee holds a special place in my heart. Scout is the book’s heroine and voice, a tomboy raised in Southern culture. She shares those qualities with my mother. That, along with the little known fact that Mom had a crush on Gregory Peck, who plays Scout’s father in the famous movie, makes me love the story more.

 I have multiple editions of certain titles so I can give them away. But I do try to do a big cull every few years.

Hanya Yanagihara

Which tales bring back memories of your family’s early years? For a long season, my son looped us into Lemony Snicket’s clever Series of Unfortunate Events.

My daughter, our history buff, couldn’t stop talking about Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio by Peg Kehret. She detailed the painful early treatments so many children in our country endured.

Where You’re Going

As much as we’d like to rest on the laurels of our past, life doesn’t work that way. Besides, this stage of parenting is about letting go of past roles and making room for new interests.

What better way to invest in yourself than to discover a new reading passion. Although it’s risky to sign up for a class or make a public appearance, reading a book’s not so scary.

Have you always wanted to learn to:

  • Fly an airplane
  • Breed and raise show dogs
  • Become a taxidermist

Books are a low-commitment way to try your interest on for size. (Maybe the taxidermy thing will pass…)

I am that reader who will buy another copy of something I own but cannot find. When my last child leaves for college, I’ll straighten out my books. Maybe.”

Allegra Goodman

Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea is like a pep talk from a fearless friend. Lindbergh’s description of the stages in a woman’s life hit me uniquely each time I read it.

If you’ve never had the delight of belonging to a book club, consider starting one. Just looking at these special book titles brings back memories of laughter and deep conversations surrounding each title.

I was lucky enough to be invited to join an incredible group of ladies who met on the playground of our kids’ elementary school. We gathered one Sunday evening each month to discover a new title and share life together.

How to Start

Whether you’re a long-time book lover or new to book collecting, break this project into little steps. Books occupy space and the process of organizing them can quickly become overwhelming.

scientists who have analyzed the chemical composition of old books found that the pages contain hints of vanilla (from lignin, a similar-smelling component in paper) as well as grassy notes. 

Mental Floss

There is no “right” way to categorize your collection. Of course, the Dewey Decimal System is near and dear to every librarian’s heart. But when you create a personal library you have permission to arrange your volumes however makes sense to you.

Categorize your personal library by color, size or any way you like.
Categorize by color, theme, or any way you like.

Take some time to think about your preferences and allow yourself freedom to change your mind. Here are some options:

  • Color
  • Date read
  • Life stage
  • Topic

If you want to impress your young adult kids, use technology to help get organized. This article by Alyson Mansfield gives step-by-step instructions on how to scan and categorize your books using the Goodreads App.

Now it’s your turn to share your favorite titles! What were family favorites, and what are you loving now?

Need even more great ideas? Print this beautifully formatted Self-Care Checklist right away.

Create a personal library and share your story with the next generation.
Over 40 women need to create a personal library that tells their story.
Create a personal library that tells your life journey with these tips.