How To Make A Personal Library

An anecdotal manual.

STEP ONE: The Room

You decide the Room will be a guest room/study/library hybrid.

You decide this just before quarantines begin, so it was quite prescient of you.

Bask in the luxury of space after the muzh’s bachelor pad in a far trendier area.

Consider Anne Franking the closet.

Research bookshelves with swinging doors.

Abandon project.

We live in America.

(So what?)

We’re safe.

(For now.)

STEP TWO: The Bookshelves

You didn’t think it would be this difficult to find bookshelves.

Apparently, there are not many places to find bookshelves.

Try Home Depot, Office Depot, the Container Store, and places going out of business.

End up at IKEA despite your efforts.

Bring a former Soviet.

Walk around IKEA. Furrow your brow as you read about your options.

Watch your former Soviet knock on the BILLY’s sides and determine it is weak and insubstantial.

(Everyone you know uses the BILLY.

This fact changes nothing.)

Keep walking around IKEA until you become delirious.

But try not to despair, because around the corner, waiting in a mock setup, is salvation:


This shelf withstands former Soviet inquiry. The shelf, fittingly, is made in Russia.

You place the order.

STEP THREE: Building

Via action, rational understanding dawns upon you regarding how long it takes to build an IKEA bookshelf.

Pay two handymen brothers to build the bookshelves.

STEP FOUR: The Books

Assemble your books.

Marvel at all the space you have to acquire more books.

Realize you have much less space than previously anticipated when your parents unceremoniously dump all of your childhood belongings on your doorstep.

Marvel at your beautiful library, curated over years and years of book loving.

STEP FIVE: Organizing

Decide to organize your books by size, since aesthetics have been on your mind.

Finish organizing by size.

Realize this is a terrible organizational system.

Try to redo it without redoing very much of it.

Balk when the muzh suggests that your section be designated as simply “Literature.”

As in: singular.

As in: no subgenres.


Try to make your library look like a modern version of the ertswhile Adventurer’s Club in Downtown Disney.

Source props that fit this aesthetic.

Such as:

  • The life chest your father gifted you when you were 12 that’s filled with the weird shit you collected over the years, including a bunch of playbills, hundreds of movie ticket stubs, expired passports, dried corsages, old cameras, three graduation tassels and a lock of your own teenage hair.

  • A bust of Artemis from the super-religious charity warehouse where you used to volunteer (mostly so you could talk to the lovely ladies who laughed at all your jokes) that you took off their hands because they literally had no idea what to do with it.

  • A photograph of your grandfather’s family, who were killed in the Holocaust, including the woman for whom you’re named. Be filled with wonder anew that you somehow have the original photograph. (You learned from your father, you suppose, how to preserve the things that are most important.)

  • A vinyl Beatles record from your mother’s collection, acquired when you helped clean out her childhood home.

  • The Oxford English Dictionary, a gift from your parents for your Bat Mitzvah that is finally where it belongs.

  • A full set of Gemara, a gift from your parents to the muzh on the occasion of your wedding.

  • The humble beginnings of your book collection, so that one day your Writer’s Estate will have something impressively writerly to offer.

  • The even humbler beginnings of your own printed memorabilia shelf, so that your Writer’s Estate will also have something original to offer.

  • A streetlamp because you insisted.

  • Two statuettes from your days as a college radio DJ.

  • A LEGO Ship in a Bottle.

  • And a bed, which you fully intended to style to look like a couch, but lost steam after buying a headboard-pillow hybrid that is nonetheless very cozy on sunny afternoons.


Watch the tiny librarian who now runs your household periodically stop by to pull books off the lowest shelves. Be grateful that the tiny librarian is more interested in the muzh’s chess set than your hardcovers.