You can tell a lot when seeing someone’s personal library.  Done right, it leaves an impression on you that tells you not just how learned this person is but it gives you some insights into their personality and preferences as well.

Still, oftentimes a personal library is, unfortunately, more for show than actual use. Simply having these powerful and inspirational books is not enough.  You have to build a personal library you’re going to use time and time again.  Here’s how:

Does the Volume of Books Matter?

Having a personal library of a dozen or so books isn’t really enough either. Even if you have them memorized from front to back.  You need to have specific choices on four main categories health, wealth, love and happiness. This way you can integrate these books teachings into your own knowledge and experience.

There is no “right number” when it comes to the volume of books in your personal library.  But start with 150.

Why 150?  The number comes from anthropologist Robin Dunbar who believes the evolutionary structure of social networks limits us to 150 meaningful relationships at a time. So think of books as friends that guide you through life. Can you have more or less? Absolutely, but to me, this number is a good, solid basis for building a personal library that you can continue to learn from.

Just Having the Books is Not Enough

Building a personal library isn’t just about bragging rights for having “the most” books. You also have to read them over and over again.  Not just in the span of a few weeks or months or any other predetermined time-frame.

But you’ll notice over time, as you re-read the books in your library, new insights and discoveries will pop out at you. Things you may have skimmed over the first time, or areas that you didn’t feel applied to your situation will suddenly become hyper-relevant. And it will continue to work like that as you grow and continue to build your library.


Divide these 150 books into four different categories

30-40 books on wealth: earning it, keeping it, building it, sharing it.
30-40 books on happiness: self-improvement, hobbies, goals, productivity and character traits like courage, honesty and so on.
30-40 books on social relationships: not just teamwork, but love and friendship as well
30-40 books on health:  keeping your mind and body in top shape at all times


The insights will come to you time and time again throughout your life.

Case in point Amazon founder Jeff Bezos carried around a tattered copy of Sam Walton (founder of Walmart)’s book Made in America.  And Bezos would jot down notes and ideas in a little notepad as he read and re-read this book to the point where they became instinctual.
How much better would every aspect of your life be if you incorporated the teachings of some of the happiest, richest, healthiest and most caring people in the world into your own life?

Don’t Just Read Your Books Once and Put Them Down (And Never Pick Them Up Again)

Come back to books

Building a personal library means being able to come back to your books again and again, and glean even more from them than you did the first time you read them.  Because as you grow in life and experience new things and meet new people, you’ll come back to your personal library, pick up a book, and discover even more ways to apply its teachings and advice to your current situation.

Don’t just read these books to become book-smart.  Read them so that their teachings become a part of you.  The fact is, there are going to be times in your life where you have to make swift judgments and decisions.  And you won’t have time to go and pore over your books and find the perfect piece of information that precisely reflects the situation you’re in.

But when you read, re-read and really let that information sink in and practice it until it becomes second nature, you’ll find that the snap judgments and decisions you make may seem quick and potentially full of regret, but the truth is that they’re rooted in solid, honest facts and findings.  You’ve just incorporated them into your life to the point where they become a part of you.

Continue to Build off of What You’ve Learned

Even after you’ve slowly and steadily built up your collection of books, and even after you find yourself referring to them again and again and continuing to learn from them, you’ll still be doing yourself the disservice of “boxing yourself in” as far as knowledge, strategy, and expertise. So don’t just stop after you’ve reached a certain number of books -- keep learning and growing.


The fact is, building a personal library is a lifelong process. But even with that being said, it’s never too late to start. By working smarter and not harder, you’ll be able to “upgrade” so many areas of your life to become happier, wealthier and healthier than you ever thought possible and it can all start with a single book.