“A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library.” – Shelby Foote

Jim Rohn says “most large, exquisite homes have a library.  Does that tell you something?”

There’s a reason these homes have libraries. The books in that library are one of the reasons they are where they are today.  Of course, you don’t need an expensive house to have a library.  A bookshelf in your bedroom or an empty closet works just fine.

If you’re short on space, go through your books and get rid of the junk first.  Make room.

Jim Rohn gives guidelines in his books and seminars for what he believes should be in a basic home library.

Here’s Rohn’s advice, plus more on starting your home library.

It’s Not What You Think

We tend to picture a library as an elaborate room with 15 foot ceilings, crown molding and rolling ladders to access the books on the highest shelves.  I know I do.  But that’s not the only kind of library.

You probably already have a small library somewhere in your home.  My library is a four-foot bookshelf in my office.

The important thing is to make room for the books that matter.  It’s easy to say you don’t have enough room for anymore books, but the problem may be the books you have.  Think in terms of treasures.  Which books do you truly want to keep?

50 time-tested masterpieces makes a better library than 500 books that you only bought because they were on sale.

What You Should Fill Your Library With

Jim Rohn gives a lot of advice in his books and lectures about creating your home library.  These are the basic types of books, or categories, he suggests to include:

  • Accounting
  • Biographies
  • Culture
  • Economics
  • Health
  • History
  • Law

Jim Rohn suggests balancing books like biographies with lives of example and lives of warning.  The good and the evil.  You’ve got have the biography of Gandhi and Hitler.  He also says “don’t just read the easy stuff” — challenge yourself with more difficult works of fiction and non-fiction.

You don’t have to be an expert in all of these fields.  A basic knowledge of accounting and law is sufficient, but you do need to know how to read financial statements and legal contracts.  You get the idea.

Foundational Books in Your Library

Don’t get caught up on having to buy the expensive hardback versions of everything.  Hardback is great, but paperback is fine too.  And don’t think you need to go buy the pristine new versions; used book stores are the best place to start building your library.

Get on Amazon and find some good new and used books.  The free-shipping minimum is only $25 for book orders.

Now it’s time to talk about what you should buy.  What to start with.

Here are some of the specific books Jim Rohn suggests to start your library:

  • Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill – Most students of finance know that this is a must-read for anyone who is interested in making more money.  It’s a mindset/paradigm-shift type of book.
  • The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason – This short read is packed with useful information that has passed the test of time.  With its brevity, it’s easy to read multiple times over.
  • The Lessons of History by Will Durant – A very short read that encompasses more history lessons that I thought possible within 100 pages.  If you own one history book, own this one.
  • The Story of Philosophy by Will Durrant – Not a short read, but it’s a very detailed and entertaining look into all of the great philosophers.  A great introduction to philosophy.
  • How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler – The title always makes people laugh, but don’t.  It was one of the first non-fiction books I ever read, and it has helped me to productively read ever since.
  • How to Speak How to Listen by Mortimer Adler – Adler explains effective communication skills in business and your personal life.  From sales calls to public speaking, he covers it all.
  • The Encyclopedia Britannica – Wikipedia is great and all, but this is better.  If you’re working with a small area for your library, put a hold on this.  You don’t want it to be your entire library.
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – One of the most famous novels of all time.  The story of a man who said he would stop the motor of the world — and did.  Vital to your fiction collection.
  • The Holy Bible – Heard of it?  People of all walks have found this to be a useful work of history.  There are more important history lessons in the Bible than in any other book.

If you just want to get the information from these books, since they’re so old, most of them can be found in audio on YouTube or in PDF around the web, but I highly suggest actually purchasing these books to start your physical library.  Especially if you buy the paperback, these books are cheap.  Most of them are under $10.

Here are a few additions that I would add to this list:

Continue to add valuable books to your library.  Choose some books off our Top Personal Finance Book List and our Top Productivity Book List.  For more ideas on fiction works, read Random House’s list of the 100 Best Novels.

3 Reasons to Actually Create Your Library

If you’re not excited about doing this yet, or if you don’t see the need in having an actual physical library, I’ll leave you with a few reasons that will hopefully change your mind:

  1. This is one of the greatest treasures you can pass down to your kids when you leave your legacy.  Imagine getting all of the books, with all the notes, highlighting, and underlining of your parents.  That’s a prized possession.  Make sure to eliminate all the junk and only pass down a library worth reading.
  2. The knowledge is always at your fingertips.  The internet is great, and we have never had more knowledge within so few clicks, but books are different.  There’s a reasons authors don’t publish all of their books for free on the internet.  All of the value of a library, being right in front of you, is just different.
  3. It’s one of the few things we still physically own.  Everything has transitioned to an app.  We have more on our phones than people had in their entire house 100 years ago.  I do it too.  I love the ease of using apps and technology, but a physical library keeps us in our place.  It may be the only physical thing in your house, but it’s worth physically owning.

I hope I’ve inspired you to start working on your library.  Don’t worry about completing it.  A good library is never complete, but rather, always growing — always getting more valuable.

Do you have a library in your home?  Do you plan to keep growing it?  Share below!