The Minimalist Library: How many books do we need?

By Ray Arya •  Updated: 08/01/20 •  10 min read

*Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, so I may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.

My minimalist library

As a minimalist, I intentionally choose what comes into my house, including books.

To live more lightly, I got rid of all but my favorite volumes, selling and donating the others, or giving them to friends and family.

And since I switched to eBooks, I no longer buy physical books for myself.

My minimalist library now consists of around ten books and my beloved Kindle eBook-Reader.

Minimalism and books: What does a minimalist library look like anyway?

For me, it is a bunch of favorite volumes, most of them, books about minimalism and personal development, and a Kindle. But for you, it may be a collection of 50 or 100 volumes.

The answer is that it depends on what works for you.

I found it unnecessary to keep all my books. They took up a lot of space, and most of them remained unread. So I downsized my book collection.

There are many advantages to minimizing your library, and I will show you some simple ways to do so in a bit.

Can you have a library of books and still be considered a minimalist?

Yes, of course, you can! Minimalism is a mindset, not a club with strict rules you have to follow.

Minimalism is about reducing the things in life that don’t make you happy. If books add value to your life – keep them!

So if collecting books is your hobby, it would be ridiculous to pare them down just to label yourself a minimalist.

What are the best books about minimalism?

Amongst the volumes I didn‘t give away are mostly books about minimalism and self-development.

I get questioned a lot what books helped me simplify my life.

So here is my short list of best minimalist books that helped me most on my minimalist journey.

* If you want to purchase these books, you can choose between the physical book or the eBook by clicking on the links.

1. Everything That Remains
by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

This book is a powerful introduction to minimalism by The Minimalists themselves. After realizing that stuff no longer made them happy, Joshua and Ryan start their quest to a more meaningful life with less, giving them freedom and contentment they could have never imagined. Today they help millions of people to do the same. It was my first book about minimalism.

2. The More Of Less
by Joshua Becker

In his book, Joshua shows you the pathway to living more by owning less. He encourages you with practical suggestions and a step by step guide to minimize your possessions and distractions around you to optimize and maximize your life.

3. Soulful Simplicity
by Courtney Carver

Courtney’s approach to minimalism is second to none. In Soulful Simplicity, she shows you how to pursue practical minimalism to escape the everyday pressure of wanting more of everything. She aims to show you how to create more space and time with less.

4. Essentialism
by Greg McKeown

Essentialism is a new approach to thinking and doing everything differently. Greg shows you to do less, but more efficiently in every area of your life. A must-read for anyone who wants to make the best of your time and other resources.

5. The life-changing magic of tidying up
by Marie Kondo

This is a Number 1 New York Times best-seller about decluttering. Need help with decluttering your home? Famous Marie Kondo is your girl! Marie guides you on the way to a clutter-free home and life with her revolutionary KonMari Method.

The habit of collecting books

A few weeks ago, my mom asked me to downsize her library. I instantly said yes and was eager to pair down her collection of excess books.

I observed that most of them stood on her shelves forever, lacking her attention, getting dusty, and serving no purpose.

Little did I know that it would take me almost two days to go through the vast collection of books that have filled her library over the decades.

That led me to the idea of writing this article.


Because for the first time, I questioned our habit of collecting books.

Is it to impress others how well-read we are and what we have learned?

Are we emotionally bound with the stories books tell us? Or is it solely for decoration purposes to, again, impress others?

It looks different for everybody. But keeping minimalism in mind, intentionality should stand first.

Therefore, we should be paring down our collection to the point that makes sense for us.

Remember, we want less material possessions, not more.

Letting go of your excess books

For some, the hardest items to declutter are books.

But thinking of minimalism and buying or owning books, we also need to ask which books serve a purpose and deserve a place in our minimalist library and which have to go.

The advantages of downsizing our book collection are clear – less expenses, less dust, and more space.

Here are some simple tips for decreasing your library.

Donate or sell your books

There are lots of institutions and places you can donate your books to. Here are some examples:

And here is where you can get cash for your old books:

A big plus in selling or donating your books is that you recycle them by finding someone who wants, needs, and is going to reuse them. Way better than simply ditching them.

What do I do with my gifted books?

You can apply the same principle here as to your other gifted stuff. If the books do not add any value to your life and you most probably will not read them, it is ok to let them go.

You are not bound to keep presents forever, especially when they are useless to you.

People exchange or give away gifts all the time. Thus, it is unnecessary to feel guilty for saying goodbye to those items.

As for gift giving and gift receiving, you can always talk to people about your minimalist journey.

The easiest way of receiving the right books or any gifted items is to let them know what you really want or need.

Vice versa, if you want to give others the right gift, ask them beforehand what they would be happy to receive.

It may feel odd in the beginning, but you will get used to it, and you will reduce the chance of getting disappointed or disappointing others. It is a win for both parties, as you save time and resources for everyone.

Now that you have decided to minimize your bookshelves, it is time to find alternatives to how you still can get good reads without purchasing a physical book.

Visit to your local library

A great and economical option would be reading books in your local library while having a nice cup of coffee. But there is more to libraries than just paper books. Here are some incredible benefits:

Switch to digital books

Thanks to the digital era we’ve got more options to consume books nowadays. If you don’t mind holding a tablet in your hands instead of paper, then you switch to Kindle.

I was hesitant for ages to get one, but last year my wife got me one for my birthday.

Since then, I never felt the need to purchase a physical book. I enjoy the simplicity of a Kindle and that you can customize the size of the font and the brightness of the screen for maximum reading comfort.

A Kindle is minimalism for book lovers.

Advantages of an eBook-reader

You can try Kindle Unlimited 30 days for free here.

And not to forget the advantages while travelling or having a more mobile lifestyle like being a digital nomad, living in a van, or a tiny home.

You can always take your Kindle, aka minimalist library, with you and simultaneously save money, paper, and physical space.

Listen to audiobooks

A great alternative to reducing your book clutter is by switching to audiobooks.

This not only saves space but can also bring you more joy consuming the author’s message while comfortably listening to his or her voice.

I enjoy both, reading on my Kindle, and listening to audiobooks on Audible or Blinkist.

Get your Audible 30-day trial and 2 free audiobooks here.

Plus the advantage of not having to read enables us to listen while driving a car, training in the gym, or going for a walk.

And if you subscribe to Audible or Blinkist, you’ll always find great reads and audiobooks to choose from in their massive digital library.

Read online

You can read entire books online, for free and completely legally. All you need is a computer connected to the internet and the internet browser of your choice.

The great advantages of reading online means you won’t need any of these:

Here are the best 5 sites where you can read books online from the first page to the last page:

Final Thoughts

Getting rid of your favorite books is not a must to be considered a minimalist. If you are a book lover, keep them!

But as being intentional with other excess stuff you once owned, go through your home library, and maybe you’ll find some unused items worth giving away.

If you do want to downsize, there are a ton of simple options for reducing your books and finding ways to read new books you don’t want to miss.

For the avid readers amongst you who want to keep their library minimal, a Kindle eReader is a proper choice.

Especially combined with Kindle unlimited subscription makes reading a sustainable and fun experience.

For all those who are not keen reading yet, try audiobooks also available on Kindle Unlimited and Audible.

And for those who don’t have much time and need only the key messages of specific books, go for Blinkist.

Blinkist presents you the books core messages in the form of a 15-minute reading summary or as audio blinks.

Whatever you do, keep it simple and economical. We don’t need to impress anybody, nor do we need to hoard physical books to make us feel well-read or well-studied.

And thanks to the digital era, we are now all capable of keeping a minimalist library.

Ray Arya

Ray is a frugal minimalist who loves to travel and live in his self-converted camper van. He writes about the benefits of downsizing, decluttering, saving money, building wealth, and the freedom that results from the power of less. is for everyone who seeks a meaningful life and is committed to contentment.

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