The Knowledge Keepers Page (and my new online bookstore) originated with my recent post on preserving the good, old books for posterity. I wrote about how we are losing our foundation of knowledge, and with it, the story of western civilization. You can read it here.
The main point of Knowledge Keepers and of my original post is that the preservation of human history must happen with you and me, and it must be in physical books.
Need more encouragement to build your own library?
- Why You Should Surround Yourself With More Books Than You’ll Ever Have Time to Read
- A Third of Teens Haven’t Read a Single Book in the Past Year
- The Importance of Myths and Fairy Tales for Children
This page is dedicated to the nitty-gritty of building your own home library by collecting the best books.
How to find the good books
Let’s start with the easy part: how to find the good old books. Some of the really good stuff is still in print, but in most cases, you will need to search out piles of used books. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or a sad thing, but it’s easy to find stacks of used books in many places, no matter where you live.
Knowledge Keepers Online Store: [COMING APRIL 2019!] I’ve created an online store just for the purpose of helping you stock your home library with the important books of western civilization! My store inventory is a blend of books I’ve scoured and stocked, and will ship straight to you, as well as links to some books I don’t personally carry but that I highly recommend.
Yard sales: Start here because this is where you’ll find some gems for nickels and dimes. Some yard sales have no books, and some have a ton. Estate sales are the best. Look at every title, especially the old, dusty hardbacks.
Thrift stores: Check out the thrift stores in your town. My local shop charges .10 for paperbacks, and up to $1 for hardbacks. I have found some really great stuff by digging through those unorganized bins.
Library book sales: These are typically held as fundraisers for your local library. They consist of books removed from the library (gasp!) as well as donations from local citizens. Library book sales are my absolute favorite way to build our family’s library. I have found complete sets of history books, old hardback classics, and first edition classics this way. You can start your search here.
Used book stores: This is where you’ll find some good stuff, but you’ll probably pay the most, too. That’s okay. Used bookstore prices are still very affordable, and well worth the preservation of information.
Online: Amazon has connections to many online used book sellers. When you search for a book on Amazon, just look at “other formats” or “also available from other sellers” and you’ll see heavily discounted prices for used copies. Abebooks.com and ThriftBooks.com are two very popular online sellers, as well. And with a quick web search you’ll find plenty more.
—RELATED: 20 Ways to Get Free or Cheap Books—
Now, don’t panic and think you have to build a library of 2,000 books this weekend. This is a gradual process. We’ve built ours over the past 10 years, but when we got deliberate, it really started happening over the past 4-5 years. We have some built-in shelves, some ready-made shelves we bought, some books are in a china hutch, and some are stacked in places around the house. We can upgrade and update the look of our library as we go, but salvaging the good books we find is the important thing.
What to look for
A general rule is “the older the better.” Why? Because the history revision process has been a slow but steady one over the 20th and 21st centuries. Check the publishing date. If you find something before 1900, grab it. It’s golden.
Look for historic fiction, classic literature, journals, specific history topics, autobiographies, and even older children’s books.
When a topic, any topic, comes to mind, consider searching out books on that topic. Seek out journals or diaries or the compilations of letters of people who took part in an event or lived in that time of history; look up the rulers of the given country; research the major players; find autobiographies from that time; research any important documents that are related; FIND THE ACTUAL FACTS.
See if there are good historical fiction books based on your topic, and find children’s books that treat it accurately. Are there photographic “coffee-table” books about it? What about newspaper articles from the time?
If your topic is an ancient one, see if you can find “chronicles” from that time. Many ancient histories where chronicled by the monks or bishops of their day (like the Anglo Saxon Chronicle). Get a copy of the chronicles for a play-by-play of history as it happened.
Old dictionaries and school texts are also valuable. As new slang is invented and added to our language (and GASP! even our dictionaries) older words are removed. Old school texts are like old documents and should preserved as such.
There’s no possible way to catalog every great book that’s ever been written, so I will only promise you that on this page I’ll keep an up to date list of other book lists, great authors, topical lists, and sets you’ll want to look for. This page will continue to be updated whenever I find a new gem!
Lists from around the web
- Best War and History Books of All Time by the Telegraph
- A Recommended Reading List — from C.S. Lewis at Intellectual Takeout
- The History Lover’s Gift Guide by Nicki Truesdell
- Top 100 Books in World Literature at The Greatest Books
- The Greatest Books (of all time) at The Greatest Books
- Finest Works of Fiction at The Greatest Books
- The Well Educated Mind List at A Great Book Study
- Penguin Classic’s List of Books to Read Before You Die
- Ultimate List of Living Books for Elementary Age
- Classics Reading Lists by Grade Level
- 100 Best History Books of All Time at Listmuse
- 100 Greatest Non-Fiction Books of all Time at The Guardian
- 99 Classic Books Challenge at List Challenges
- The Great American Read 100 by PBS
- The 10 Ancient Classics that Every Student Should Read at The Independent
Do you wish you could read every new book you’re adding to your library? Hey, me too! But there are not enough hours in a day, so I also download many of my hard copy titles on Audible and listen. Join Audible today and get your first TWO books free.
Journals and First-Hand Accounts
- Anglo Saxon Chronicle
- Ecclesiastical History of the English People by Bede
- The Four Voyages: Being His Own Log-Book, Letters and Dispatches with Connecting Narratives by Christopher Columbus, J. M. Cohen
- Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford
- Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth by Anonymous, Dwight Heath
- The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: with Related Documents by Mary Rowlandson, Neal Salisbury
- Thirty One Years on the Plains and in the Mountains
- Life of Black Hawk, or Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak: Dictated by Himself by Black Hawk
- Letters From an American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth Century America by J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur
- A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
- George Washington, Writings
- Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
- Private Papers of William Wilberforce by A. M. Wilberforce
- The Journals of Lewis and Clark
- The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca by Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca, Rolena Adorno
- Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
- King of the Wild Frontier: An Autobiography by Davy Crockett
- A Tour on the Prairies by Washington Irving
- Phillis Wheatley: Complete Writings
- I Rode With Stonewall: Henry Kidd Douglas
- Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass
- Infantryman Pettit: The Civil War Letters of Corporal Frederick Pettit
- The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
- Mary Chesnut’s Civil War by Mary Chesnut, C. Vann Woodward
- All for the Union: The Civil War Diary & Letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes by Elisha Hunt Rhodes, Robert Hunt Rhodes
- Last of the Desert Frontiersmen by Jack Longstreet
- Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey
- Mollie: The Journal of Mollie Dorsey Sanford in Nebraska and Colorado Territories 1857-1866
- Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier by Joanna L. Stratton
- Ranch on the Ruidoso: The Story of a Pioneer Family in New Mexico, 1871-1968
- My Friend Doc Holliday by Wyatt Earp
- Grace McBride: Missionary Nurse by Lila Watson
- All in a Lifetime by Frank Buck
- The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi
- Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
- Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
- The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien by J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien
- Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
- The Diary of Anne Frank
- God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew
- The Bible
- The Histories by Herodotus
- The Annals: The Reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero
- The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbons
- The History of the English Speaking People by Winston Churchill
- Outline of History by H.G. Wells
- The White Horse King by Benjamin Merkle
- The Utopia of Sir Thomas Moore
- The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
- The Crisis by Thomas Paine
- The Federalist Papers
- This list of the Best Writers of All Time is a really great place to start.
- Six Great Children’s Authors for History by Nicki Truesdell