“I’ve gone 16 days without purchasing a book,” I say in the solemn voice of a recovering addict. It’s a hollow, numb feeling. But each day it becomes more tolerable. Until a moment of weakness hits me after a bad day and I just have to browse the Barnes and Noble website.
Since I started having a steady income two years ago, I’ve spent about $100-$150 a month on books. I’ll have one or two packages arriving a week, some with multiple books. Around Black Friday and Christmas, that number doubles. Triples.
I get a lot of unwarranted flak for my book buying from friends and family. I mean, it’s not as though I’m spending my money on drugs and strippers. I earn that damn money. I pay my bills. I provide food for my puppy.
Besides, books are food for the mind. And if I believed in a soul, that too.
However, I’ve come to realize that I sometimes enjoy purchasing books more than I enjoy actually reading them. I love browsing the bookstore, love the torture of waiting in the mail for them. Ripping open the package. Checking to see if the book is harmed (screaming in rage if it is…then becoming giddy because I have an excuse to go to the bookstore and return it). Fondling it. Then finding room on my bookshelves.
But about five seconds later, my loving gaze turns flat, and I’m back to being unhappy. So obviously I have other issues, but until I can get those figured out, I need to slow down my shopping.
No easy feat.
I keep an excel spreadsheet of all my books. It’s very simple: author, title, format, whether it’s signed, whether it’s read. More recently, I’ve started marking which books I would leave in a guest room if I had one.
Believe me, you don’t want to write a guest room book. It’s only a step above a donation book.
Current stats: I own 823 books. I’ve only read 475. That’s 348 books sitting on my shelves unread. My goal is to have read about 90% of the books I own. Currently I’m at 57%.
I’ve decided to give myself rules:
- I cannot buy a book of fiction until I’ve read ten books that I already own.
- I cannot buy a book in a new series until I’ve finished five series that I already started.
- I cannot buy a nonfiction book (that I only buy used) until I’ve read one that I already own.
Exceptions (because addicts always make excuses):
- If there’s a book signing I want to attend. Usually I have to buy a book in order to get into the signing line. Which is totally cool with me since I’m supporting a local business.
- If a book in a series that I’ve been waiting FOREVER for comes out. The Raven King anyone?
- If Barnes and Noble sends me a 20% off coupon, and I need to purchase another book in a series I’ve already started.
Since my five bookshelves are rapidly losing space and I don’t have enough room to buy more shelves (also an addiction), I’ve decided to get rid of books when I can. This is huge for me because I always thought I’d collect every book I could regardless if I liked them. But really, it’s not practical. My home will never have the space. And it’s not fair to that book because there is someone else out there who will actually enjoy it.
I ask myself, would I read this book again? Yes, it stays. No…well, why? Was it horribly dull? Or is it just something that needs only to be read once? I don’t plan on reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or The Handmaid’s Tale again, but I think they are both important, thought-provoking reads. On the other hand, Ryu Murakami’s Coin Locker Babies is a rage-inducing book that needs to be burned.
The books I decide to get rid of go to Little Free Libraries around the neighborhood. I don’t believe in selling to places like Half Priced Books, especially after they gave me three dollars for about fifty of my children’s books (I was young and dumb and I don’t want to talk about it.)
“Book collecting is an obsession, an occupation, a disease, an addiction, a fascination, an absurdity, a fate. It is not a hobby.” – Jeanette Winterson
How do you curb your book buying habits?