Confessions of a Book Hoarder

“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?

  • Both my husband and I had a book collecting habit. Shelves and shelves of them. But then we moved and moved and moved again. And then moved. Boxes of books are heavy. Before moving to Montana I packed boxes and boxes of books into the car and took them to the library. It’s rare that we reread books (Pride and Prejudice is my one exception. That is read at least every twelve months.) so I was surprised to learn that we hardly noticed the books being gone. And now I have a purer love for the ones I kept.

    It helps that our new house is SMALL so there’s no room for bookshelves. Once I would have thought that was a reason not to buy the house, but it turns out to be ok.

    And it helps that the nearest Barnes & Noble is 4 hours away. Amazon is still a bit of a danger, though.

    I like your list of rules. They seem doable. Are you going to let us know if you break them?

    (Raven King is on hold for me at the library – no spoilers.)

    • joeyharpel

      I suppose I’ll have to let you know when I break the rules, so you can shame me. I’m close to doing it now, since B&N keeps sending me coupons and it’s just so…hard…to…ignore… Send help.

      You read Pride and Prejudice every year? Wow. I read that for the first time last year. It was fantastic, but I’m not sure if it’s one that I can read over and over again. Her style hurts my brain. I’m too used to simpler writing.

      I’m halfway through rereading Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Raven King is next. I will not say a thing about it until you’ve read it. 🙂

      • I’m not a huge fan of other old books like that one. I’m not even a huge fan of other Jane Austen books, although some I like. I think I’ve read P&P so many times that the language is easy and familiar now.

        BTW – no button for me to click to receive notifications if you reply back.

        I’ll let you know as soon as I get Raven King. I feel like whatever ending she writes may need to be exclaimed over.

  • I will shame you if you fail. But just a little, because you’re right, a book addiction is a pretty good kind of addiction. And if we’re all going to be addicted to SOMETHING, stories seems like a good choice.

    • So I bought five books yesterday…
      Because I have a B&N credit card and they send me gift cards for spending an abhorrent amount of money…

      Not going to lie, it felt amazing.

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