Saturday, March 12, 2011

Breaking the habit?

The Stacks
Let's be proud for a moment: I haven't purchased any books since late November. Folks, I think this is a record. I decided to cut back on the book-buying in December when I found myself staring at far too many books I'd bought over the last few years that have languished on my shelves without a care in the world. I have reached the "to-be-read stacks" breaking point. About time.

Here's the thing: most new books that get hyped and sell well have short-term success. I don't mean that they're bad books, nor do I mean that they aren't successful. Most, though, just aren't worthy of particular mention a few years down the line. By stocking up on current hits, I'm not allowing time to tell me just how "eternal" and "classic" these books really are.

The "oldies"
This doesn't mean one shouldn't acquire any new, contemporary books. I still want to read the newbies... I just don't want to forget the oldies while I'm at it. I don't understand how one can hoard books to a point where they own multiple books by an author without having read anything by said author. I own several unread books by favorite authors (or classics I know I'll eventually force myself to read, regardless my opinion of the author...) but they're authors I've already realized I like and will want to keep coming back to no matter what.

I have always managed to keep my stacks under triple digits, but of late I've been straying dangerously close (and am way over if eBooks count... which they don't!). I didn't buy all of the books for no reason - continuously hoarding will only mean that at some point I'll entirely forsake books that I truly wanted to read. So now I visit books that have long been on the shelves - I'm currently reading The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years by Chingiz Aitmatov and am finding that it's actually rather good (and not at all what I expected). I finally got around to reading Solzhenitsyn and completing anything by Thomas Mann. I'm making headway in the stacks (with a few library stops along the way) and the conclusion is simple: while new books may be flashy, I have plenty at home to keep me busy for a while. No reason to go book buying within the next two years.

Okay. Maybe more like two months. But for now, I'm doing okay.


  1. I struggle with my TBR pile as well. I think now that I'm back in school, I've been much better about acquiring new books, but I still get the itch sometimes and have managed to get new ones, anyway. I think I've done pretty well with reading off my shelves for the most part for the past several months, though, and have really enjoyed the books I already have. Hopefully that's a trend that will continue :-)

  2. Your post really made me think about my book-buying habits. I've tried to impose book-buying bans on myself, but they haven't worked so far. I guess, like you, I shouldn't think about the books I want to buy, and concentrate on the amazing books just waiting for me in my TBR pile instead. :)

  3. Ah! I am envious of you. I seem incapable of entering a bookstore without purchasing at least something (most often when I find a bargain on an author or book I've had my eye on for ages). I also collect books when I visit my parents, always borrowing something new. That said, though, I have been making a concerted effort to read more books I already own and/or have been wanting to read for ages and keep passing up for new titles. It's hard!

  4. Congratulations on your book buying control. I'm afraid I don't have any. I am one of those people who buy multiple books from an author I haven't yet tried. In my defence I only get them from charity shops, so they are cheap and the money goes to a good cause. I do need to work on reducing my TBR pile though. Hopefully one day I'll manage to bring it under control.

  5. I have over 300 books on my TBR shelves at this point. I sometimes feel bad about this, but then I think, why? I've had fun collecting them, I enjoy supporting bookstores, I'll get to them some day, and even if I don't -- no big deal! I don't get over a little, tiny bit of anxiety about the shelves anyway, but mostly it's worth it for the fun of collecting books.

  6. Greetings from an occasional lurker here, Biblibio! Am always amazed/impressed when I hear of book lovers depriving themselves of new purchases for months on end, but your rationale for catching up on your TBR makes total sense. Just not a road I can take for more than a month at a time myself (that's my record for the last several years and has only been accomplished once if I'm not mistaken). Anyway, thanks for shaming me, I guess!

  7. Aarti - I think we all get the itch. For me, it's just a matter of how long I can hold out without a "fix".

    Darlyn - Oh, I reached this breaking point after months and months of debate and pain and failed book-buying bans. But even while it gets harder, it also gets easier as I realize just how many awesome books I already have...

    Kerry - I've just learned that even if there's a sale now, two months from now there'll be a better sale for that exact same book once the stores realize they didn't sell all the copies they hoped to. I'm just riding on a wave of relatively tame sales.

    Jackie - I guess a lot of it depends on general book-buying habits. Control in book-buying isn't necessarily a good thing (less variety, less spontaneity, less contemporary...) just like extensive stacks aren't exactly a bad thing (only when shelves run out and/or you move homes).

    Dorothy - There is joy in book collection but being a rather anxious person, I'm afraid I'm not well-built for it... If 80 books weigh down my soul this much, I can only imagine what 300 might do to me! On the other hand, less anxiety of "which book should I read next", I guess... many more choices.

    Richard - Thanks for dropping by (and sorry about the unintended shaming...)! Like I said, I don't know how much longer I'll be able to hold out. I started letting myself back into bookstores and twice now I've almost walked out with a book (or four)...

  8. Great post. I hardly ever buy new books, but I do make a list of ones that I want to buy later. I always seem to have a stack to get through.

  9. I am about to try Solzhenitsyn too. Well done! I buy them all from Charity shops in the UK too, so to keep costs low and also fulfilling my hoarding instinct. Keep the discipline!

  10. Congratulations! I'm officially jealous. I try and try and fail and fail. But I keep on trying. One day I will not buy more than let's say one book per month.

  11. Kudos on your resolve! I have been buying much less lately in an effort to pare down my shelves. Working in a used bookstore makes it difficult sometimes, but I have been trying to stick to the rule that for every book that comes in, one must go out.

  12. ok, explain to me exactly why e-books do not count? lol


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