I’ve been thinking about acquiring books lately. On Tuesday my coworker said that what she really wanted was a really well-written book, Lit’rature she said, with a compelling plot and interesting characters. I thought about it for a while, threw out a couple of ideas, and ultimately said, “Stop, stop, call off the hounds. It’s Fingersmith. Read Fingersmith.” And that evening she went and bought Fingersmith. This is an example of something I would almost never do, buy a book because someone I knew said it was good. I especially would not do it if, as in her case, I worked a few blocks away from a branch of the public library.

For someone who loves to read, I do not buy books very often. The problem is that I can only very rarely — and this was true even when I had lots of spare money — justify the expense of buying a new book for myself. I’m not sure where the mental block comes from, but it’s pretty strong. If I desperately want to read a book, and can’t get it at the library, and can’t live without it, I cast around to think of someone I can buy it for, then buy it, read it, and send it to them. I think the last time I went to the bookstore and bought myself a book just for me at full price using actual dollars was Nox in February 2011.

Part of this is the money thing. I am cautious of money and even cautious of gift card money, which — failing awesome book sales — is the main way that I acquire books for myself. With gift cards, I have this mindset that what if there is a book emergency and I don’t have any book budget and I have to have that book, and I can’t because I’ll have spent all my gift card money on other things that I didn’t really need! What if that happens!

I have conflicting emotions about owning books, both rooted in firm convictions from my childhood. The first is that I like to have lots of books around me. When I was a little kid and we would ask our parents if we were rich, Daddy would say “We’re rich in love!” and Mumsy would say “We’re rich in books!” So having lots of books makes me feel comfortable and safe and frankly rather affluent, and it also gives me lots of choices when I am brushing my teeth.

The opposing thing is that I don’t like clutter. This is the result of a highly successful parenting strategy by Mumsy. She did not want us to become hoarders as hoarding is somewhat in our genes, so periodically when we were children, we would have clean-up days and go through all our things and throw stuff out. Mumsy would say, “Have you used it in the past year? No? Then free yourself!” And we would get rid of all sorts of things. As an adult I think it feels glorious to get rid of stuff. The opportunity to get rid of stuff is the only compensatory aspect to the nightmare that is moving.

What all this means is that I often have major buyer’s remorse if I buy a book just for myself using regular dollars (or even, frankly, gift card dollars), so if I’m going to do it, I have to be close to completely confident that I will want to have that book forever; i.e., that I’ll want to read it more than twice or three times in my life. Otherwise I’ll get my new book home and look at it and think, “I could have gotten you at the library, and used that $20 to get dinner with work friends, thereby expanding my New York social circle and investing in my long-term happiness.”

The huge exception to this, of course, is book sales. Again I think it’s rooted in childhood. We didn’t get new books willy-nilly throughout the year (just at Christmas and birthdays, oh my God those were amazing, one time my grandmother sent me a set of all the Edward Eager books at once), but when we went on vacation and hit up the library book sales and used book stores in Maine, we bought a ridiculous number of books. One year we bought so many books our car broke down on the drive home because it was too heavy, and the mechanic was like, “What do you have in there, rocks?” So I have this mindset that if you are on vacation, at a book sale, or both, you can buy as many damn books as you want. These are the principles that guide my book-buying life.

But I will say that as the years have gone on, I’ve gotten more strategic about what I will purchase, even at book sales and on vacation. I live, of course, in New York where things are crowded, so instead of saying “I want to buy ALL THE BOOKS,” I’ve moved to a point where I’m always trying to identify holes in my book collection. I have fairly specific notions about what I need — comfort books, volumes of poetry, books I had as a kid but don’t have now, collections of letters, stuff for reference — and when I’m at a book sale, I always find books that aren’t at the bookstores, books or editions of books that are out of print but eminently desirable. The happiest day of the year (at home) is the first day of my university’s book sale, when I stagger out with my massive canvas bag full of books and show them off to the Family. I feel happy just thinking about that.

So what about you guys? What makes you decide to acquire a book? How sure do you have to be that you’re going to love it before you’ll buy it? Under what circumstances are you most likely to go out and buy books (vs getting them at the library or whatever)? I am curious! I feel like my book-buying habits are weird, so normalize for me, please!

73 thoughts on “Acquisitions

  1. I’m like you, I try to resist buying books. I spent last year not buying any, which was an interesting experience. I’m out of shelf space, so whilst I’ve bought several secondhand books from charity shops this year, and I’m trying to read them almost as soon as I buy them, or at least within twelve months, they are starting to pile up a little – so it’s the library from now on, unless it’s a bookclub book.

    • I am okay at not BUYING books, but not at not ACQUIRING books. Because book sales are like crack to me, and so is, frankly, PaperbackSwap. I half-wish I had a lovely charity bookshop near me (oh how I miss the Oxfam bookshops), and half am relieved that I’ve escaped from that perpetual peril. When I lived in England, I bought loads of books at the charity shops in town.

  2. I have similar sentiments. I always like to borrow a book to read first, to see if I’ll like it. Only the ones that wow me, that I fall in love with, that I forsee wanting to read again and again, do I seek out to purchase. Even then I try to get them from a swap, or a used bookstore, or one of those fantastic library sales, instead of paying out the nose brand-new. Even so, somehow I have managed to collect some six hundred-plus books. And more keep quietly gathering on my shelves, in spite of my attempts to keep the numbers under control.

    • Yep, it’s the rereading potential that makes me purchase. I feel guilty that I’m not a better supporter of bookstores! But honestly, a lot of the books I get at book sales are out of print, or just are not $15 worth of awesome. Only $2 worth of awesome. :p

  3. Ach, I buy. Cheap, usually, but I like to own. Plus I think of books as excellent insulation for the walls. Alas, these days I have ahem almost too much insulation and Mister Litlove is bugging me to have a cull. I loathe the thought of this and am resisting for all I am worth. So far.

    • I find a cull cleansing because my priorities get sorted out pretty neatly. When I was first moving to New York, it was shockingly easy to pick out which books would come with me, even though I could only take two boxes. Come right down to it, I know which books I couldn’t live without.

      Just something for you to think about, btw: My father told us a few years ago that we needed to stop buying books because we had so many that they were weighing down the foundations of the house. And making it sag at the middle. Though in my opinion the obvious solution was just to put more books at the perimeters.

  4. I’m a bit of a book hoarder. I rarely buy new books, and not even used ones these days, but when I did it didn’t take more incentive for me to buy a second hand book than “this sounds interesting” or “I might want to read it someday, maybe”. This is because for most of my life, owning a book was the only way I could read it. I didn’t have access to a public library and didn’t know many people I could borrow books from, so creating my own library was my way of having access to something that always eluded me – endless reading possibilities. These days I have over 200 books on my TBR pile, which I feel guilty about on occasion. But when I remember the days of only owning two or three books I hadn’t read yet and not feeling like reading either of them OR like revisiting an old favourite, it all seems worth it 😛 Then again, I have an e-reader now and can download Alll The Free E-books, which changes things considerably.

    • Ah, yeah, see, I’ve been spoiled by having an amazing and highly accessible library which, moreover, was a short and pleasant drive from where I lived as a child. It made me think I could always get any books i wanted. I think having an e-reader would be nonstop peril for me. No storage problems! So easy to make purchases! I would soon be destitute.

  5. I’m like Ana in that it takes very little for me to make a decision to buy a secondhand book. Buying new books was an obstacle I recently overcame, I always bought used until a few years ago and then I started buying new as well. To be honest, I need to reign in my bad book buying habits as I have way too many.

    I don’t use the library because I’m terrible at returning books on time, and even from a young age had major fines. I tried a couple of years ago to use the library again and sure enough it felt like I had a deadline (book blogging has ruined everything) and also I didn’t get them back in time.

    I don’t know Jenny! I just suck at not buying books and tbh I’m quite jealous of you!

    • I never had AWFUL fines at the library, especially in the days since they’ve instituted online renewals. I hate talking on the phone and I would rarely call to renew, so that was a problem for me, but online! It’s so easy!

      What I do at the library is check out tons of books, skim through to see what I’m in the mood for, and only read the awesome ones. Then I’d return the non-awesome ones, and someday, when I would be in a totally different mood, I’d check them out again and find they had become the awesome ones. It’s all about having a library with very, very high (or no!) limits on how many books you can take out at once.

  6. I’m a different color of unusual seeing as once I graduated from my last educational institution, I have not even once borrowed a book from the library. Nor do I head out to the bookstore particularly often to purchase brand new treasures, usually because when I do, that book that I HAD to have sits around unread for an extremely unseemly amount of time despite my extreme lust over it. When I do go to the bookstore, it’s nearly always to shower my loved ones with new bookish gifts. I do, however, support my local libraries by shopping their book sales with reckless and often freakish abandon and fill out my collection that way. Fill it out far too much, actually.

    I’m kind of laughing because growing up I too had *that* mother. The one who was all into decluttering and dehoarding us perpetually making me seriously consider whether I really need *all* those stuffed animals or was I really ever going to play with a Barbie again and so on and so on. I swear that even now when things get a little out of control, I take a lot of joy in chucking all sorts of accumulated clutter. Sometimes I think I would move just to force myself to purge *even more* of life’s much accumulated stuff.

    • Oh, those library book sales. Aren’t they so dangerous?

      But um, how do you get all the books you read during the year? They can’t possibly ALL come from library book sales? Or does your library just have more frequent and more awesome sales than mine? Wait, why DOESN’T my library have awesome sales all the time? It is huge. New York is huge. I am going to look into this!

      I would never move just to make myself purge stuff. Moving is the worst. I’d rather spend the night in a jail cell crawling with roaches.

  7. I have always been a library person, so whenever I see or hear of a book I’d like to read, that’s where I go first. But I also love the comfort of being surrounded by books, especially books I know and love. Most of the books I buy (usually used, but sometimes new) are books I’ve already read. Between the time I left home for college and when I moved here, I rarely bought books (unless they were textbooks) because I didn’t want to move them. After moving here, I eased up on my strict no-buying rule because I knew I was going to be here awhile and I just so excited to have the personal library I always dreamed of having. I know I buy books more often than I should (especially since I work at a library), but I always find a way to justify it 🙂 has been my downfall, because it’s very, very easy to justify buying cheap, used books that support a great cause!

    I don’t think your book-buying habits are weird! I love that you support your local library 🙂

    • Yep, me too. Apart from a very, very few trusted authors, I’ll never buy a book I haven’t read before. This ends up skewing my personal library pretty heavily toward comfort books, but I am okay with that.

      I’ve never heard of that website before! Going to check it out right now!

      • They are so wonderful I just want to hug them. Which sounds weird, but you’ll understand once you check them out!

        Having a bookshelf full of comfort reads is like having trusted friends nearby 🙂

  8. I join the “if-it’s-cheap-I’ll-buy-it crowd” but it doesn’t mean I won’t end up recycling the books in some way later. I will also tend to buy a book if it is part of a series, because I figure I may have to reread it to remember what is going on. Non-fiction is another category of purchasing, because they are oft-consulted, tend to have maps or footnotes or other useful appendages, and are great for winning (or losing) arguments.

    • Nonfiction is awfully useful, but in more cases than not, I think of it as a one-off. I’ll use it, acquire the information, retain a few awesome stories to tell, and semi-forget the rest; and if I need it again, I can look it up on Wikipedia or (if real specifics are required) Google Books. The internet has made me so lazy!

  9. I’ve gone through different stages about acquisitions. When it was my parents’ money, I was all about buying, although to be honest, I also used the library a lot, and most of the books I (um, my parents) bought were books I read over and over until they fell apart, so it’s just as well that they were bought.

    When I started having to spend my own money I was a lot like you are now. I’d almost always go to the library and only purchase when I found a bargain or knew it was a book I had to have. It’s only in the last few years I’ve started regularly buying books at full price, but I’ve found I really dislike having tons of unread books around, so I’m cutting back on buying and trying to only buy books I intend to read right away or really excellent bargains that I’m pretty sure I’ll want to own forever.

    • We did read some of the library books over and over and over until they got rather shabby. On the plus side of that, we liked a lot of weird obscure library books that nobody read but us, which means that when we outgrew them, the library culled their extra copies and we got them for like twenty-five cents to keep forever. I have an awesomely shabby copy of Cat in the Mirror that is definitely the same copy I read as a small child. I love it so much.

      I also! Don’t like having lots of unread books around! It makes me feel like I shouldn’t be going to the library so often. And I love going to the library so often.

  10. I am still really affected by this thing that happened when I was young: out of a clear blue sky, Hoarder Uncle suddenly refused to let me continue borrowing my grandfather’s out-of-print books, and I totally lost access to a whole collection of books that I adored. So now I want my own; I don’t want to rely on the library having and/or keeping books I love. On the other hand, I am also better at donating/swapping books that I find I can live without. So my collection stays pretty stable these days. And I always keep some space for the Big Book Sale.

    • Poor Mumsy! That is terrible! And terrible especially because I want you to have those books and I am sure so would your grandfather have.

      I am trying to slim down my collection — I really am! — so that someday you won’t have to be my book storage facility, which I feel super guilty about and if I’d known I was going to be moving to New York I definitely would not have bought all those books at the book sale all those years. 😦

  11. >>As an adult I think it feels glorious to get rid of stuff. The opportunity to get rid of stuff is the only compensatory aspect to the nightmare that is moving.

    I SO agree with you! I culled boxes of books from my shelves a few months ago & it felt marvelous. In fact, I suspect another cull is in order soon. I’m on a v limited budget, and I’d rather spend my money on other things, so I almost never buy books. I like having enough to tastefully fill the bookshelves I have now (aka, arranged in aesthetically pleasing ways w some photographs & knick-knacks interspersed, rather than having so many I have to cram them in to use every available inch of space), but I don’t feel the need to have hundreds upon hundreds of books. That’s what my library’s for! The only time I consider buying a book is if it’s not available at my library or via interlibrary loan & I can find a used copy cheaply somewhere. Or if it’s a really good sale on an ebook by an author I’ve read & loved in the past, because I want to build up a bit of a comfort elibrary since when my sjogren’s & fibro get cranky it’s much easier to read via Nook.

    Now, if I ever moved to a place without an extensive public library, all bets would be off. I’d still probably buy almost all of my books used, but I’d definitely have a v large collection!

    • I forgot to mention, the only time I feel incredibly tempted to buy a brand-new book is when one of my favourite authors has a new book out in the UK/Canada/etc. that isn’t being released here for ages. Then I start checking Book Depository! So far, I’ve managed to resist (Netgalley is helpful for that now), but right now the only reason I haven’t ordered Lanagan’s new novel from there is that it’s in hardcover & my hands don’t like hardcover.

      • Yes! Me too! When it’s THERE but I can’t GET IT. That’s maddening and totally induces me to buy. Or, alternately, to write piteous begging emails to publishers.

    • I…sort of feel the need to have hundreds upon thousands of books. I just don’t have enough space or money. I never arrange aesthetically because I have no talent for it and it always just ends up looking messy, so I sensibly make it look messy from the start and then it’s like it’s intentional.

      If a book is truly inaccessible to me through any regular means, I will occasionally buy it. But more often I’ll manage to convince myself that it wasn’t going to be that great anyway. :p

  12. I am a library person, actually a reformed book buyer. The last time I moved I realized that I owned many, many books that I had never read, some that I would never read. After that purge I make every effort to read library books. If I fall in love with a book, really want to have it around so I can reread it, I will put it on my “find a used copy” list.

    Sometimes I want to read something that my library doesn’t carry, either because it is from a unknown author, very small press or hasn’t been published in the US. Then I always try and buy used. Through trades I have built up credit at a couple of used books stores and I use gift cards for “emergencies” or very special books (like Nox). Recently Mr G has start collecting mysteries by several favorite authors so we still don’t have enough bookshelf space!

      • I have a physical list in a Field Notes notebook that I keep in my bag. It also has a list of movies and documentaries I want to watch because I can never remember them when I visit my favorite local video rental store!

  13. I have mixed feelings about acquiring books. On the one hand, I love to have books around decorating shelves. It makes me feel happy to look at them, remember what I loved about them and remember to recommend them to other people. But I’m still in a transient stage of life, and so I don’t want so many books that they feel like a burden. So, I’ve been culling, intermittently, and trying to cut back on the books I buy.

    I much prefer to buy used books, especially authors I think I will like but I’m not sure about, because if I love it then I have a copy to add to my collection, and if I don’t it wasn’t a huge investment. I rarely (almost never) buy hardcover. And since I moved to a town without a bookstore, I’ve been using the library a lot more and limiting my book purchases to things I loved or can’t find at the library.

    • Yes! It’s the transient thing. It’s not knowing where I’m going to be and what I’m going to be doing this time next year. It makes me terribly reluctant to acquire books, although it doesn’t actually stop me from acquiring them. :p

  14. When I lived in Albuquerque it took about an hour each way to get to the library, so it was easier to just buy all the books I wanted. I even bought some books for full price! Although that was pretty rare. Generally I just buy a book if I think I’ll enjoy reading it, even if I’m only going to read it once and then get rid of it. There’s something about the action of buying a book and taking it home with me (or having it show up on my doorstop or downloaded to my Kindle) that’s deeply satisfying

    Last year I didn’t buy any paper books and got rid of about half of the ones I already had, and it got kind of lonely in my room. Buying ebooks (always with giftcards!) just isn’t as fun as buying paper books is. Hopefully we’ll move close enough to a library so I can raid their shelves for a while– I may like buying books, but it gets expensive!

    • Wow! Is Albuquerque really spread out, or were you just unlucky in your location relative to the library? Oo, and were there at least good book sales now and then? If I hadn’t had a proper library in Louisiana, I could have read all year on the books I bought at the big library book sale.

      • It was a combination of stuff– I lived on the other side of town from the “good” library, and that was an hour away (via bus. Should have mentioned that beforehand, lol). There was one closer to my house, but it didn’t have any buses running by it.

        The one an hour away had AWESOME sales! When I first moved to ABQ they had $2-a-bag specials where you stuffed a brown bag full of books and it was ONLY $2 IT WAS AMAZING OMFG

        Apparently there’s a library somewhere in Newport (I think) that has $1-a-bag sales! I’m totally going to stock up on books there once I, y’know, get my own room again and stuff.

  15. Hoarding is definitely in the McBride genes. You should see my parents’ house! So many books that nobody loves…

    If I can’t get it from the library, I’ll consider buying it if it’s cheap—I paid three dollars for a copy of We, since nobody had it. I am happy to use up gift cards willy nilly, however. I have an Amazon gift card that I’m not sure what to do with at the moment—I swore off buying books from them, but surely my film collection could use some additions…

    • Aw! My family’s house is full of books that somebody loves. And it also has a few books that nobody loves, but Mumsy is gradually trying to cull those ones.

      I got We for a dollar! At the Strand. Yay us!

  16. My library pretty much sucks, so I end up buying most of my books. I’m trying to be better, and use the library more, but they rarely have what I want. I’m also trying to read more off of my shelves, because I’ll be the first to admit that I have a ridiculous number of unread books.

  17. Ha, I am such a hoarder, you would fall over in horror if you saw my room and (when I have money) I am so profligate about buying books. Now that I am saving and so must be strict about my purchases I am much more choosey (my goal is to get to the end of the year without buying more than 15/16 books), but I still buy books that I don’t think I will keep after reading once, because they are new and probably American, so not in the library yet. I comfort myself with the fact that I will probably get a good few years out of the book because it will take me ages to work around to reading it.

    I also had a mother who wanted me to declutter (and still does), but her attempts made me grow up into someone who holds onto everything as a protest. To be fair we really have to factor in my dad’s influence here as well, because his garage is a sight to behold – I car booted recently and found we had something like 6 different electric heaters in there, which we don’t use. I do find decluttering refreshing, but like to let stuff build up for several years first.

    • I assure you that I would not fall over in horror. I would never fall over in horror because somebody had a lot of books. I would only squeal in delight. :p

      Well, the other thing that’s had an impact on my wanting to declutter is that I’ve seen where the path of clutter can lead. BAD PLACES. Bad places. I want to be clutter-free (ish).

  18. My parents were both journalists and used to review books for a living. We were constantly inundated with books – childrens’, historical, classical etc. As a result I didn’t have to buy a book until I was in my teens. It felt pretty weird. Weird and expensive.

  19. We have never gotten rid of a book. And we like being, as Mumsy says, “rich in books.” So we have a lot. As Litlove says, they’re good insulation for our walls. But we also love libraries, and both of us actually work in one.

    My daughter observed once that her cousin’s parents don’t get her every book she wants to read. We’ve always considered books a necessity. If a kid wanted a book, we always said yes, whether it was going to the library to get it or buying a copy if we thought any of the four of us would ever want to reread it.

    I also observe your principle of buying a book to give to someone else. Often I put a note in the book that says “pre-read for your enjoyment,” meaning that when you’ve finished it, I’m available to discuss it with you. I figure that’s a double gift!

    I did buy Angelmaker in hardback before it even came out in the US. Because some books I’m pretty darn sure I’m going to reread.

    • I just want to say, in my own defense, that when we had these periodic clear-outs, I NEVER made them get rid of books. Not even comic books! Books are an exempted category. Of course.

    • Oh yeah, I’ve heard of those families where they just get books whenever they want. LUCKY YOU. :p We…did not have that. However, we did gets lots of books for birthdays and Christmas, and that was amazing.

  20. I have a problem with buying too many books. I used tho think that this library was just a concept, and never used them for anything, but now I get audiobooks from them a few times a week and load them into my ipod. I have also checked quite a few books out from the library, but I can never get them read before they are due, which is frustrating to me. So I buy books, lots of books, and some people would say that I am a major hoarder. I know I will read them all eventually, but right now it’s like having my own library that I can choose from at will. I always admire those with the restraint not to do what I do!

    • See, you just have to slightly modify your books timeline. When you’re adjusted to library use, you’ll at least read SOME of the books on time. No reason to read them ALL straight away. You can return the ones you don’t finish. You can also renew things. Renewing is amazing and you can do it online!

  21. My mother is a hoarder of knickknacks, though not of literature. Though my family has never been rich in books, we are certainly rich in Precious Moments figurines. I never realized how good it felt to purge until I became an adult and moved away from the clutter!

    For many many years I had a tendency to go around buying ALL THE BOOKS that were even remotely appealing and indulging in various fits of whimsy. So I ended up with a huuuge library of books that I’d read but didn’t like at all, or books that I did like but never felt the urge to reread. I lugged all these books relentlessly from apartment to apartment until the day came when I decided it was time to get rid of all the books I didn’t love, thus leaving me with the books most essential to my mental well-being. My comfort library! I love to look at my bookshelves now and see all my best-beloved titles. Except I still can’t bear to part with my middle school collection of horsey books, though I never reread them.

    All the books I buy come from Goodwill or library sales. I also have a thing about buying new books. It makes me feel guilty, like buying name brand cereal without a coupon. Of course since I work at a library I come home with stacks and stacks of books every day, hurrah!

    • Hahahahahaha, I think books are better than Precious Moments figurines YEAH I SAID IT. Also they are easier to stack in boxes when you are moving, because you don’t have to wrap them up in newspaper to make sure they don’t break.

  22. Just buy books really cheap and then pass them on. But make sure your friends pass them on, too. That way they just circulate around again and again (you might even get it back sometime) and it’s very organic, almost like how oral stories work, floating around from one generation and group of people to the next so that everybody gets to share in the book love!

    • I don’t want to pass them on! I want to keep them forever! KEEP THEM KEEP THEM. Your idea is lovely but impractical for me because if I love my books, I want to keep them; and if I don’t love them, it doesn’t give me that joyful organic feeling to give them away to people.

  23. I have mixed feelings about this as well. Lately I’ve mostly been buying books, because I feel like it’s been difficult for me to find time to go to the library and library holds take so long in NYC. I’m used to putting a book on hold and having it ready for me in a day or so, but the hold system here was taking weeks, and not even for popular books. (I know, this sounds like dreadful whining and justification! I know! I am trying not to sound like a whining brat, right now. But somehow that sentence just sounds horrible.) Anyway, I’m trying not to buy anymore books. I am going to read all the books on my shelves (about 56 this year) and then slowly get rid of them, either by reselling or trading or bookmooching or donating. I don’t really need to have all these books. My goal, instead, will be to buy the books I know I will reread. Books of poetry, children’s books that I will want my future kids to read, favorites that I will want to loan out to friends. Once all the books on my shelf are read, I am definitely going to start using the library and just suck it up and get used to waiting an extra couple of days. 😉

    • Library holds take ALL THE TIME EVER, my God. The library hold system at home was speedy as hell. You don’t sound like a whiny brat at all. I a hundred percent sympathize.

  24. I never used to buy books back when I lived in America and had access to libraries full of free books. Occasionally I would read a book that I loved so much that I would need to own it, but this happened rarely. Once in Israel I had to buy any book that I wanted to read and since I couldn’t afford to constantly buy books I didn’t get to read as much as I wanted but once I got a Nook I could get out library book from digital libraries in the Us and now I once again have almost as many books to read as I want. Though I do continue to buy books every so often just because I get more pleasure from reading a real book than an electronic one.

  25. I pretty much always buy my books at a used bookstore and only use gift-buying for others as an excuse to buy books at full price from regular bookstores. I never feel bad about buying books because I think they’re some of the best things one can spend money on, but it helps that I rarely pay more than $3 for a book… The relative frugality there allows me to turn over books pretty well so that I’m only ever keeping titles that I know I’ll read more than one time, so generally speaking, I don’t have unwanted books cluttering up my living space. I should use the library more, I know, but I am lazy and don’t like reading on a deadline!

    • I’m sort of surprised at how many book bloggers are unwilling to pay the regular cost of books, hahahaha. You would think we would be the people who would buy all sorts of books at independent bookstores every day. But, uh, yeah. It’s really expensive to buy a lot of books and I just don’t do it that often.

  26. These days, I find myself mostly acquiring books that are either 1) in a series that I’m already enjoying and/or 2) are by an author that I already trust. There are, of course, exceptions to this but those are the majority of my purchases. At the same time, I’m finding myself more willing to get rid of some of the books that I own by an author if they aren’t favorites. I used to have to own everything by an author that even had one book I loved. But now I can enjoy a single book without feeling guilt about not loving everything else.

    And I totally get what you say about saving gift card balances for those emergency purchases. Since I’m not being paid for this whole stay-at-home mom gig, I have to be much more conscious of my acquisitions and to make them worth it. That said, my family is also very rich in love and in books. 🙂

    • I’m even nervous about buying books by authors I trust! Because of how sometimes authors I trust break my heart and let me down and then it’s real sad, even sadder than buying books by authors I didn’t love in the first place (probably).

  27. I think it is so funny how well this strategy worked on you and how very little it worked on me. I feel totally stressed throwing things out. I’m trying to minimize my stuff right now and it is so stressful I have set tiny getting rid of things goals for every day so I can successfully throw things out without freaking out at how much I’m throwing away. And I still gloat a little bit in my head about how right I was to insist on keeping the giant beads Mumsy once told me to free myself of, when years later they were exactly what I needed for a project and I would never have found beads like them again.

    • It’s because you were recalcitrant. Like a poophead. And now you have to cognitive behaviorial therapy yourself into throwing things away.

      PS, Never in my life have I ever needed something I threw away and then not been able to find another one really easily. So I think your story is exceptional and my life story is normal.

  28. I love the part about your dad and the foundations of the house, and also the Maine book-buying adventure. Somehow I’m reminded of my grandmother’s psychiatrist. He went on vacation with his large, young family in the 1960’s and somehow–right at the start of the 6-hour return journey–they ended up purchasing an impulse goat. It had to ride in the back seat with the children all the way home.

    • *cracks up* Your story is SO MUCH BETTER than mine! I’m never telling my story again and I’m always telling your story. Except I’m going to pretend that it happened to me, and then I’m going to make up a whole follow-up story about what happened to the goat when we got back home.

  29. With age and a lack of space I’ve become much more conscious of what I’m buying in the books department. I buy books I think will be keepers and occasionally books I’m DYING to read. But I’m really careful and hesitant. I have found that e-book buying is MUCH easier for me because there’s not a space commitment. But at the same time, it feels like more of a frivolous purchase because I can’t lay my hands on that book in particular. Why that matters, I don’t know. It’s a thing. lol

    • I’ve always thought that would be soooort of my downfall if I had an ereader; I’d just buy books nonstop without thinking about the fact that I actually need to READ them all. And it’s so easy to buy a book it would barely feel like I was making a decision/purchase at all.

  30. I also don’t buy that many books, which is funny for the amount of books I own. I mean, I guess that’s part of it – I bought a lot of books in college, and I acquire a lot of books for free (we have a free-book shelf at work, a friend who used to worked at a magazine used to give me free books from the magazine’s free-book shelf, lots of people in this neighborhood put boxes of books out on the sidewalk, and in the last two apartments I lived in people would leave free books in the lobby) and now I’m short on shelf space. But yeah, it’s also partly that I’m cheap/don’t spend money very readily anyhow (except on food/drinks). And partly it’s that between Brooklyn Public Library and New York Public Library (mostly the former!) I can get most books I want to read from the library, and if it’s a book I’m only going to read once then I feel like it makes more sense to borrow than buy. Today I was at an AWESOME booksale (the one in the church on 6th Ave and 8th St in Park Slope) and did not buy a single book, though I talked my boyfriend into buying Reading the OED by Ammon Shea and will probably read that when he’s done with it. I almost bought Diary of a Provincial Lady but figured the library probably has it, and also almost bought a UK Puffin paperback of a Noel Streatfeild book (White Boots) but I didn’t because it wasn’t in the best shape (now I’m sorta regretting that one, though).

    • I am heartbroken I did not know about this awesome booksale previously! I love awesome booksales, but now it is Sunday and I feel like even if the weekend trains were cooperating (unlikely) and my brunch ends early (no chance at all) so that I am able to get into Brooklyn before it is all over, all the good books would be gone.

      I am hugely impressed by your restraint, however. Especially about White Boots, which is one of my favorites BUT at least it is now in print in the UK so if you really really want it, you should be able to get a nice shiny copy from the Book Depository

  31. My book-buying habits are reaaaaaallllly similar to yours. Whenever I see a book I want, I instantly think of how it would be free if I got it from the library instead, so I hit the online catalogue. If the library doesn’t have it, I reevaluate my need to read it, after which point I either buy it myself (if it’s really cheap and/or I’m really desperate) or fill in the library’s Request For Purchase form (if it isn’t and/or I think I can make a good case as to why they should add it to their collection). The only things I buy outright are my most anticipated books of the year (which are small in number) and things I know the library will never acquire no matter how nicely I beg, like electronic-only titles.

    I do sometimes buy things after I’ve read them from the library, but only if I know I’ll read them at least twice more. If I suspect I’ll only want to reread them one more time, I just pray the library doesn’t purge them from the collection before I get around to doing so.

    Most of my bookish purchases come from the charity book market the local Children’s Hospital holds thrice yearly. I still try to be picky about the books I buy from them–like, I ask myself how quickly I’ll read this book, and whether it fits into my self-imposed geographic diversity requirements–but I usually end up buying lots and lots and lots, because the books are pretty cheap and all the money goes to sick kids. I can’t deprive the sick kids. I just can’t.

    Slight sidebar: last Christmas, I gave everyone books, and I read them all before I handed them out so’s I could pair the right book with the right person (and so I could be sure I didn’t need to add it to my own library). This made me think of you.

  32. Just wanted to say that I loved this post, especially the asides about your parents and your Maine vacation trips. I’m not a huge book buyer myself and I also get pleasure about getting rid of stuff.

  33. Enjoyed reading your post and the comments, Jenny! I used to be a big library guy when I was a student, but after I went to work, I started to buy slowly and then in torrents. Things have slowed down a little recently, as I am trying to read the books I have rather than buy new ones. Also, earlier I used to look around in the bookstore and buy whatever I liked. These days I do mostly targeted buying – buy a book which I already know about and which I want to read. I rarely buy used books – I mostly buy new ones. I tried to revive my library habit, but so far it is not working. I even tried renewing a book for a few months, because I wanted to read the library copy and not buy it, but it felt like I was reading on deadline and my mind automatically resisted it and I ended paying a big fine. I think I will continue to buy books, but more of books that I am sure I will like. Those book buying binges are off for me, I think. Thanks for this wonderful post 🙂

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