Reading & Writing

The Book-Buying Habit


I’ve probably bought twenty books so far this year, and I’m not talking about the ones I sell on Etsy. (I actually need to buy more of those–get the shop filled back up.) I’ve probably bought twenty books JUST FOR ME.

Because I like buying books.

Now, ask me how many books I’ve actually read this year. Um… maybe five? (Not counting children’s books. I read at least five of those per day.) But two and a half of them were from the library. I’ve started a couple of the books I purchased and then gotten distracted.

You know: life. Which is never as good as the books but far more important and necessary.

Anyhow, this morning I had the rare opportunity to be at Barnes & Noble by myself. I did not have to read any Berenstain Bear books or watch my kids play with the trains. I just wandered the store–at least half and hour–and looked at books. I had two coupons burning a hole in my purse, plus that discount from my bookstore membership whispering…

Buy. Buy. Buy!

And not to the tune of N’Sync, if you were wondering, though that would have been cool.

So I bought four books. That’s a reasonable number, right? Four? In my youth, it absolutely would because I could easily devour four novels in a week. Especially since two of my purchases are bestselling comic novels, which tend to go down in an afternoon. The others were on the discount rack, shockingly low-priced, and though I’d never heard of the authors I had heard of the authors who blurbed them (a great way to find new writing talent, BTW; if Hannah Tinti recommends something, I buy it. Pam Houston, Kirkus Reviews, Alice Sebold, Jill McCorkle: all have good taste and all appear on the back of these two books I bought).

Who can pass up a hardback for seven bucks? I mean, come on!

I know I’m not alone in this book-buying addiction. I know I’m not the only one out there with shelves of unread books, nor am I alone in spending the free time I do get immersed in a world of literary fiction. But it’s a funny thing–though the items I’m buying seem far more worthwhile than clothes or throw pillows or candy, I’m still falling into a cliché of consumerism: shopaholism.

I will probably read these books and I will probably enjoy them, but I could have gotten them at the library, right? But I want to HAVE them. Because owning books makes me feel…

What? Smart? Accomplished? Comforted? Proud?

Sometimes, I buy books just to support the authors. If I know you and you publish a book, I will definitely buy it (especially if I know you well). But the bestsellers don’t need me to add to their numbers. They’ve got the advertising. They’ve got the end caps. They’ve got featured reviews in major periodicals.

But still, I buy. Even when it’s not a good idea. I’ve literally overdrawn my bank account buying a book.

Because books make me happy. And it’s not just reading them, but holding them. Smelling them. Organizing them on a shelf. Feeling the pages flip, the cool of the cover beneath my palm, hearing that shuffle of paper and cardboard.

Oh, how I love books.


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