Saturday, January 25, 2014

Thoughts on book collecting.

I think that most people who love to read books also love to own books. There's something so magical about the whole process of owning a book...the thrill of buying a new book, bringing it home and finding its perfect spot on your bookshelf, reading it for the first time (and hopefully it's as amazing as you expected), and then being able to pick it back up for a reread whenever you want to return to that world.

I love collecting books. It's so comforting to have shelves full of favorite stories. I also like having some unread books there, too, in case I'm in the mood for something new. I'm all about physical books ( thank you!). I love owning them and always having one with me. I love the way they smell and how it feels to hold something heavy and substantial in my hands while I'm reading.

But lately I've been thinking about this whole book collecting (hoarding?) thing. Mostly this: how much is too much?

I honestly believe that you can't have too many books, as long as you've the space for them. But I'm starting to think that it's possible to have too many unread books. For me, anyway. I currently have two 5 shelf bookcases and another 3 shelf one that are nearly full. And at this point, I don't really have any more room in my bedroom for extra bookcases (though I've said that before and somehow managed to squeeze in more :). I probably own somewhere between four hundred to five hundred books, and almost 100 of those are ones that I haven't read yet! That number of unread books really bothers me...ideally, I'd like to own no more than about 15 unread books at a time.

Here's the thing: even though I buy quite a few books, I don't spend very much money on them. Probably one of the biggest reasons I justify buying more books is because I usually don't pay much for them. The vast majority of my books were purchased used from Goodwill or other thrift stores/library sales/yard sales, or were bargain books bought at places like Ollie's (which means they were brand new, but cost approx. $2 to $5 each). I do buy online from Amazon or B&N sometimes, but it's usually just a couple of books here or there (just enough to get free shipping). For the past couple of years, I set myself a book limit each month (either a number limit or a price limit). I didn't do that this year, though, because I've finally realized that there will be some months when I buy several books and some when I don't buy any.

But no matter how cheaply I'm able to find books, I'm at the point now where I need to stop buying more and more. It doesn't matter whether they're expensive new releases or $2 thrift store finds. I need to make a big dent in the unread books that I already own. I think about some of the books I bought recently, earlier this month, and how excited I am about reading them. And then I think about the unread books that have been sitting on my shelf for a year (or two or three)...I was that excited about reading them when I first bought them, too!

This whole thing comes down to a bigger issue in the end: being materialistic vs. being content with what I have. Of course, whenever I want to buy another book, it's because I want to read it. And because I hope I'll enjoy reading it. (Or, in the case of a different edition of a book I already own, for the very superficial reason that it will look pretty on my shelf. Just being honest here! I'm a sucker for pretty books.) But sometimes I get so obsessed with buying certain books. Right now, I have 5 books in my Amazon cart and 14 in my BookOutlet cart. (Yes, fourteen! It's ridiculous. But to give you an idea of how cheap BookOutlet is, the total for fourteen books there is just a few dollars more than the total for five books from Amazon. I think I need to somehow block myself from that website!) I'm not going to buy them now. Mostly because I don't have the money. But over the past few weeks, I've been thinking and thinking about those books. And then it hit me: why do I think I need these books so desperately? The only thing I can figure is that I somehow believe that buying those books will make me happier and make my life better in some way. And that's just ridiculous. Sure, I'd be happy when I opened the package, but in the long run? Whether or not I own those books right now is not going to have a big impact on my life.

So where am I going with all of this? I'm not saying that I'm going to stop buying books. But I am trying to make changes. I'm making a conscious effort to read books that I've owned for a while but haven't read yet. So far this month, I've read nine books: two of those were books I recently received for free, one of those I received for Christmas, and six were unread books that I'd owned for at least six months. (One of them, The Wizard of Oz, I've owned for about ten years! And I just got around to reading it! By the way, I don't usually read that many books in a month. One of them was an incredibly short Roald Dahl book, and then I blazed through five books of a children's series that were really quick reads.) When I'm getting ready to start a new book, I look through my list of "own but unread" and try to pick one of those.

When I am considering buying a book, I'm trying to really think about it more. Do I see myself reading it in the next few months? If can probably wait. I'm also weeding out my bookshelves. Every couple of months I try to go through and find at least one book that I'm okay with getting rid of. Unless I enjoyed it and plan on rereading it someday or I'm keeping it for some sentimental reason, I probably don't need to hold on to it. (This is pretty big for me, because up until a year or two ago, I hardly ever got rid of books.) And I'm going to try to use the library more. Especially with newer releases or books that I'm not sure I'll like. Actually, I'm planning on visiting the library next week. :) My only problem with the library is a tendency to check out more books that I can likely read before they have to be returned.

 What about you? Do you buy too many books? Do you mostly own books that you've read and enjoyed, or do you have a lot of unread books, like me?
P.S. Speaking of book collecting, would any of you be interested in a little video tour of my bookshelves sometime in the next couple of months? And by video, I mean footage of strictly my shelves, not myself. :) I'm camera shy and while I don't think I have that much of an accent in real life, my voice sounds extra-twangy on video. I have a strange fascination with seeing other people's bookshelves, so I was just curious if that's something you guys would be interested in.


  1. I understand exactly! I own somewhere around 422 books, and 150 of those are on my TBR pile. (I know this because it got so out of hand I had to create a Shelfari account to keep track).

    After moving to a smaller place I realized I really need to get rid of some of my books, but at the same time I know without question that I'd only replace them. It's a lost cause, although I have sworn off buying more. (Although I still have a Barnes and Noble gift card I haven't even used. I got it last year, but the bookstore is some distance away from where I live).


  2. these are some really good thoughts.

    unfortunately, while reading your post I saw pictures of books I now want to read!! tee hee.

    I do read a lot, but I discard all but my favorite of favorites. HUGS and good luck.

    I think I have more of a yarn problem then a book problem....

    *runs away*

  3. I own SEVERAL novels that I've yet to read because of time constraints and mainly because I get review copies that take priority. That being said in the last six months I have been "weeding" out books and have SEVERAL boxes full to get rid of. Every now and then I go through the book shelves again and come away with yet another box or two. The best part is, I've not had the urge to look through the boxes and take books out to re-shelve. ;)

    I've found it really helpful to review books because I'm much more critical of the book than I was prior to reviewing which in turn makes me realize which styles/authors/eras I tend to prefer. Ergo when I review (or buy) books, I now know better which styles will suit and there's less of a disappointment. I never like to force myself to finish a book so if I can lessen that, I'm all for it! :)

  4. Most of the books I own I have read; I usually don't buy books to try them. I think I might even now anyway buy books that I have already read. If I haven't read them, I usually have some idea that I will like them because I have seen the movie or read another book by the same author. I need to do this because I have sent back books to Amazon I didn't like. I have also gotten rid of books I am embarrassed that I bought (Twilight, yes I read them and yes, I do have a brain, no I do not think they are literature). Books that I have bought and not read are usually some sort of classic. I have a couple children's classics and George MacDonald books (his adult fantasy is VERY weird, I skipped through them and couldn't make myself read them). My problem is getting tons of books from the library (I do mean tons . . . I have 46is out right now) and not reading them or ordering more because I get obsessed with a series. I love requesting library books! I don't have a huge collection of books that I own because I can get almost whatever I want from the library, and clothing seems to be more of my shopping weakness right now. I (now) also want my books to be pretty and in excellent condition, so I want to be more careful when I am in Half-Price. I will probably rely more on Amazon now (I have a wishlist and that is mostly nonfiction I think at the moment). I have so many favorites that I want to eventually own.

  5. I love seeing other peoples bookshelves too! I'm always drawn to them when I visit friends. : ) I also have tons of books on my bookshelf that I need to read. I've decided to cut back on buying books until I make a dent in the ones I have. It's just so hard to resist when one of my favorite authors puts out a new book!

  6. Oh, this post hits close to home. So much of what you say rings true for me too! I have a lot of books and keeping buying a lot of books. I justify it because 99% of the time they are used and usually no more that $5 and books serve a dual purpose being entertaining/informative/readable and being decoration (there is nothing better in a home than a full bookshelf.) But yeah, I've found myself acquiring books quicker than I can read them. A lot of times it's just because I found a great deal on a book I've been wanting so I buy it even though I might not feel like reading it this month (or maybe not even this year.)

    Whenever I feel myself verging towards a more materialistic approach to book buying, I pull a handful down from the shelves that I haven't read yet and declare that I can't buy any new books until this stack has been read. :) And if my local library has a book I want, I always borrow it from them first to preview it. Then I can decide if I want to own it. It's helped me remove a lot of books from my wishlist.

  7. There are different classes of booklovers, There are readers. There are book hoarders. There are book collectors. And there are bibliomaniacs. It sounds as if you're trying hard to be a booklover of the first class: a mere reader. More power to you! I am a booklover of the last class and moibibliomaniac is the name I go by on the web.

  8. I would love to see a video tour of your shelves!!! The first thing I do (as soon as I decently can) upon entering any person's house is to tour their bookshelves. It's such fun! I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who does that. I definitely sympathize with your book collecting plight, as well. I have WAY too many own-but-unread books on my shelf as well. I was looking through your "own but unread" list on goodreads, and you've got some fantastic books on there! A Bear Called Paddington and The Scartlet Pimpernel are two of my all-time favorites. I'm just having a ridiculously fun time looking through your blog - there's so many awesome posts about BOOKS!! Also, I'm fascinated to see your knitting accomplishments - I am attempting to finish my first pair of socks, but it's taken me almost a year so far. I'm quite discouraged, and wish that I could whiz through pair after pair like you do. Do you have any resources that you could recommend?

    Victoria (Hopewriter)

    1. I'm hoping to do a video book tour sometime this year! :) I actually filmed part of one last year, but after editing it, the video format somehow got messed up. I love seeing what books other people have on their shelves, too. Thanks for your kind words about my blog!

      Yay for your first pair of socks! I love knitting them. :) All of the socks I've knitted so far (except the pair I'm currently working on) have been made from Silver's Sock Class: . I definitely recommend it! It makes knitting socks so simple. I'm still using a lot of skills from that pattern on the pattern I'm currently knitting, because the pattern I'm using is written for the magic loop method, and I use DPNs. I really can't recommend Silver's Sock Class enough! :)


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