Compulsive Book Buying is Not a Good Thing
After the sad subject of book fatigue of two weeks ago, in today’s discussion I’m going to tread into highly controversial territory. I’m a highly neutral blogger in many ways – I don’t rant often, I don’t get involved in drama, and I rarely ever talk about topic that might shock or make people uncomfortable for any reason. I’m the Iceland of blogging. Just hanging around at sea, doing my own thing, bothering no one.
But, probably because I’m dreadfully tired, my self-control is at an all-time low, so today I’m going to discuss something that has been on my mind for a while.
Let’s talk compulsive book buying.
Oh, how we joke about this in the bookish community. I joke about this too – I’m not judging, and I’m not saying I’m somehow above other people. Some common statements include:
“I bought so many books yesterday, I don’t know where to put them!”
“I have so many books, my family members trip over stacks of them, haha”
“I’m broke because I bought too many books”
“I bought 12 books even though I haven’t even read the other 8 I bought last month”
“I just bought part 3 and 4 in a series I haven’t even read the first book in – oops!”
And then we laugh in a self-deprecating way, shrugging and make a “what can you do” face. Because we’re bookish people, and we love books, and that love more often than not expresses itself in the acquiring of said loved objects.
But something about this endless consumerism makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel icky. Do I need to buy books in order to somehow prove that I’m a real book blogger? Do I need to show off every book I buy and make huge stacks of them and make pictures of them so others can ohhh and ahhh and buy more books themselves?
When we watch television and see people hoarding endless piles of scrap metal, we might think they need help. “What are you going to do with all those piles of metals?” someone will ask them. “I want to make something out of them! I can use them!” is often the answer. And I feel like at some point, we should ask ourselves whether we aren’t turning into the hoarder. We are collecting endless piles of books which fill our houses, and we’ll say “I’ll get to those books later, I swear”, but realistically, in the cold hard real world, we probably won’t.
At some point in 2013, I started to feel like a hoarder. I started counting my unread books – the physical ones, those stacked up in my apartment. I owned more than 100 at that time. I might say “but I’ll read all of those!”. I might protest that I actually have use of all of those books, but truly, I don’t. There are books on my shelves that have been there since before 2010. And I was excited for those at some point. I thought “wow, this book is so cool, I must read it soon!” But soon became later, and later became never.
I don’t need to buy so many books. I don’t need more books.
In the book blogging community we act as if it’s normal that we all spend hundreds of euros/dollars/pounds on books we don’t read. I know I’m not the only one with over a hundred unread books. Maybe you have your TBR under control – good for you! – but the most of us don’t. And buying more when you don’t need more of them because you already have so many doesn’t seem very cute or funny to me any more. It seems like a waste of money, a waste of space, and to be honest, unhealthy.
Why was I so obsessed with forming a collection of books? Why did I need the newest books the moment they released? Why did I feel the need to buy buy buy when I can also read from the library?
They’re books. They’re not going anywhere.
So ultimately I decided no longer to post book hauls. Not on the blog, not on Instagram, not on Twitter. The act of buying a book does not make me a book lover. It’s not part of my identity, and not a requirement for me to be part of this community. I don’t want to get stuck in an endless cycle of buying. I don’t want to not be able to do other things because I spent all my money on books while I still have perfectly fine ones sitting on my shelves waiting to be read.
I stopped buying books.
And at first it was hard. I was on the “book buying ban”. Another thing we laugh about. About how we try to control our book buying and then end up splurging even more, going on huge book buying sprees. I can’t say I was completely successful either, at first.
It took me nearly two years to come to the point where I don’t feel the need to buy massive stacks of books any more. I can go into a book store, and maybe come out with one book I’m truly interested in. Because obviously, I still sometimes pick up a few new ones. But I brought it down to about two books a month, while on an average month I read around ten. Slowly I’m bringing down the insane amount of unread books I own. It’s a long process, but I no longer feel guilty looking at my bookshelves. The unread books no longer dominate the read ones.
I love books, but I don’t want book buying to control my life.
Do you buy more books than you read?