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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?

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  • http://itsallaboutbooks.de/ xcrini

    I love this post and 100% agree!
    Maybe it’s because I don’t have that much money to spend on books that it makes me uncomfortable to see people “waste” money on books they will never read anyway or just that I look at my own TBR daily and see too many books that I probably won’t read anytime soon, if at all and think about the money I spend on them.

    My problem used to be that I bought a lot of used books. They were cheap, so I was able to buy a lot, more than I was able to read. I almost hit 200 with my unread books. What motivates me to get that number down again is not so much that I think I won’t have the time to read them all someday, but that I know I will loose interest over time. And I learned from the past that I often do, so now I often wait weeks before I buy certain books (especially hyped ones). It often turns out I don’t want them as bad as I thought.

    So far this year I managed to reduce my TBR by over 30 books and IT FEELS SO GOOD.

  • https://www.facebook.com/june.manning74 June Manning

    I think this fits me way too much. I am especially bad about buying ebooks because they take up no space. And when I come across a freebie that sounds good or a book that I want that is on sale or something, I just can’t seem to resist it. I have over a thousand books on my Kindle, I have read a great number of them but there is still a lot that I haven’t read. Yet each day it seems I add a new author and numerous books to my tbr wishlist. I come across them on blogs, Facebook, instagram, etc and they sound so good that I want to read them. Unfortunately, lately I haven’t been reading much at all. I have numerous autoimmune disorders and theyake me tired and unabe to concentrate πŸ™ Yet I continue to buy more books.

  • sarina

    all impuls buys are not good

  • http://www.noel-rivera.com Noel R.

    I completely agree with this post, and I used to be one of the worst offenders I know. It wasn’t really that I thought I needed books to be a book lover (though know people like that), but I thought so many of the descriptions of the books sounded amazing, and I didn’t want to miss out on any of them. Well, a decade later, I still haven’t read most of those. A hundred? Forget that. Try a thousand unread books. At least. I was also convinced that I had to get them when I had the chance, because I’ve been in the situation before where books have gone out of print before I had the chance to purchase them. These days, that’s not really such a concern since you can usually track down a book even if they’re not printing it anymore (though who knows what the price will be). But lately–especially this year–I’ve been tempering my book purchases. And it’s not a “book buying ban” but rather a “I’m sick of having so little space” situation. Why are there so many books here, taking up space, when I might never read them? I finally did a purge earlier in the year that got rid of a good hundred or so. But to be honest, I could do more. Plus there’s the onset of book fatigue. I just don’t get excited about buying books anymore, partly for financial reasons, and partly because I know I probably won’t read it right away. And if I do, is it going to be as boring as the last two, four, six, eight that I read before? So far I’m only buying books in series that I’ve already started and still enjoy, that are from authors I still happen to like and whose work still interests me, or if a book description REALLY catches my attention or sounds different, I’ll consider it. But no promises. And that’s assuming I can get past the first line of the description. Half the time, I don’t anymore.

  • MaryKate Sullivan

    I love that you posted this! I have been moving, more or less constantly, since I started college back in 2006. One of the WORST things in the world is moving boxes and boxes of books–it’s painful and after awhile, you look at them and think “What the HELL am I doing??” Eventually, my parents also moved and those boxes and boxes of books that I didn’t need for grad school are currently collecting dust in my parents’ garage attic. My mom became so frustrated with them that she started labeling them “Katie’s Krap” (my family calls me Katie) and my youngest sister drew poop on the boxes. Yep, we’re a mature, well-rounded family :). Now, a few years later, I’m down to one bookshelf at my apartment (which I’ll be moving…AGAIN…at the end of the month, and then AGAIN into my new place at the end of October. Sigh.) and those boxes in the attic that I’m sort of terrified to go through. My point is, after all this rambling, is that I use the library! I love the library! And used book sales–I don’t feel as guilty spending a few dollars on a book and then donating it. I donate a lot or I pass on books that I really like, but will probably never read again, to friends and family. I know this isn’t for everyone, but I do know that almost everyone has a library close to them. It’s the perfect way to cut WAY down on book-buying bad habits :).

  • http://thedailyprophecy.blogspot.com/ Mel @thedailyprophecy

    I don’t have a lot of money, so when I buy books I make them worth it. I DO have way too many books, but once I move I’m going to take a honest look at all the books and donate the ones I know I will never read. I want my bookshelf to represent books that I love and only a handful of books I haven’t read yet. I think the problem is mainly that I’ve only switched around 3 years ago to YA and lots of unread books I own are adult. I used to buy a lot of used books in all kinds of genre, but over the years I’ve grown attached to genres and I’ve lost interest in them. I’ve been cutting down my piles already and it feels good to know that those unloved books will find a new home πŸ™‚ and it gives me space for books that mean something to me. I still share my book hauls, but that’s simply because I love to share my new things like I would do with friends. Sometimes book hauls make me feel a little uncomfortable too, because some bloggers seem to acquire piles and piles for books every week.. Good for them, but when do you ever have the time to read them all?

  • http://www.lunar-rainbows.com/ Micheline

    LOL: ”I’m the Iceland of blogging” that describes me as well!

    Ok so, you’re totally on point with this post. Since I started blogging, I’ve been on self-imposed book-buying bans throughout – with the exception of when my mom gets me Amazon gift cards over the Holidays. I’ll admit that I still post hauls when I have them, and I enjoy taking pictures of beloved books as I get them. BUT. I used to go into a bookstore and leave with tons of books. I don’t anymore. And even though I went to BEA three years in a row, I was always one of the bloggers that picked up the least amount of books. Always. And it got more pronounced with every year I attended. Granted, I still have tons of unread books (that I WILL read eventually) but now, I only buy must-have books. I don’t collect books I know I won’t read. It’s wasteful and you’re right: it’s like hoarding anything else. Granted, I’d rather hoar books that clothes or whatever, but the bottom line is that hoarding is hoarding.

  • Maraia

    As someone who gets all her books from the library, I really appreciate this post. I’ve never gone on a “ban,” I just DON’T. BUY. BOOKS. It’s really not that hard. I understand that I have the luxury of a library that gives me access to almost every book I want to read in English, whereas many bloggers don’t. Even so, many of the gigantic book hauls come from people who DO have library access, and half the time I see people buying a billion editions of the same book (and then complaining about being broke, but that’s another story) or books that they’ve already read and don’t actually plan on re-reading. They just want pretty bookshelves. This topic always makes we want to rant, so I’ll stop here, but again, thanks for writing this. πŸ™‚

  • http://www.thequietpeople.com/ Beth

    I get this. 100%, I’m with you. Although I DO have a tendency to buy more books than I can feasibly read in a month, I’ve heard so much about TBR SHELVES that it’s just becoming ridiculous. Like, people deliberately buy books to fill up their book cases, and have an entire shelf dedicated to books they haven’t read, and that’s just the sign of a book blogger. I agree, the materialism doesn’t sit right with me either. Surprisingly for a book blogger, I only have one small bookcase, and right now, a shelf and a half of that is free from books. I tend to go through my books each month, and send any that I’m unlikely to reread off to charity… partly that’s because I can’t abide clutter, but it’s also something to do with the fact that I don’t want to feel guilty when I look at my book case.

    But then, that’s just me. And right now, I’m off to continue my book buying ban!

    Beth x

  • Nirvana @ Quenching the Quill

    I’m a broke person 8549% of the time, so even if I go on book buying sprees and put them away for like a month before getting to it, I KNOW I’ll get to it. Because I spent that money on it, and I know lots of other people loved it, and even if I pick it up after a year, I will read it. I don’t buy books enough to start hoarding them – but this is becoming a problem with my e books and it’s stressing me out.


  • http://booksntea.wordpress.com/ Jackie @ Books & Tea

    I appreciate this post. I used to buy more books than I read, which was silly because I don’t even have a book shelf to display the pretty books! They sat in piles in crates, tucked away in my closet. I mean, I was never one of the book hoarders that purchased books even though their wallets didn’t agree with it, but most of those purchases were on impulse. Some of them I’m definitely going to read, but other books I wonder what I was even thinking when I bought them.

    I’m now a huge fan of the library. Seems silly right? Why wouldn’t more book bloggers take advantage of that splendid resource? Perhaps I pick out more books than I’m going to read, but at least I don’t feel guilty about it because I didn’t spend gas money on them. Plus, it’s opened me up to genres I’d never read otherwise! I feel so much more free borrowing books from the library than buying books from the store.

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  • http://www.spajonas.com/ S. J. Pajonas

    I did this with yarn for the longest time. I would buy skeins and skeins and skeins of yarn that I had no knitting project for. And it all piled up and consumed my life. It was crazy and out of control, so I stopped, but it was so hard to let those pretty color ways go unpurchased. I was the same with books too and I would buy books in piles, just like you and everyone else. Then came the day I had to box them up and move them to a new house. Never again! Now I’m an ebook hoarder, and I don’t even feel guilty about it anymore. My Kindle can hold an enormous amount of ebooks and many of them do not break the bank. But this doesn’t mean I’m not discerning. I’m still careful about what I download or buy. Even if it’s free or 99Β’, I don’t buy or download it unless I’m sure it’s a good book for me.

    I’m a library supporter but I don’t borrow books from the library. I prefer to buy them. I stay out of the borrow queue so other people can read them.