Bookish Confession: I’m a Book “Overbuyer”

Per a recommendation at my workplace, I’ve started reading Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project.” It’s one of those books I’ve seen at bookstores in the past, picked-up, and put back down. I never purchased it in the past because, thankfully, I’m already very happy. I didn’t think I needed a ‘happiness project.’ But after receiving this book from my workplace, I’m so very happy to be reading it. I’m learning so much about myself and my potential in each chapter (How can I be a better person? How can I improve my relationships with others? How can I cultivate an atmosphere of happiness?). One thing I’ve learned:

I’m a book overbuyer, and it’s starting to impact my happiness. 

As Rubin explains in her book, an overbuyer is someone who buys more than (s)he actually needs. In her chapter titled “Buy Some Happiness” she explains, “Overbuyers often lay in huge supplies of slow-use items like shampoo or cough medicine.” (179) In most regards, I’m NOT an overbuyer. I don’t like to spend money on items I don’t really require, and am generally pretty frugal… except when it comes to books.

Reading brings me happiness, and as a result, purchasing books also brings me happiness. I love to spend my lunch hour at the local used book store, take a trip to library book sales on the weekends, or kill time at the local Barnes and Noble just for fun. This gets dangerous when you consider I rarely leave a bookstore without a new book or two.

I never really considered that this was a problem. After all, I run my budget at the end of every month, and make sure my spending is reasonable. I’m fortunate and grateful that I can afford every book I buy. But what I’ve noticed is that–although I read almost every day–my apartment has become jam-packed full of books I haven’t even read. For awhile, this didn’t really bother me. I know I’ll get around to those unread books someday, so it’s okay to have them laying around. And what’s more, I always have lots of options of what to read next whenever I finish a book. It’s like having a personal home library–there’s never a shortage of something new to read.

But while reading “The Happiness Project,” I’ve made a realization that’s been in the back of my mind for awhile now: My book overbuying habits are actually sabotaging some of my happiness.

As a child, finishing a Nancy Drew mystery was a source of true joy–not only because of the accomplishment I felt, but also because finishing a book meant I got to pick out a new one. In college, when I rarely allowed myself to spend money on anything other than absolute necessities, purchasing a book was a rare treat. It was a true source of happiness for me to pick out a book, cherish it, and read it cover to cover.

I still enjoy picking out new books, but now that I’ve allowed it to become such a common hobby, it lacks the magic it used to bring me. A lesson that Rubin shares in her book: “It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that if you have something you love or there’s something you want, you’ll be happier with more.” (179)

A habit I’ve cultivated recently, because I have so many unread books lying around, is that I often put a book down when I’m halfway through it because I’ve lost interest and want to pick up something new. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, there’s some truth in the saying that “Life’s too short to read bad books,” but for me, neglecting a book halfway through gives me a little twinge of guilt. I feel like I’ve neglected an important task.

And what’s more, I don’t feel the same sense of accomplishment I used to when I look at my bookshelves, because, frankly, most of the books that are on some of my shelves I haven’t even read. There’s something very fulfilling about spending hours with a book, and then looking back at it on your shelf and seeing all the creases in the spine.

With all this in mind, I’m striving to purchase fewer books this year, and instead find contentment and happiness with all the books I currently have just waiting to be read and enjoyed.

What are some of your book-buying habits? Let me know in the comment section below.

PS:  This is my first post after nearly a year-long hiatus, so I thought I would briefly check-in. This past year, I’ve been busy writing and contributing to other blogs, working, reading, moving, and just generally focusing on life outside the internet. But, now I’m back and ready to blog about books, etc. again. Thanks for reading!


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