Great Things That Happened When I Stopped (Over)Buying Books

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I’ve written before about my bad habit of over buying books. A year ago, I made a commitment to stop contributing to my already overflowing bookshelves, and instead enjoy the books I already own.

I stopped making unnecessary trips to Barnes and Noble, I walked past the local bookshop downtown instead of instinctively walking in (simply because I was in the area, as I used to do), and just last night, I took a photo of a book I wanted at the grocery store, instead of immediately purchasing it.

These small actions have undoubtedly made a sizable impact on my monthly budget… and have also made a big impact on my reading habits, in ways I wasn’t expecting.

Here are the three outcomes that have surprised me most:

I now feel at ease to reread old favorites. By having so many unread books lying around the house, I always had a lingering sense of urgency to read the next book on my shelf. If I was going to continually be buying new books, I felt like I had to continually be reading new books. There simply wasn’t time to reread books that had been on my shelves for years.

As soon as I made a commitment to stop overbuying, my attitude toward reading time changed in such a drastically positive way. I was finally able to begin rereading my favorite books without guilt. Finally–the pressure I had inflicted on myself was off. I could enjoy books at my leisure again.

In fact, last year, the majority of the books I read were well-loved favorites, and I took my time enjoying them again. What a treat!

My physical attachment to books has significantly decreased. I realize how ridiculous this must sound, but the more books I had, the more I attached I felt to my ever-growing library. Even those that had been sitting in my house for  years–untouched–felt necessary to me. What if I got rid of my Modern Period American Literature Anthology, only to immediately after acquire some unmistakable urge to read as much Gertrude Stein as possible? What if I donated my pristine copy of Big Magic only to have it recommended to me by a coworker days later?

These were the silly thoughts that kept me from ever getting rid of books. In reality, I’m lucky enough to live in a world where literature is as accessible as ever. If I have a book recommended to me, I can always check it out from the library, read it online, or purchase it again with little effort!

I’ve begun reading for the “right” reasons again. For awhile there, I treated reading as a sort of chore. I had adopted this foolish desire to be “well-read” (whatever that means). I slogged through dull classics (don’t get me wrong–I love classics, just not all of them!) just so I could prove to myself I could get through them. But no matter how much I read, there was always so much I still hadn’t gotten to. My impossible TBR was so discouraging.

Now, I only pick up books that I’m truly interested in… and I don’t get hung up on genres or labels. I used to avoid certain genres because I feared they would be a waste of precious reading time (goodness, I was such a snob!), but now I happily read whatever appeals to me.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned? As it turns out, there’s always just enough time to read the books you love most.

 

Are you a recovering book addict too? Tell me about it in the comments!

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Critical Reading Post Graduation

Reading is important. I don’t think I should have to tell you, but if you want, you can read all about why herehere, and here. I graduated from college 6 months ago (wow), and one of the single greatest things was suddenly having the free time to read and write for leisure. I majored in English with a Creative Writing concentration (something I will never regret), which allowed me to focus the bulk of my time on literary assignments (<3), but left very little time (ie. none) to read the Tom Robbin’s novels in my nightstand.

Although I don’t have nearly the amount of free time I thought I would have, I will say that having the ability to read for pleasure again is truly liberating, and if you don’t pick up a book now and again, you absolutely should. Oddly enough though, I still haven’t finished Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas. Instead, I’ve been reaching for The Great Gatsby, The Waste Land, and even the Heath Anthologies from my college days. I’ve been using this time to catch up on reading I should have done years ago, but the fact that I’m reading because I want to, and not because a teacher is telling me to, is so much more rewarding.

Although I most certainly read for fun (Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums was a fun one!), following college, I’ve primarily been reading as a way to keep learning. And although reading for pleasure is certainly noble, critical reading is perhaps even more beneficial. I like to read a fairly even amount of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and each genre serves a different purpose for me. When it comes to poetry especially, I like to dive deep into the book, beyond the words physically on the page. I like to spend my time making association maps to find connections between different poems and images in a collection. I like to note the similarities in style between different writers. I like to research the epigraphs and quotations. I like poems that lead me to other poems. And sometimes, I like to dive even deeper by writing about what I read (in my opinion, the most effective way to analyze a piece of literature is to write about it). And if I’m writing about a poetry collection, you can bet I’ve read it cover to cover at least 3 times. Doing this keeps my critical reading muscles in shape, helps me to focus on varying writing styles, and gets me motivated to work even harder on my own poetry.

I read nonfiction to keep me motivated (Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art is a great read for anyone struggling against resistance, ie. You want to write more than anything, but will do anything except write), and to keep me educated (I’m currently reading Autobiography of a Yogi, a great read if you have any interest in yoga, meditation, or Indian culture). The thing that’s really cool about reading nonfiction? You’ll always have something to talk about.

And fiction, I truly do read for pleasure and pleasure alone. I better bust that Tom Robbins out of my nightstand.

My point is that reading is an activity you should never stop doing. Read for fun, read for knowledge, read for personal growth.

Read books that challenge you, then read them again.

Want to see what I’ve been reading this year? Check out my reading list. What books have you been reading?