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


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!


On “Guilty Pleasure” Reading


In my everyday life, I never experience book-shaming or reader-shaming firsthand. Of the few times that coworkers or friends have ventured to bring up the topic of books, they speak unabashedly about Stephen King, John Green, and Mary Higgins Clark. Quite frankly, no one around me seems particularly ashamed to be seen reading genre fiction or YA novels.  And why should they?

But hop on the web, and it seems that everyone feels the need to defend their decision to read purely for pleasure. No one wants to be seen reading Twilight on the subway or Fifty Shades of Grey at Starbucks. And what’s more, we feel ashamed for the books we haven’t read (Moby-Dick, anyone?).

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Currently Reading: Tales from the Thousand and One Nights

I’ve decided to begin a weekly (or bi-weekly depending on my reading habits) series called “Currently Reading” (title subject to change), where I will simply write about the book I happen to be reading at the time. For now, this is going to be very informal, but my hope is that it will evolve over time to showcase some quality literary analysis on my part, and work out my brain muscles. I need to more regularly practice analyzing literature, and although the text below is hardly an “analysis,” it is a start, and a start is 100 times better than nothing at all.

I love that feeling I get when I read something and then years later read it all over again and just barely remember it. It’s not like a fading memory. It’s more like deja vu. I’ve been here before. 

I’m currently reading Tales from the Thousand and One Nights, a book I was required to read sections of during a British Literature (I know that seems strange) course I took during one of my first semesters of college. Lately, I’ve decided it might be useful to reread pieces of literature that I was required to read in college, and see how my appreciation of them might change.

In case you’re unfamiliar, Tales from the Thousand and One Nights is comprised of stories from Persian fairy tales, Indian folklore, and edits and additions from various Arabic storytellers and scribes (Introduction). The edition I’m reading, translated by N.J. Dawood, includes many well-known tales such as “Sindbad the Sailor and Sindbad the Porter,” and “Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp.”

Before I picked up the book this weekend, I tried to recall specific details that had stuck out to me when I first read it in college. All that came to mind was that this was the story of a young woman (Shahrazad) who cunningly told stories of magic and adventure so enthralling that they delayed her death for 1001 nights. And that the collection is considered a frame narrative, a fact that was drilled into my head during ENG 294 or 211 or whatever. I also remembered that I initially found some enjoyment in the book, and that it was one of the first pieces of literature that I freely talked about during class discussion. In other words, it’s not intimidating.

In fact, despite the vulgar language and mentions of sex, many of the stories strike me as quite juvenile. I want to say that the stories are simple, but I must also point out that the framework is quite complex, and it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of who is speaking, of what world the story is currently in, of the fact that this is, at least physically, one cohesive work. Perhaps this is good in some ways. It means I’m getting sucked into the story. Or it might mean I’m bored out of my mind and sidetracked.

I’m just over halfway through the book now, and must say that some stories (Aladdin, for example) truly capture my imagination, while others seem to ramble on and lose me. This seems fitting, considering the slew of different contributors. Remember, this wasn’t written by a single author.

Unfortunately, at the moment, this book is doing little more than entertain me. In some instances, I do feel a twinge of something similar to deja vu, because I get sucked into a story that captured me years ago, and it’s exciting and fresh again. I’m not sure that I’ll ever read it again, but if I do, I’m curious to see how my reactions to the work may evolve. Perhaps I’ll analyze it in the future, which will likely create in me a new found appreciation for the book.

I couldn’t find the copy I’m reading on the publishers website, but here’s a link to it on Amazon (sorry):