Reader Confession: I Rarely Buy Books

Friday, January 13, 2017

I  have a confession today: I super rarely buy any books, mostly because I don't want to own books I wouldn't reread.

I get about 98% of my books at the library. Libraries are this wonderful source of comfort and exploration for me. I love wandering through the stacks and pulling out books that look interesting. Checking out books from the library allows me to try out a wide range of books without having to worry about whether or not I'll like the book and allows me to stop reading them with minimal guilt.

In the picture below, I only finished about half of the books, which is pretty normal for me. I stop books because they're boring, sad, gruesome, overly sexual, etc. If I'm not into a book within 50 pages, I stop it and pick up another. And sometimes I'll read a book, and later admit to myself that it made me too sad or was too intense for me to want to reread.

From top to bottom: Read and liked, read and loved, had to return before I started it, read and loved, read and hated, stopped reading, stopped reading, stopped reading, read and liked, and the last two I just flipped through for the pictures.
Because of that, buying books feels like way too much commitment for me. What if I don't like it? You can't return read books (right?). It would feel like such a waste. I don't want books on my shelves that I don't love and that don't say something about the type of person I am.

A few Christmases ago, my parents gave me a Barnes and Noble gift card. I bought The Chosen, The Devil in the White City, and Man's Search for Meaning. All of those were amazing and I have read them all twice, The Chosen three times, which made purchasing those books well worth it.

But the next Christmas, when I got the gift card again, things did not go as well. I bought The Empathy Exams and Team of Rivals. I loved Rivals a lot, but it took me about a month to get through and when I was done I realized its sheer volume would probably keep me from reading it again. I actively disliked The Empathy Exams; I couldn't stand the author and thought the stories were disjointed. The only reason I finished it was because I had bought it and felt like I had to finish.

It is that experience (and other similar ones) that makes me wary to buy books without reading them first. I want to know that I'll like them, that I'll want to read them again and again and be happy to display them.

Normally I don't feel bad about using libraries over purchasing books. But as I've gotten older and learned more about the book world, I feel guilty that I rarely support authors, booksellers, publishers, literary agents and all the other people who make the books that bring me so much joy. I want the world to keep producing books, good books, that will broaden my horizons and teach me something about the world.

Not buying books makes me worry I'm not doing my part in this process, that I'm not supporting an industry that makes me happy. I've resolved to start (slowly) buying books that I love and want to reread. I know that having the books easily available to me will boost my happiness, as will the knowledge that I am giving back to the world of books.

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