A reflection on not buying books


I’ve posted on here before about being a compulsive book-buyer – nothing wrong with that, you might say, there are worse habits! Despite my ‘piles’ giving me cause for consternation from time to time, because it’s another thing to feel guilty about ( I buy more books than I can hope to read, at this point in my life), I have reconciled myself to the condition. Firstly, I am happy to support authors, for the work they have done, even if it takes me a long time to get around to enjoying it. Secondly, I have three children of a certain age and, like most parents I know, am engaged in a constant struggle with small, shiny technological weapons! I consider the books that clutter (embellish?) my home to be my old-fashioned conventional arms, that will still be there when the devices run out of charge or become obsolete. There are sound reasons for having lots of books around.

That said, my March reading challenge was to take a book from my ‘to read’ pile and it made me profoundly aware of how many of my books I have not yet read, and ask myself why I still acquire more. So I decided that I would give up book-buying for Lent. I’m not religious, but I generally try and participate in Lent because I think it’s interesting to test oneself. Last year I tried giving up sugar, with mixed results, but I learnt a great deal, and I won’t be doing that again!

Unlike sugar, book-buying is a healthy thing, but it helped me look more to what I already have, instead of craving more, and within that lies a deeper message. I went into my local bookshop many times during the period of Lent (it also happens to be my coffee shop of choice), and I found it very difficult to resist the special offers, the ‘book of the month’, the attractive lifestyle books, but I did resist, and I am slightly richer for it.

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It meant that I went to my local library for a book I was keen to read (East West Street by Phillippe Sands, winner of this year’s Baillie Gifford non-fiction prize) and had a long overdue browse there. (The Trafford Libraries website is amazing – you can get almost anything!) It also meant that I turned back to my ‘to read’ pile (or the TBR pile, as other book bloggers call it) for more inspiration, which was also a rewarding exercise.


I had two semi-lapses: I bought a book as a birthday gift for a friend (We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere by Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel, yes, the Gillian Anderson!) which I’m tempted to read before giving it to her belatedly. I think I can allow that one! I also bought Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo; that one is harder to justify but it’s this month’s read for my book club so I didn’t think I could wait until after Lent.

I am now back in full book-buying mode again, and with all the literary prizes coming up in the next few months, there will be no shortage of credit card bashing. Having detoxed for a couple of months, however, I am more than ready for it!

Are you a compulsive book-buyer? I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.

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Author: Julia's books

Reader. Writer. Mother. Partner. Friend. Friendly.

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