The new year brings with it lofty declarations about reading habits. And without fail, every year, I break those resolutions. In 2015 I was going to read all the books I never read in high school. In 2018 I was riding high on the #NoNewBooks2018 book buying ban vibes. In 2019 I was going to throw out my scheduled reading and stop joining book clubs. LAUGHABLE. I sabotage myself best when it’s concerning books.
So, like many of my book lovers and librarians before me, I have fallen into a crisis situation concerning the number of books I have in my apartment and on my tbr list. My To Read list on Goodreads is over 2,300 at the time of this post, the number of books I have checked out from the library is currently about 60 (down from 87), I have hundreds of books in my apartment currently (but that’s hardly the total number I own…I have them stashed everywhere), and I buy at least two new books a month for my book clubs, not to mention my impulse emotional book buying (which I’ve been doing a lot of post-wedding dress shopping). This needs to stop. I can’t fit these books in my space anymore, and what is worse, I can’t read them all. Most of the books I own I haven’t read. So that is why I am going to take a bold step for 2018: I won’t be buying or checking out any new books to the best of my ability. Sure, I’ll have slip-ups, and for my one book club I’ll still be buying the book because sales are donated to Planned Parenthood, but this new rule will at least keep me in check.
So what does this mean? It means that I will actually be reading books I own! And then perhaps I’ll be able to get rid of a few of them. I’m sure I’ll really hate a couple…can’t love them all. So for Shameful Book Club I will only be selecting books I own, which adds another layer to my shame because I took the step of actually buying these books and yet still haven’t read them. For most of my other book clubs, I’ll have to just let go. This is going to be insanely difficult for me, because I’m a book club enthusiast and belong to five currently. I’m constantly looking to join more. But if they don’t read a book I own, I won’t be able to participate.
While I’m going to hate this, I know it’s the right move. It will free up so much of my reading time and give me actual choice over what I’m picking up. My reading is so dictated by book clubs and library due dates that I hardly ever get to read spontaneously or catch up on personal reading. This is partly why I haven’t read most of the books I own. About 37% of the books I read last year were books I had to read for book clubs alone. That doesn’t include books for work or projects.
This also means I won’t be checking out books from the library. Since I work at a library and find it emotionally satisfying to check out arm fulls of books at a time, this will also be a challenge. Again, I’m sure there will be a slip-up here and there, but hopefully I won’t have more than two library books checked out at a time. My plan is to read as many of my currently checked out books as I can, and as I return them I won’t be replacing them. It’s hard for me to resist impulse check-outs, especially because I read so many book blogs and lists. I’m always snatching up the new best seller or forgotten classic that industry folks recommend. But if I’m doing that, I’m not reading my own books, and I’m filling up my living space with more piles.
What do I hope to achieve? A better understanding of my own collection, for one. I have such a random selection of books, and I’d like to see what it all feels like and looks like in terms of representing who I am as a person. I’ve been reading a lot about the art of book collecting and how crafting a personal collection is different from amassing a personal library. I will still have a library, but it would be fun to identify and build off of budding collections in my existing library.
I’d also LOVE an opportunity to weed my own library, but my anxiety and book obsession will not allow me to ditch books I haven’t read. I want to read them, assess them, and then either keep or dispose of them in some way. This ties back into the overall vibe of my personal collection and how I want to curate it. I know that seems a bit odd to think about curating your own books, but to me it seems like an interesting project and a cool way to express myself. Freeing up shelf space would also be amazing. Our apartment, while bigger than our last, lacks a bit on storage. Having shelves for things other than books would help with that. If I’m able to get all of my library books returned, that will free up an entire bookshelf. AN ENTIRE BOOKSHELF!!!
Another interesting idea that I read about was buying books with specific reasoning in mind. I recently saw an article written by a young poet who discussed how she rarely buys books, but when she does it means a lot to her. She proceeded to go through and list every book she bought in 2016 and why exactly she bought that book. I know I won’t be perfect in 2018 when it comes to #nonewbooks, but if I approach it with this idea in mind, I will be working on good habits and have a really interesting collection to talk about at the end of the year.
What about you and your book buying habits? Want to join me on this foolhardy journey?