Another Post about Buying Fewer Books

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intentI’ve been trying to a write a post for the past week about my need to buy fewer books in 2017, but my brain hasn’t wanted to think about it. Anyway, at the end of 2016 I was sorting out my Filofax, and as I removed the old pages and inserted new ones, I came across all the book lists I’d compiled. The lists got me wondering about how many books I’d actually bought throughout the year, so I consulted Booxter, the trusty old database app I’ve been using for years, and was rather surprised at the number it turned up. I became curious about how much money I’d spent on acquiring those books, and was pretty shocked to find myself staring at a not inconsequential figure. Multiplying that by 5 – because I’ve been on a book buying bender for at least that many years – made me sit back in my chair and draw in my breath rather sharply. Really!? It wouldn’t have been so bad if I’d actually read the books I’d bought, but most of them are languishing in piles, unread and mostly forgotten.

After that unwelcome revelation, I decided I needed to get serious about my ongoing battle with my unread book mountain. I’ve written here so many times about reading projects and plans that were supposed to motivate me to reduce the piles, and I even started a new website in an effort to force myself to read my own damn books, but nothing has worked. I decided to give it another try, so I set myself a perfectly reasonable monthly amount to spend on books and vowed to stick to the budget. However, on New Year’s Day I was feeling a tad stressed and I ended up going on a bit of a binge and spent three times my monthly allocation in one day. Yup. Since then I’ve been feeling quite disappointed with myself. I know I often use online book buying as a displacement activity when I’m feeling stressed – it’s a distraction from what’s bothering me and a way to escape my thoughts for a while. And, although book shopping isn’t exactly a self-destructive and dangerous addiction, I do feel that I need to quit indulging the part of me that still wants to find a way out of dealing with what is.

As regular readers know, I have an OCD/depression/anxiety thing going on. I’ve been off meds for over three years now and am doing ok. I no longer see doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists, because quite frankly, they made me feel worse about myself; they made me feel as if everything about me was very wrong and totally broken and that the best I could hope for was to find a combination of medications that would correct the chemical imbalance in my brain. I got tired of the ‘suck it and see’ approach of psychotropic medication, the way that prescribing is more of a black art than a science, and the way that doctors discount the horrible side-effects of some drugs. I got tired of all the waiting rooms and being asked questions and being labelled by people who had only met me half an hour previously. I got tired of the whole thing, really, and decided to quit the system and see what happened. Sure, it can be a bit tough sometimes to be with my crazy brain, but I seem to have developed some coping strategies and so far I’m doing alright. I don’t discount the idea of taking medication again at some point, if I think I need to, but at the moment I feel as though I’m dealing ok with my thoughts and impulses, except for the excessive book buying thing, and it’s time for me to deal with that, too.

After my shopping binge on New Year’s Day, I’ve not felt inclined to buy any more books. I’m feeling alright about trying to stick to a monthly book buying allowance. Instead of making lists of books I need to buy, I’m writing about the things I could do with the money I save. I could do something about the travel plans that have been brewing in the back of my mind for a while, or I could buy the top-of-the-range motorcycle I’ve been hankering after. I could spend money on the house, or buy furniture, or just leave the money in the bank and watch it grow. I know that I need to avoid reading book reviews and trawling websites looking for out of print editions. I’ll have to try to get over my fear of missing out: on a bargain, on a great read, on learning something new. I need to turn away from the internet as a source of distraction, and instead invest more of my spare time and energy in real life activities – such as reading, making art, and writing.

Yesterday, I went to the metropolis and wandered into a book shop and looked around, and I didn’t feel in the least bit tempted to buy anything. Instead, I felt a kind of revulsion at the idea of acquiring more books, and I felt very tired all of a sudden. I just didn’t want to be there, so I left empty-handed, which has to be a first for me! I didn’t have any sense of prohibition; I just didn’t want to break my promise to myself.

It’s not as though I’m going cold turkey with a book buying ban, because that never works for me in the long-term. Gradual reduction and resetting the want-o-meter is the way to go. Setting reasonable goals instead of setting myself up for failure. Stepping off the conspicuous consumption roller-coaster. In the end, I’m accountable to myself. I need to stick to the plan, stick to the promise, defer action, and let it go, whatever it is. I’ve been here a time or two in the past. I know how this goes. If I can stay clean and sober and vegan and sane(ish), hopefully I can apply the same principles and stick to my book buying budget.

I’m determined to do it. It’s time.

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9 Responses
  • Brian Joseph
    January 13, 2017

    Your problem with buying books is such a common one. I had it for the longest time. So many other people tell me they have it.

    For whatever reason I have managed to reach a state when I only buy books when I am ready to read them. The only exception is if I see something used that is hard to find.

    There is just something about books that causes folks to buy them compulsively.

    • Violet
      January 14, 2017

      I think I only started buying so many books when we moved back to civilisation after living in a little town on the edge of the desert which was 1,500 km from the nearest book store. We didn’t have the internet, either, so once I got access to ‘all the books’ again, I went a bit overboard and it got to be a habit. I just don’t want to miss out on buying that great bargain book, or the hard to find book, or the book that I know I want to read, but not right now. I’m trying to adjust my attitude, and thinking about needing, rather than wanting.

  • Amy
    January 13, 2017

    I too have been a compulsive book buyer. But I’ve improved a lot, mostly because I realized that I’ve lost the really fun part of it. When I was young, I’d save up my allowance and babysitting money to go to the bookstore, where I’d buy one or two books, take them home, and read them immediately. I’m not perfect yet, but I’m working to return to that fun state of “Hey, I really want to read this book, and I’m going to crack it open as soon as I get home.”

    • Violet
      January 14, 2017

      I’d love to buy a book and read it straight away; I remember how pleasurable that used to be. I think a big part of my problem is that I buy 95% of my books online, because there is only one book store within 35km, and that’s a big chain franchise that only sells popular books. By the time the books I order arrive, about 10 days after I buy them, I’ve usually lost interest and have moved on to something else. Also, I tend to borrow quite a few books from the library and waste my time trying to read them, instead of reading the books I’ve bought because I’m really interested in them. I don’t quite understand why I do that, but I DNF most library books. In addition to this sad state of affairs, I come from a poor working-class background and my family had no money, so when I was given anything new, my mother would take it and put away ‘for later’, so that I didn’t wreck it or get it dirty. I’m sure there’s still some of that floating around in my subconscious. And then there’s the pricing issue: books are expensive in Australia, so when the $AU was at parity or above the $US a couple of years ago, suddenly books became a lot cheaper to buy online, and I did have a bit of a ‘make hay while the sun shines’ attitude. Another thing that causes me to buy so many books is the feeling that I need to read *everything*, which is impossible, of course.

      I’m glad you’re managing your own book buying habit. It’s no fun at all when something we love to do turns into a compulsion and all the fun gets sucked out of the experience. I remember the satisfaction of buying a new book and reading it straight away. Thanks for reminding me. I think I need to try to get back to the core reason why I used to buy books.

  • Caroline
    January 14, 2017

    I tried to comment a few times but it doesn’t work. Not sure what’s going on.

    • Violet
      January 14, 2017

      Sorry about that. Maybe the server was having a nap or something. :/ Your comments didn’t go to spam, and you’re not blacklisted, so I’m thinking it was a server glitch. It seems to be working ok now. Ah, the joys of having a self-hosted WordPress install.

  • Caroline
    January 14, 2017

    I know what it is now. I noticed that when I try to comment from Bloglovin, your site blocks me. I get a “This is forbidden” + number. Since I’ve lost comments that way, I thought I’m cleverer than the system and copied it. Then went directly to your site and pasted it BUT – the same forbidden message.
    Pffff. On the plus side – I still have the comment. I only have to type it. 🙂 I just didn’t want to do this because I was afraid it was maybe going to appear three times. I’ll be typing shortly.

  • Caroline
    January 20, 2017

    I was too lazy to retype the comment in the end. I’m sorry.
    I just said – you know how I feel about this. The money is one thing, but I don’t like being disappointed in myself.
    Like you, I find buying books, browsing and looking for books can calm me.
    I saw you signed up for new studies but I still hope you can stick to your goals.

    • Violet
      February 12, 2017

      I’m trying to stick to my resolve. I’ve had to buy some textbooks, but I’ve been pretty good otherwise. 🙂

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