No Matter How Hard We Try… We All Stumble a Little

March 20, 2009 at 3:55 AM 15 comments

For as long as I can remember I have loved books and novels. When I was just two years old my mom used a series of Sesame Street flash cards to teach me to read. It’s strange, but to this day I can picture some of those images, like the picture of Grover holding a plate of spaghetti in front of an open door. The word ‘open’ written in large, black font beneath the image.

My mom took me to the library on Sunday afternoons and I remember walking through isles and isles of books so I could pick out the ones with the most colorful jackets. She’s always tell me to pick four or five to bring home, but I’d always ask to bring home at least six or seven.

In high school I read often and in college I took all of the literature courses that required extra reading. While my classmates sat through poetry seminars, I enrolled in the History of the Novel, a course which required me to read fourteen novels and write upteen papers in a semester.

I suppose I was a glutton for punishment, but really I just couldn’t resist the urge to read a good novel. Years after I graduated I would go to the University bookstore and find reading lists for literature courses that sounded interesting. I’d fill my arms with so many books I could barely carry them to the register.

I’ve donated a ton of books to the local library and sold a bunch through various cash back sites, but somehow I still find myself looking at stacks of non-fiction books and best-selling novels. I have a bunch of personal finance books I plan to read and review for One Frugal Girl and a whole stack of books I’d just like to read for pleasure.

Despite a stack of fifteen books stockpiled books on the corner table, I caught myself buying a used book earlier this week. A reader on a previous post suggested I read Bitter is the New Black and I couldn’t resist the cheap price on eBay.

When I mentioned this problem to a coworker of mine, she told me she has the exact same issue. She said she’s always carries a half-read book in her purse and constantly finds herself buying new novels.

I’m not sure why I can’t seem to break the habit. I know it’s not the worst habit to have and I know that I’ll eventually finish all the books on the shelf, but I wonder… what makes the purchase of a book so irresistible?

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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Michael Harr  |  March 20, 2009 at 4:32 AM

    I’m right there with you! I have shelf upon shelf of books in my 2 bedroom condo occupied by myself, the wife, and my two sons. She can’t wait to pitch them, but I always seem to pick one up when the time is ‘right’. If I might recommend for leisure, I really love ‘Stories from a Ming Collection’ which was from a class in college. The stories are terrific and teach some sound lessons in life.

    At any rate, I have the same issue of buying book after book. Eventually, they do get read, but I’ve also taken it to the audiobook level with a membership at Even if I’m not reading hardcopy, I find myself listening to a book on my Zen.

    Of all the quirky addications, I think reading is one that I’m very happy to have. No matter the book’s topic, I always seem to glean something new and useful from the pages. Bottom line: it’s a helluvalot better than television!

  • 2. The Shopping Sherpa  |  March 20, 2009 at 6:28 AM

    I hear what you’re saying but my problem is much worse with regular Lifeline Bookfairs here. Today I picked up this pile of books plus some CDs: at an average cost of $3.63 each. Alas I still haven’t made it through the pile from the last bookfair: so have my reading sorted out until, oh around 2018!

  • 3. Sense  |  March 20, 2009 at 7:45 AM

    I also love books, but I only buy the ones I absolutely LOVE and will re-read over and over again. I move every year or so (for the past 6 years)–so that’s probably why I got into that habit.

    the library is my best friend! It’s really too bad that the NZ library is not very well-stocked. 🙁

  • 4. Abigail  |  March 20, 2009 at 9:30 AM

    I love to read. But having mostly lived in apartments, and having moved a gazillion times — seriously, i counted something close to 20 in the last 11 years and I’ve been at my current place for nearly four years — I got tired of schlepping books around. It was physically painful for me to get rid of books, but I did it.

    And I’m so glad I did! I miss them at times, but I don’t reread books, with a couple of notable exceptions. So now I just borrow from the library. I save a bundle (even counting the fact that I used to buy mostly books from the semi-annual library sales). I keep myself honest by having very little room for books.

    The allure of a book is simple, though: It’s a new tale, with characters you haven’t met yet. And it promises to scoot you away from reality (which is increasingly attractive these days). How can anyone resist?

  • 5. spaghetti0625  |  March 20, 2009 at 12:32 PM

    You and your co-worker friend should find other reading enthusiasts and do like a book swap. A bunch of people here at my job do that, there’s always books out for others to read. Could help $$$ Wise.

  • 6. Jerry  |  March 20, 2009 at 1:04 PM

    I suppose there are worse habits to have. There was a time that I had a nasty habit of buying shoes. I know. I’m a guy. This is unusual, right? Well, I’m a fan of quality men’s shoes. Now, I buy them on ebay and discount and thrift stores. I still get what I like but it still leads me to save some money. There’s no insurance for impulse buying but if you can replace it with something similar that doesn’t have as much of an impact I think it’s a little better.

  • 7. sara l  |  March 20, 2009 at 2:47 PM

    They’re so irresistible because they are so wonderful! I use BookMooch and the library to keep book spending at bay.

    I have a 5 shelf book case, a 2 shelf bookcase, and 2 shelves on another- all 3 feet wide and I still have books overflowing.

  • 8. Jamie  |  March 20, 2009 at 3:46 PM

    You have to- HAVE TO- check out Love the site- you ship off the books that you don’t want anymore and can order books that you DO want. No cost, except for mailing the books. You’ll get free credits just for posting books. I love being able to log onto the site, order or wish list a book that I want to read and then it magically appears in my mailbox! I also love that there isn’t really money changing hands- I like the general idea of the barter system. Happy reading!

  • 9. Laura  |  March 20, 2009 at 3:55 PM

    “Years after I graduated I would go to the University bookstore and find reading lists for literature courses that sounded interesting.”

    I do this, too! My fiance makes fun of me, but I absolutely love a trip to the course materials any time we find ourselves on campus. I’m so glad to know there is someone like me out there…

  • 10. Slinky  |  March 20, 2009 at 4:55 PM

    I also read voraciously, and would happily buy out shelves of books, but I only have room for ONE bookshelf in my apartment. I also love to reread old favorites, so I try to only buy books that I will read more than twice. My main policy to keep things in check is to only buy a new book to read if I have no unread new books, including borrowed books and library books. I never buy a book by a new author until I’ve borrowed and read one from someone or a library first, because I may hate them, and that would take up precious book space. Favorite authors though, are happily bought up at once.

    Generally I find that by limiting my trips to the bookstore to when I don’t actually have anything to read, I only buy what I can carry, and never have more than a few unread books sitting around.

  • 11. Beth  |  March 20, 2009 at 11:54 PM

    A co-worker and I used to regularly ban ourselves from Barnes and Noble near where we worked. We both knew that when we walked in the door, we would walk out with at least one book that we didn’t intend to purchase when we walked in the door.

  • 12. high interest savings  |  March 21, 2009 at 2:53 AM

    I can never seem to use up an entire bunch before it goes bad. Well, this week I’m making a dish that calls for cilantro so I had to buy some. It was on sale for $.50 a bunch at my grocery store, which was great, but what wasn’t great is that all the bunches were enormous.

  • 13. One Frugal Girl  |  March 22, 2009 at 2:06 AM

    I’m glad to see that many of you are just as obsessed with books as I am. I do use bookins and paperbackswap as often as possible, but I really need to promise myself that I will not purchase another book until I get through at least three or four of the ones I already own.

  • 14. Juice  |  March 24, 2009 at 7:45 PM

    I love books and I really make use of my library. You can order online and they’ll deliver to your branch of choice.

    However, I do allow myself to buy books from our local used book store. It is walking distance from my house, dog-friendly and I like the idea of supporting local businesses.

    My house is tiny with limited book room, so I do not purchase books intending to keep them. Good ones I pass along to friends. Average ones I sell back to the used bookstore. And my favorite trick of all is purchasing a used book and leaving it on the airplane when I’ve finished it. One less thing to carry and a unexpected gift for someone else. 🙂

  • 15. Anonymous  |  March 25, 2009 at 11:57 AM

    My fiance had tried to get me into downloaded books. Being an anti-clutter freak, I like the idea but there is something about a paperback that is infinitely more appealing. I do utilize the library, and recently I found a new trick. Half Price Books. I take a box full to ‘sell’ and then buy new ones with the money I made. Then it’s less clutter and more books!


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