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I’ve always been interested in books. I loved having my parents read to me at night. I loved reading to myself once I was able to. I even created a “reading after I’m supposed to be in bed” kit, complete with snacks and a flashlight, that I promptly bragged about to my mom, who made me disassemble the kit. For birthdays and holidays I always wanted gift certificates to book stores. The adults in my life never monitored what I read, so I read whatever I could get my hands on. I’m sure I read some books that were out of my depth, but they kind of went over my head and life moved on.
Books are my entertainment, my escape, my source of knowledge. Books are the surest way to engage me in a conversation, unless I’m almost done with a book and you’re trying to talk to me. I’m not being rude for ignoring you; you’re being rude for interrupting me. Throughout my adult life, I have bought more books than I could read in 15 years. And new ones keep being published! It’s a lot to keep up with, financially and time-management-wise.
One of my favorite books to peruse when I’m not sure what I want to read is Nick Hornby’s Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books. This is a collection of the column he wrote for Believer. Each month he lists the books he’s purchased or received and the books he actually read, then writes about them. The book is wonderful in and of itself, but it also shows you that “the books we buy are almost as important as those we read.” (Taken from the introduction, written by Jess Walter) For so many readers, books become our identity.
I can’t help myself! But I need to start showing some restraint.
I opened my Amazon account when I went off to college. That was a lot of fun. Books practically on demand! Despite going to a Division 1 college, we didn’t have much of a bookstore in town. Not even a used bookstore. Amazon was a revelation. Then there were the advances. Amazon Prime (2 day free shipping!). The Kindle (almost any book, any time!). Shut up and take my money!
I somehow stumbled across Goodreads when I was a junior in college. That’s when my book buying got out of hand. I got so many recommendations from so many corners. Classics, which I was already determined to read because of Gilmore Girls. New releases. Even recent releases. Before Goodreads, I hadn’t read a lot of 21st century fiction. If the book had enough recommendations from Goodreads users that I liked, chances were I would buy it. I wound up wasting a lot of money books I’m sure I never read and wound up donating during a massive clean out.
Goodreads led to Twitter, led to book blogs, led to Instagram. More and more connections with people as passionate about books as me. More and more titles recommended that I’ve bought and haven’t read.
I remember the craze over The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Everyone in the online book community had read it and loved it. I bought a copy. I tried to read it. I liked something about it, but I couldn’t get into it. I agonizingly DNF’ed it. From there for a long time, I would not read the latest most buzzed about books until the dust had settled and I could make a more informed decision on whether to buy it. There were some notable exceptions based on personal preferences–I knew I wanted to read Go Set a Watchman as soon as it came out–but I tried to stay moderate. I still bought a ton of books that I never read, but they were usually backlist.
Fast-forward to this year. I fell into the trap again. Without naming names or titles, this spring I’ve bought three much-hyped books that have been flops for me. Not only did I buy them, I freaking pre-ordered them so that I could read them on release day. That’s how much I drank the Kool-Aid. These books were mentioned by two bookstagrammers whom I like and who I love interacting with. But the books didn’t hit it for me. I even finished one of them…because it was on my Kindle. (I feel like I’m less noisy while my fiance is sleeping if I’m reading my Kindle). The other two languish on my shelves. I’m sure I’ll finish them at some point because they aren’t bad, but all these other books floating around my house seem so much more appetizing. Another bookstagrammer constantly mentions books that I wind up loving. Just today I wound up ordering one book she mentioned and pre-ordered another, out in June.
This led to some introspection on my part. As I’m starting a new career in a pretty volatile field, I need to be more careful with my money. I know I should use the library more often. But I like owning my books. That way I can write in them. Throw them across the room. Leave them partially finished for 6 months and come back to the same spot. Thrust them in the face of my best friend with a “You’ve got to read this, or we can’t be friends any longer!” I think for the time being, I will have to be more careful with book recommendations. I will have to consider the source more. Do a bit less pre-ordering, unless I’m SURE it’s going to be a winner for me (like the new Elizabeth Gilbert out in June). Take full advantage of the free samples that Kindle will send.
What are your tips for dealing with the constant onslaught of new releases?