If you’re a compulsive book buyer like me, you know that books have a way of attracting more books. When you buy a reader a book, she will want a place to put it. And if you give the reader a bookshelf, she will want a book on feng shui to make sure she puts it in the right place. And when the bookshelf is full, she needs books on home ownership because her other books need space to spread out. But home shopping will have to wait because this paragraph inspired her to buy a limited edition copy of If You Give a Cookie.
Most of the time I’m fine with this cycle. My book-buying habit supports authors and bookstores even as it eats away at my discretionary income. And it hasn’t quite led to buying a bigger house yet. Still, my TBR stack is so big I should start charging rent for it. And unless I change my habits, that rent would just go to buying more books anyway.
So I decided to fight fire with fire. I’ve come up with a totally foolproof plan to buy a few books so I’ll buy fewer books. That has to work, doesn’t it? Let’s look at the shopping list.
A book about personal finance
The 21-Day Financial Fast: Your Journey to Financial Peace and Freedom by Michelle Singletary
First, personal finances. If I buy fewer books, I have more money. That motivates. Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary will get me a budget that promises to bring “peace and prosperity” to my financial affairs. A quick look, however, shows that financial freedom doesn’t require a billion-dollar book budget. I am sceptical.
A book about tidying up
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Tidying Up and Organizing by Marie Kondo
Next, I turn to the queen of the organization, Marie Kondo, for help. A well-organized home certainly doesn’t involve huge piles of books to read. Kondo tells me to only keep things if they make me happy. But the sight of my overflowing bookshelves makes my heart beat faster. This is an error in the method.
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A book about minimalism
Goodbye Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki
Disappointed with tidying up, I switch to the more extreme principle of order: minimalism. My approach to books was maximalist, so I let Sasaki convince me how breaking free from objects has led to his personal happiness and freedom. That sounds nice. I also appreciate my Kindle, which holds thousands of books and fits in my purse. If I move to a 200 square foot apartment like Sasaki, I can take the e-books with me!
Two books on self-control
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
Since I think an e-reader is the perfect minimalist accessory, I might need a more psychological approach to minimalism. McKeown won’t let me down with space-saving strategies. He believes I need to dig into my core beliefs and focus on what I really want to achieve. That’s good advice. Unfortunately, my love of reading and the value of supporting the arts leads me to think that perhaps buying books is essential. I buy this book for my boss.
The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control is the Engine of Success by Walter Mischel
The author Walter Mischel developed the famous “marshmallow test”. Those kids who had the willpower to hold out for two marshmallows instead of devouring the one that was in front of them obviously had the willpower to delay their sugar rush and seem to get on with life. Too late I realize that if books are the marshmallows in my own willpower test, then by putting off one book I can buy two in the future. Following that logic, I’m now buying a book to help my future self, who doesn’t need two books at once anyway.
A book about anti-productivity
THE LOST ART OF DOING NOTHING: HOW THE DUTCHMAN RELAX WITH NIKSEN BY MAARTJE WILLEMS AND LONA AALDERS
As opposed to self-control, perhaps it’s a drive for productivity that drives my book purchase. In this case, Dutch authors Willems and Aalders have the antidote. With niksen, the Dutch practice boredom or perfect other activities such as looking out the window or sitting motionless. Reading is not a nick. Nor shopping. If I adopt the Dutch method, I might just be content with daydreaming. Unfortunately, Niksen makes me think of the Danish concept of hygge, which is something like the art of cosiness. Hygge, I’m sure, requires surrounding myself with many more books. Then I can practice niksing.
A book about libraries
The Library Book by Susan Orleans
A narrative non-fiction page turner about the devastating fire at the Los Angeles Public Library, The Library Book is a masterful meditation on these beautiful public institutions, brimming with books I can borrow for free. Libraries are the solution to compulsive book buying, right? I mean, if I actually read all the library books I borrowed, I’d be way too busy reading to buy any more books. Ironically, I own a copy of The Library Book. That doesn’t bode well for my buying behavior.
A book about environmental protection
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben
Time for desperate measures: If worrying about my wallet isn’t holding back my book purchase, worrying about trees might be. The Hidden Life of Trees is a fascinating book about how living, breathing trees have a rich impact on each other and the ecosystem. I appreciate the beautiful trees around me and think twice about filling my bookshelves with their powdered corpses. I see another advantage of e-books.
Well, the plan to buy books to help me buy fewer books wasn’t personally successful. A determined and thrifty reader can get better results. Still, I learned something. When I discovered that none of these approaches could tame my love of book buying, I realized that buying MANY books brings me a lot of joy.
For tips on organizing your book transport, check out our guide to organizing your TBR well.