Every time I go to an Airbnb and there’s a bookshelf, I spend an exorbitant amount of time perusing them. This is in part, because the only bookshelf I ever really get to see is my own. When I stand there looking over the creased spines, reading the titles I’m always reminded of that John Waters quote. You know the one, “If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t *ahem* them.”
After a little perusing the internet, I found a full version, which I do prefer: “We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t f*** them. Don’t let them explore you until they’ve explored the secret universes of books. Don’t let them connect with you until they’ve walked between the lines on the pages. Books are cool, if you have to withhold yourself from someone for a bit in order for them to realize this then do so.” But, I digress.
I don’t necessarily agree with this, I mean, if you go home with someone and they have walls and walls of bookshelves filled with crime novels, true crime books, and books on how to commit crime, maybe run the other way as fast as you can?
The books we own can say a lot about us as people - people with shelves lining their walls evidently enjoy collecting books, those with few are perhaps more selective, a person with a heap of nonfiction may love learning, and someone with a bunch of fantasy probably enjoys escapism.
I like to think my shelves have meaning. For me, that meaning is also a means to keep my book spending to a minimum. I use my library a lot, (like, a lot, a lot) and that’s a massive way that I can read widely without busting the budget. I buy very few books. Yes, sometimes it’s very difficult to resist temptation. Yes, I enjoy perusing bookstores. Yes, sometimes I cave, sometimes I break the rules. But I do have rules, they are what help me maintain my book buying budget.
Firstly though, you should know, I’m a naturally frugal person. I don’t like having stuff. It panics me. Too many books and I feel like they’re going to crush me. This could be, in part, due to living between two countries and having to fit everything I own into a medium sized suitcase. It could also be due to growing up in an earthquake prone area that succumbed to disaster in 2011, where you really couldn’t have bookshelves, because they would crush you if the books all fell out. I refuse to own any piece of furniture that is taller than me. But this isn’t a counselling session, so let’s move on. Now you know a thing or two about me, these rules might make a little more sense.
The Rules of the Shelf
The rules of my bookshelf revolve around the goal of my bookshelf, they are determined by what kind of collector I am, and what I want my bookshelf to say about me. I’m a story person, and I want my bookshelf to tell a story. The books upon my shelf are all books that I have found a piece of myself in. I’m not saying that reading helped me on a path of self-discovery, instead, it was much more that while reading these books I had that, ‘omg! Me too’ sensation, where something the author said or had characters do really clicked with me. Connected with me. Those are the books that fit into the first of three golden rules:
1. If You’ve Read it Twice, and Want to Read it for a Third time, Get It
Truth is, I generally really only reread books I absolutely love. I definitely only reread them more than twice if I really connect with them. If I read a book from the library and spend the next few months after returning it, wishing I had a copy to delve back into, then I’ll buy one. Usually, I’ll splurge to get a really nice copy. Sometimes I’ll wait for it to be discounted, which I don’t mind, because I’m not an impatient person.
I could list every book I own if you really wanted me to, because they all mean something to me, granted, I own about 50 books, so it’s really not a feat. I guess the poetic side of me likes to think that anyone could go to my shelf and read the titles, trying to find the bits I related to, trying to piece the puzzle of me together by the books on my shelf.
If you want to save money on books, I recommend borrowing the ones you want to read and buying the ones you love. Or, if you want to buy all the books, sell them if you don’t want to keep them, and come up with a poetic puzzle to your own bookshelf, something to tell people about, or something to keep close to your heart, like an inside joke between you and your bookshelf.
2. If You Want it and it’s Under $5, Get it
This rule was designed with two facts about me in mind: I like good deals, and I am human. Sometimes I cannot resist the temptation to purchase books. It’s not often that I go to a bookstore and have to have something. I’m good at leaving when I want something really bad but I a) know I don’t need it and b) can imagine it falling off my shelf and crushing me. Having said that, I often buy a handful of Wordsworth classics when they’re on special for under $5, because I like to annotate my classics, and I don’t like writing on expensive books. Sometimes I even push the $5 to $10 if it’s a book I’ve wanted to read for an age but the Library copy is really grotty, and I can’t get into it as an eBook. Honestly, I only own two books that I purchased on a whim for under $5, one that I purchased for over $5, and three that are Wordsworth Classics, which means I've used this rule a grand total of five times.
3. If You No Longer Love it, Get Rid of It
I love getting rid of things. I purge my wardrobe every few months and always manage to get rid of something (having said that, I’m really getting low on clothes), and I purge my bookshelf at least once a year, usually selling and sometimes donating. I un-hauled my entire set of Throne of Glass last year, not because I didn’t like it, but because I knew I didn’t want to reread it anymore. The year before I un-hauled my entire collection of Twilight. Selling books frees up money to buy new books. It’s a very good cycle. Besides, getting rid of things is very liberating, especially if you don’t like stuff like me.
The Exceptions: There have to be exceptions to every rule, right? Otherwise, they’re not rules at all. On my bookshelf, I make exceptions for gifts. They’re allowed to live upon the shelf even if I haven’t read them, in part, to throw a curveball at a prospective peruses, and also because I adore being gifted books. It’s not something my family or close friends do, they say they can never pick out books for me and know I generally only want books I love, and I already have them, so what’s the point? I do have a handful of good friends in the book world that do know what books to get me, and the others I’ve been gifted were from publishers.
So there it is, the simple way that I manage my book buying budget. Do you guys have a book buying budget? How do you manage them? Or, do you have a poetic mysterious secret that explains your entire collection while perfectly representing your personality? Sound of in the comments, I'm excited to hear!
As always, thanks for reading!
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