Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Not Buying Books: 50 Days In

I can't do things in moderation.

I possess a particular enthusiasm that, in certain circumstances, renders temperance an afterthought. I read a book the other day that quoted St. Augustine as saying "Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation" and I highlighted the quote. Twice. Then I dog-eared the page.

Most of the time, the results of my temperament are relatively benign. Like when my boyfriend asked me if maybe we shouldn't find a planner to coordinate our schedules. Three days later, I posted on my fridge a 16-month Shutterfly calendar comprised of pictures of the two of us on our adventures, carefully coded with eight different colors. And in the dregs of winter, I succumbed to the heady mania of purchasing books and my bank account was suffering.

Of course I hit rock bottom. It was a Friday. I purchased three copies of the same book in one day. Granted, one was the audio version and one was for my mom. But those are not the actions of a sane purchaser of books. Not to mention that, in the process, I also bought six other books. From three bookstores. In one day. And uploaded two others onto my tablet. And this was the third time I'd bought books that week.

Since I knew with intrinsic certainty that telling myself I'd stop buying so many books was mere placation, I resolved to stop buying books for 100 days. People in stunt-memoirs always seem to do things for one year: My Year of Happiness or My Year or Living Biblically or My Year of Knitting Dangerously (that one's real). I can't even conceive of refraining from purchasing books for a year- especially without a book deal at the end of in which I chronicle my Odyssean journey. It wasn't until after I'd told all of my friends about my commitment that I realized 100 days ended in May. It was barely February.

I've gone through the typical Kubler-Ross stages of grief:

Denial: I can handle this. I have plenty to keep me satiated. No big deal.

Anger: This involved lots of rage-crying.

Bargaining: This stage reared its ugly head at the Lincoln Museum gift shop where I cajoled my boyfriend into buying me a biography portraying the Lincolns' marriage. But hey, he got a really nice map out of the deal. And I technically didn't break any rules. Right? I mean, right?

Depression: If I temper this one down, I've definitely felt frustrated that I can't buy Jeanette Winterson's new memoir. I am, however, excepting gifts. Have I mentioned that? Okay, maybe I'm still in bargaining.

Acceptance: This is how I feel most of the time. In psychology classes, professors teach you that people fluctuate through stages. That's true even for lesser life changes like not buying books for a couple months.

I think the best thing I've gotten from this experience is the knowledge that most of the books I buy on impulse are the ones that languish on my shelves. My "Books I Can Buy After 100 Days" shelf on Goodreads has been an interesting creation and editing process. Some of the books that I feel sure I will purchase on That Day look confusing and unappealing three days later. Even the ones with staying power lose their sense of urgency. Not overnight. But eventually.

I'm thinking about establishing a "cooling off" period, in which I refrain from buying books for 48 hours to see if I still want them. Like a literary handgun.

Currently reading:
On Writing- Stephen King
Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are- Sebastian Seung
Sarah's Key- Tatiana de Rosnay

7 comments:

Jessica said...

I do the 48-hour wait with clothes and shoes quite often to make sure I really want them. (Unless they are on sale for an awesome price. ;) )

Krista said...

You are my hero, I could never go that long even with winning books. I need to feed the addiction! I was at target yesterday and walked away from a book. My hubby made me put it down I was sad. But I did it!
So Proud of you!
Krista

Bibliomania said...

Jessica- I have a wishlist on Modcloth and Ruche on which I put all the dresses I'm going to buy... Someday.

Krista- thank you! And I have to know- what was the book?

@HarleyBearBooks said...

I don't know what I would do without a library. I prefer to buy books and still do, but the library has greatly cut my bills in half. Now I read it from the library first and if I loved it and know I'll read it again then I buy it.

Jonathan Wilhoit said...

LOL. Your posts are always awesome. That "cooling off" period is all me. Sometimes I'll pick up a book and walk around with it until I decide that I don't want it anymore and put it back. I'm sure the storr staff don't like me very much, but oh well. Saves me money!

Mo said...

Hi there, I came across your blog on a post in BookBlogs. This is intriguing to me - this notion of not buying any more books! Glad I found your blog! Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

Ryan said...

Keep it up. I went two years (not by choice) and it amazed me what I ended up reading. I'll never do it again, though.

Also, On Writing is awesome. I read it recently.