Why I buy books faster than I can ever read them

Soooo…I’ve acquired almost 30 books this summer.  This is probably the largest amount of books I’ve acquired in the shortest amount of time. (No, not all of them were purchased; about 1/3 were from a free book exchange at a park near my house–what do you think I am, made of money?)  My LibraryThing catalog now has almost 600 books, and I still haven’t cataloged my mountain of children’s books.  And I’ve probably only read about half of them because ever since I was a youngster walking through those Scholastic books fairs in elementary school (a.k.a. the best days of the year), I’ve been buying books way faster than I read them.

I’m not a very fast reader in general.  Also, being an English major, I spend the majority of my reading time reading things that other people tell me to read, rather than books of my own choosing and interest.  BUT I CAN’T STOP BUYING BOOKS.  They are slowly overtaking my bedroom–I’ve long since used up all the space on my bookshelves–and now books are creeping out along the floor in piles until I fear there will soon be a complete take-over, and my roommate will have to use a flashlight to find me among the towering stacks and mazes of tomes in which I will become lost.  Or, you know, I’ll just have to suck it up and buy another bookshelf.

Anyway, in my travels this summer I did a lot of thinking about what kind of traveler I am. I took a class on travel writing while I was in England and wrote a travel journal for it.  I found myself writing a lot about what it must be like to live in the far-off places of the world. And curiously enough, thinking about travel made me realize why I am a compulsive, insatiable book-buyer.  What pleases me so much about travel is possibility.  I day-dream and imagine and put myself into the places I go and wonder about what life would be like if I lived here or there; I always look in the little nooks, crannies, and less-traveled paths while walking and exploring old places; I feel the urge to stray away from the group to explore places on my own and see what I can see, find what I can find.  What’s so exhilarating about this is possibility: the possibility that there might be a staircase around the corner, or a beautiful view over the top of the next hill.  My wanderlust translates nicely into why I can’t stop collecting books: it’s like collecting possibilities.

So my room is filled with unread books, but I like it that way.  When it comes time to pick out a new one to read, it feels like I have lots of possibilities to be explored and lots of potential behind every cover.  I almost enjoy the thrill of buying a new book more than the act of reading it, which is probably my problem. [“My name is Emily and it’s been 6 months since my last book-buying binge.”]  But I figure book buying is a healthier and more productive addiction than some most alternatives, and this way I’ll never run out of possibility; all the unread books that adorn my room make the space feel open, free, and always ready for new discoveries.

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9 thoughts on “Why I buy books faster than I can ever read them

  1. karenleahansen says:

    Until recently, I was the same as you. I love to read, but also buy faster than I can finish them. I was very involved with a site called Bookcrossing, where you give away your books when finished and as a consequence, other people also gave me books! About fifteen years ago, I always had twenty or so books in a box waiting to be read. Then, I moved out of my mom’s house and had entire bookshelves to fill up. I ended up with hundreds of books on my TBR shelf. Yikes! The last few years, especially this year, I’ve made a resolution to stop acquiring books and read the ones that I already own in efforts to lessen the pile. The only exception is new books for my Kindle for vacations. I’ve stuck to it and space has opened up!

    I’m like you, I love the possibilities in the new stories. It is like traveling! I still browse bookstores, but instead of impulsively buying books, I just add the titles to my Amazon Wish list. I have a LONG wishlist now!

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    • enchntdrose says:

      Bookcrossing! Thanks for reminding me that exists, I’d only once heard of it before. Such a great idea! I used to keep a wish list, but I suppose my GoodReads “to read” list has replaced that (though it’s not totally the same as I own a lot of the books on my to-read list already). This summer has just presented me with so many book-buying opportunities, I think now that summer’s coming to an end, I will make myself stop buying for a while! Thanks for the comment 🙂

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      • karenleahansen says:

        I am very active on Goodreads, but I don’t use the “to read” list, because it seems so overwhelming! Bookcrossing is a lot of fun. I still have several “bookcrossing’ books that I need to read and send out on adventures. It’s a good community of readers too!

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  2. Ben Moy says:

    I just recently started up the same sort of collection with board games; I’ve seen people play them and I feel like I would enjoy them so I go ahead and take the plunge, only to find that that they sit collecting dust because it isn’t so much fun playing them by myself and it takes effort to get a group of friends to agree to learn and play something new. To me, I would rather have the option of it being on my shelf and able to be broken out at any time than not having it at all though, and I think that goes along with your takeaway about possibility.

    I just read your post about covers too and I have some games that, funnily enough, aren’t played much at all and were bought because I fell in love with the art. One of these days we’ll read all our books and play all our games!

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