There are a lot of memes – especially in my bookish world – about people who just can’t stop buying books. There’s the one of the chalkboard flow chart that asks, “Should you buy a book today?” where all roads lead to, “Yes, buy a book.” I have friends who talk about their shelves full of books they have never read and how despite that fact, they just can’t resist buying more! Friends share their recent bookish purchases on social media. People – word nerd people, at least – love to buy books!
Now, I love books. I read books as often as I can. This past summer we had an area get together (it doesn’t matter what that means) and after a stop at a thrift store for flannel (it doesn’t matter why) some of us stopped by a really cool used bookstore. My staff member Charis and I looked at each other with wide eyes and open mouths as soon as we walked in. It was one of those dream used booked stores that just keeps going on and on, with whole rooms and sections of rooms dedicated to genres. “We’re gonna need a minute,” we told the others, who were done after five.
I could spend HOURS in a used book store. I love walking around and touching the books, smelling the books, flipping through them and wondering who else has done the same, who has read them and what the words meant to those readers. Typically, I leave a used book store with one book purchased. I like carrying around four or five and then narrowing it down.
Last summer I went to a real bookstore, where the books were brand new, and ended up buying three books. I can walk around non-used bookstores for hours, as well, making a list on my phone of books I want to read later. The only books I buy at these kinds of bookstores are found on the Clearance table, and again, I typically carry around a few and the narrow it down to one. Last summer I splurged and bought THREE because the local library had refused to give me a card without proof of residency (which I did not have) and I had to spend a whole week in that city and needed books.
I like bookstores. They are comfortable and cozy and full of ideas and words and stories – the kinds of things I like to be surrounded by. Usually there is a coffee place nearby (or right inside) and I like those, too. Yes, I like bookstores, but I rarely go to them, and even more rarely do I buy something. I just don’t like buying books. They seem expensive to me. This weekend I read a Stephen King collection of novellas in two days. It was a hardcover that probably cost $15 brand new. $15 for less than 48 hours of entertainment?
I got the book for free at a yard sale.
Now, of course, there are lessons and ideas and images that I read in the book that will last much longer than two days. Stephen King is a master and the writer in me learns something from him every day I crack open (or swipe open on my Kindle fire) one of his works. But, all in all, I read a book, I type up quotes from it that I underlined (or highlighted on that fancy Kindle fire) and then I happily and without any regret return it to the library.
As much as I love books, I just don’t care about owning that many of them. I have a bookshelf full of them – most of which were free and/or about to be thrown in the garage – but they mostly just sit there collecting dust while I check out ebooks from the library. I’ve read most of them, and the ones I haven’t I save for days like this weekend when I don’t have power and therefore need a hard copy.
Sometimes feel like something is wrong with me or different or less than for not wanting to own books. Especially since I can be kind of a hoarder. Oh well. I just don’t care about owning books! Reading them, yes. Smelling them, yes please! Highlighting them, that, too. But buying them? I’ll pass.
Is there something that you do or don’t (want to) do that makes you feel like an outsider even among your people?