At the end of month two, I have faced two major hurdles in my efforts to not buy new books this year, and come over them slightly battered. Vows were meant to be tested, right? Slips are an opportunity to get back on the wagon, right? Right.
In January, I visited Powells for the first time, and managed to limit myself to the purchase of used books (mostly poetry volumes) only. The whole category of previously owned books is an admitted gray area in my challenge: they are new-to-me, and they constitute more books that will need shelves in my home. In terms of managing the numbers of piles of books, then, it doesn’t get me there. In terms of managing the percentage of our budget that flows into book purchases, it improves the situation somewhat, although of course isn’t as good as just not buying anything. I hesitate to invoke that stalwart truism of consumer capitalism, ‘I could have bought even more, so what I did buy is small by comparison.’ Nonetheless, when it comes to visiting the most well-known independent bookstore in the country, I have to say: it could have been worse.
This past week, I smacked head on into my second hurdle, and it gave me a Texas thumpin’. Having chosen to attend an in-store reading, I was unable to resist buying the new book by one of my favorite authors, as I didn’t want to miss the chance to have it signed. In this instance, my vow to not spend money on books was in open conflict with my long-standing vow to purchase the books of authors I want to support when those books come out (rather than as remainders). In the end, the latter won out, and I was similarly unable to resist buying his book analyzing international law using Marxist theory, as I’ve been eager to read it and waiting for the less expensive trade paperback version to become available. And then, well, it became a matter of damage control, and I managed to leave the store with only an additional two books: his collection of stories that I’d not yet picked up, and a book on competitive birdwatching that hooked me in the first pages of the introduction.
Moral of the story: don’t go to bookstores, especially not well-stocked independent ones, and definitely don’t pick up books from the sale rack to leaf through while waiting in line for the loo.