A blog for everything bookish

Thursday 15 August 2013

Confessions of a compulsive book collector...and a challenge

My name is Bii, and I have a problem: I am a compulsive book buyer. I love books. I love reading books and owning books. I love looking at books, being around book and sharing my house with books. I also have a book backlog which is shamefully large, and a terrible book buying habit. I must stop (I can't stop, but slow down...maybe).

The first part of addressing an addiction, I'm lead to believe from all the fiction I've read and movies I've watched, is to admit you have a problem. I am pretty sure I've admitted this problem before, to be honest I've probably boasted about it. But as the spaces in my bookcase have run dry, and my compulsion has developed into collectible editions I realise I need to get myself under control.

So, how will I stop myself from buying books?

I had a think about it, and I have an idea.

The universe has been telling me that I need to read Proust. Proust has been sitting on my to read shelf for in excess of 12 months and I decided I was going to read it last summer, then over winter, then this summer and it's rapidly turning into one of those 'probably-never' type reads. At the same time, everywhere I look there are hints about Proust. It was referenced in 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. It cropped up in the book I'm currently reading, the excellent A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. It has been mentioned on QI, and on a number of twitter feeds that I follow. It has cropped up too often to be coincidence. I must read Proust.

So here is my deal. Starting Monday I am going to begin the long, traumatic-but-hopefully-rewarding journey through In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. Until I have finished reading Proust, I can't buy any books. If I abandon Proust, the deal stands and I will have to learn to satisfy my book devouring habits some other way. Maybe I can remind myself how to locate the library. It would be a start. Maybe I could do that anyway.

I am also not starting on Monday so that I can spend the entire weekend buying books. The non-buying starts today, right now, this instant. My agreement not to buy books includes:
  • secondhand books
  • book swapping (which, when you weigh up the postage counts as 'buying' a book).
  • books as gifts (this part will be hard, hard, hard).
  • books that come free on e-readers (I don't own an e-reader - iPod aside - and don't plan to buy one...which would count as 'book buying' anyway...and I don't generally read books in electronic format. I find it too icky).
but excludes any review copies received (please send some to me, dear publishers) or lending or those kinds of things.

If anyone has any great ideas for ways to assuage my craving, they would be gratefully received.

In recompense for my non-book buying, I offer myself the reward of:
  • monetary savings - every time I recognise a book that I feel I 'must' buy and then don't, I will make a record of it and how much it cost and when I finish Proust I can feel proud (hopefully) of my total non-spending.
  • a promise that if I successfully finish Proust, I will let myself have the whole The Story of the Stone series by Cao Xuequin. However, I will not buy this with my own money but will wait until my birthday/Christmas (which are very close together) and ask for vouchers so that I can buy it using those. Then I can repeat the whole reading/non-buying experiment again.
  • A regular visit to the library. It is fun looking for the books I want on the shelves. Plus I really like talking to librarians. They are cool.  
So that's it so far. This is day one and it's been easy. Day one always is, isn't it? In the course of my journey I will blog with updates on how I'm doing, confessions of any slippages (unforgivable), the true and terrible details of the book DTs. Please help me.


  1. I liked this one!- how's this working out so far?

  2. Hi islandmanpoet, thanks for stopping by and commenting. It is going okay so far, actually it's been a bit of a voyage of self discovery and I'm glad I've done it (though not so glad about committing to Proust, that's going to be difficult). Are you a fellow book addict?