Why do we keep buying books?

I wish I had more time to read books

Image from Tumblr.

I created a shelf on Goodreads for books that I’ve bought in 2012 to help me keep track of my purchases. I have so many books waiting to be read and I want to get to them instead of adding more to the list. It’s just that I can’t seem to help myself – there are times when I feel book-hungry (the opposite of which is book-full) and I want to buy a book. I try to tell myself to only get books that I can read right away but that doesn’t always happen. I keep wondering why I feel the urge to accumulate books when I don’t have enough time to go through them. My old reasoning was that I’m worried that the next time I go in a bookstore, the book that I’m interested in will be out of stock. But now that it’s much easier to order books abroad, that shouldn’t be a problem anymore. I was browsing through my Tumblr dashboard one time when this lovely quote popped up:

“Of course anyone who truly loves books buys more of them than he or she can hope to read in one fleeting lifetime. A good book, resting unopened in its slot on a shelf, full of majestic potentiality, is the most comforting sort of intellectual wallpaper.” – David Quammen

Full of majestic potentiality! I love how he phrased that. I completely agree. He said it much better than I ever could. You know how it feels when you read a promising book only to be disappointed? You think that you liked the book much better before you read it because at least the anticipation was there, the book had the potential to be one of your favorites. And that feeling is gone when you read the book and it doesn’t live up to your expectations. It’s funny but there are times when I can’t wait to read certain books but there are also instances when I’d rather wait, probably because I also choose what I read next base on my mood.

Also, it IS comforting to have copies of books that you want to read on your shelf. At least you don’t have to worry about getting a copy anymore – it’s right there, waiting patiently to be read when the mood strikes. Maybe I wouldn’t feel that way if we had ready access to good public libraries but I doubt it. There’s a reason why I don’t let my friends borrow my favorite books unless I have duplicates – and that’s because I don’t like the feeling of NOT having books that I love with me.

What about you, do you like collecting books so you can keep them all over the house as “intellectual wallpaper”? Do you agree that books waiting to be read are filled with “majestic potentiality”?

32 thoughts on “Why do we keep buying books?

  1. “Intellectual wallpaper” is the perfect term! I agree with the fact that buying books is comforting. Never mind if I have a stack of books I just recently bought but haven’t read yet. Especially when I know that a book is a must-read book or if it comes highly recommended I just have to have it because sometimes I never know If I can find that book again.
    We are so the same regarding letting friends borrow books. I had nasty experiences with lending people my books. When Harry Potter was just beginning to be popular I really wanted people to get into the series so I let some friends borrow my books. The result: I’m missing Book 4 and 7 and my Book 3 is tattered and in shreds. It is entirely possible that I cried. šŸ˜‰

    • I think half of my bookshelf has unread books. Seriously, I have so many and I still keep buying. I’m trying to be better at it though – last year, I think I only bought a total of 40 books? I hope I can keep down the book buying this year as well. But like you said, it’s so hard to do that when auto-buy authors have new releases or when trusted blog friends highly recommend certain titles.

      I used to let friends borrow my books all the time and several never made it back to me. šŸ˜¦ My Harry Potter collection is incomplete as well – I have no idea who has my copy of the third book. Nowadays, I don’t let other people borrow my favorites unless I have a lending copy.

  2. OMG CHAHIC. You really got it! I’ve been wondering myself too why I always have the urge to buy books. I had the same thinking before, that it might be out of stock when I want to read it. But it’s more of the excitement that I get when I see those unread books waiting to be read by me. So I’ll go with the second choice. šŸ˜‰ I also wish we have a public library here. Though I doubt it will solve our problem! At least, we won’t have to spend so much. I also agree with that mood thingy. There are times when I just don’t feel reading the book. I love that quote by the way. I think I’m going to make that kind of shelf in my goodreads profile! Thanks for sharing this, Chachic. šŸ™‚

    • Glad you agree! I feel like I keep bringing up the non-existence of public libraries but I couldn’t help it. Yes, I think we wouldn’t end up spending so much if we had libraries over here. But like I always say, I’m just thankful that I have a job and that I could buy the books that I want to read. I really believe that some books are perfect for a certain mood that you’re in, which is why it’s a good idea to collect a lot of them so you get to choose what to read next. That’s always a nice problem to have. šŸ™‚

  3. Glad to know its not just me lol! I can’t stop myself from buying new books. Its like I have to have them. It doesn’t matter if I have 60 sitting on my shelf waiting to be read I need those new ones! It’s a compulsion really…. Plus it’s so satisfying to see them all sitting there lol.

    • 60 is not that bad of a number for your TBR pile. I just checked Goodreads and I have 190! Sigh, I keep wanting to bring it down to less than a hundred but I’m not sure if that will ever happen. I keep WANTING to get books. It’s comforting that I’m not the only one who feels this way though. šŸ˜›

  4. This post is so timely because I just bought 4 books from Booksale and kept promising myself not to buy any more books! haha! Book hungry — I love that phrase. šŸ˜€ Most of my TBR are from Booksale, I don’t know when I’ll finally read all of them but I love looking at them especially those hard-to-find books, already plastic covered and sitting so lovely on my bookshelf. šŸ˜€

    • At least with Book Sale, you don’t feel too guilty because you end up spending significantly less than when you buy brand-new books. On the other hand, used bookstores are big contributors to the TBR pile because you tend to get several, justifying your purchases because they’re more affordable. I haven’t been that lucky in my last Book Sale visits but I’m always hopeful. šŸ™‚ I used to cover all of my books in plastic before I read them but I don’t bother nowadays – I read too fast for my book-covering skills.

  5. What a fantastic quote! So glad you shared it with us. It’s interesting that you used to think that you needed to buy books because you’d be afraid they’d go out of stock. For me, it’s just knowing that I’ll have a book waiting at the ready. An adventure, romance, mind-trip just sitting quietly, patiently, ready to be explored at will. I do agree that there is that sense of comfort, that your friends are sitting there waiting to hang out, whenever you need them.

    My friends make me feel REALLY popular. šŸ˜‰

    • Capillya, I used to think that way because it’s true! Stocks in local bookstores have gotten better the past few years though. I like what you said about books waiting patiently to be read, just like friends waiting for you to hang out with them. I feel the same way, reading a good book feels like you’re spending time with a friend. šŸ˜›

  6. I totally agree with the potential of unread books! Maybe that’s why I’m so incredibly terrible about reading books I own? E-readers have actually helped me out a lot in the book buying department. I’ve pretty much quit buying physical books, since we have zero space for them in our apartment, and so then I usually only buy e-books right as I’m going to read them. My issue is with the library. It’s just chalk full of everything I want, and for some reason I can’t help my sticky fingers from picking so many up! Need to cut it out so that I can make time to read some of the books I DO own. šŸ˜›

    • Maybe I’d do the same thing if I run out of space to keep physical books. I had a big bookshelf made last year and it’s already full! Although I still have to organize it (should probably do that soon). I have some boxes around my room that contain books. It’s a good idea to just buy ebooks right when you’re about to read them – you get to manage your book purchases that way. Ah well, at least you don’t have to pay for the books that you borrow from the library. It’s easy to get tempted when you don’t even have to spend money. šŸ˜›

  7. I find it awfully comforting when at work to place holds at the library online, or, more rarely, place orders for books! Somehow it sooths me more to do it that way than to actually go to a bookstore and physically take another book to add to the huge number I have to read–the physicallity makes it clear that I am making a committment, as opposed to the enjoyable illustion that I’ll have time to read everything I virtually order!

    • Charlotte, I know what you mean! I love shopping online for books, I keep browsing in Book Depository to see if the books that I want are available there. They have a 10% discount promo right now and I”m trying to decide what to order. šŸ™‚ Sometimes I even forget that I’ve ordered something and it feels like a nice surprise when a book package shows up.

  8. That is a great quote! And I have tons of books just waiting for me…I get a little panicky when my number of books I haven’t read starts to dwindle. You never know when you’re going to need one!

    • How many do you usually have in your TBR pile? Just wondering how low it gets before you start to panic. šŸ˜› I would love to make my pile smaller but I keep adding books to it. Sigh.

  9. Oh. My. Gosh. I totally identify and relate to this post. This is such a great post! Thank you from one book lover to another.

  10. chachic, i think you are definitely not alone in this.

    we are collectors and addict and love everything about books.

    i have only bought two books this year, trying to curb my habits BUT i suspect i would be so much worse if i did not have a library :/ i feel bad for you guys šŸ˜¦

    • Wow Nomes, you’ve only bought two books this year? That’s amazing! Wish I could do that as well but yeah, we don’t have good public libraries so I have to buy the books that I’m interested in. šŸ˜¦ My last few purchases were made using bookstore gift certificates but I’m all out of those now. LOL haven’t read the books that I recently bought though.

  11. For me I believe my ADHD is the culprit bc I buy on average 15 books a month & even have a kindle & an audiobook subscription but it never fails I may look into each of them or make it half way into the first chapter but I have the inability to finish ANYTHING (follow through). I loved reading as a child & enjoyed stories like The Boxcar Children bc they sparked the imagination in a nonfictional (possible) sort of way where I didn’t have to make believe in something that wasn’t real rather I’d imagine more logical & creative ideas that weren’t far fetched. I had much more time to read when I was a child though bc I’d avoid my family problems & real-life issues only by opening & reading a few pages.. Now though I am almost 25 married with 2 kids.. It is more so a fantasy to have time to read than to actually read & fantasize. I keep buying self development books that are geared towards effective discipline, organization, time management, stress reduction, & anything that could potentially help me & my family bc I feel like if I do have (or take) the time to read them than I will be more productive & happy & am not about wasting time.. Even though I have literally thousands of books on my amazon wishlists I know it is one of my obsessions & I try to “self help” myself by saying I am not going to buy another until I read one that is already drowning in my shelves,, unfortunately I do not follow through with that either.. Atleast I can say that I am focused on health & have the proof to back it up (for whomever cares!) lol :).

  12. Oh & btw the fact that I am a researchaholic makes technology (internet, Google, etc) the #1 reason I don’t read in my free time.. I guarantee if I didn’t have a pc, a cell phone, & a tv I’d read all my books but it isn’t an option at the moment to throw these things out. :/ Oh well.. Maybe one day!

  13. Pingback: Of Postcards and Washi Tape | Chachic's Book Nook

  14. Pingback: Filipino Fridays: Reader Species | Chachic's Book Nook

  15. Pingback: The endless TBR pile | Chachic's Book Nook

  16. Pingback: Book Hungry vs. Book Full | Chachic's Book Nook

Comments are like chocolate. :) Maraming salamat / thank you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.