Saturday, May 16, 2009

At Least Book Gluttony Does Not Lead to Obesity

I've noticed a "Book Gluttony meme" making the rounds this week and, after reading a few of them, I feel that I'm in good company when it comes to accumulating books.

The meme goes this way:
Book Gluttony! Are your eyes bigger than your book belly? Do you have a habit of buying up books far quicker than you could possibly read them? Have you had to curb your book buying habits until you can catch up with yourself? ? Or are you a controlled buyer, only purchasing books when you have run out of things to read?
Well, I don't even try to kid myself anymore about my book-buying habits. I do very vaguely remember the days when, as I approached the end of a book, I began to search around the house for the next one. I would consider myself very fortunate to find as many as two books that I had not yet read - three or four unread books in the house at once almost never happened. Let's just say that those days are long gone.

Not only do I now have dozens and dozens of unread books in the house, my reading habits have completely changed. Today, for instance, I'm reading from five different books and I'm down to five only because yesterday afternoon I finished an audio book on the way home from the office. I don't know exactly which book I'll start reading from next, but it is not through a lack of choices that I say that. Just on top my desk I see six unread books. There are dozens more stacked neatly on the shelves and out of sight in various closets - and I know that another half-dozen or more are headed my way via the mail.

Does that stop me from buying books every week? I'll give you three guesses, but I expect you to get it in one.

The short answer is: the number of unread books I own has no relationship to the number of books I am likely to buy this week, or next week, or today. If an opportunity to shop for new books presents itself, I take advantage of the situation. I'm not a frivolous or wasteful shopper, however. Price does matter to me and I love shopping the bargain book tables at Barnes & Noble and Borders more than anything other than attending a big book festival. I do collect the work of certain authors and am willing to pay a premium price for their hard-to-find or out-of-print titles. I also have a soft spot for early editions of Charles Dickens novels and find those hard to pass up if they are in my price range (a range which is, unfortunately, much lower than it used to be).

I am definitely an out-of-control book buyer but, in the great scheme of things, that's pretty much my worst vice these days so I consider myself lucky. Even my wife has finally reconciled herself to the idea that she is likely to find books stashed just about anywhere in the house - and concedes that finding books stashed is better than finding liquor bottles stashed.


  1. Hi Sam. I have a lot of books in the house that I haven't read but that doesn't stop me from buying more. I tell myself that I am NOT going to buy another one until I catch up on some but then I hear of a new book or see something that catches my eye and it comes home with me:) I also have multiple books going at one time but I know that I will never catch up. I see that you are reading Liberty and Tyranny and I ordered that book at the same time as Picking Cotton. Of course, I haven't gotten to either one yet but I will:)

  2. Sam, do you ever use the library?

    That is my downfall even more than buying...but at least it is free. I go to the library about 3 times a week and am a total glutton there, bringing home more books than I will ever be able to read. It is a sickness!

    In my opinion, libraries are the greatest thing ever invented!!!

  3. I hate to say this, being a librarian by training, but I generally do not prefer books from the library. The biggest problem is that they often are full of smoke or perfume, neither of which enables me to be around the book. The second is, both my husband and I tend to have lots of books going at once, which means they don't necessarily get finished within the due date time. Also, we like to trade them with each other, and generally to refer to them later, which (especially the latter activity) can't happen if they have gone back to the library. On the negative side, it's very hard to dust around our house! (Speaking of which, if your wife would like to stash bottles, say to serve for company, I do my stashing behind the cleaning products!!! It's foolproof!!!)

  4. Don't feel guilty; book gluttony isn't so bad. We could be addicted to something far worst than books. LOL

  5. I agree Diane. It is not a bad addiction to have. I only feel guilty every now and again. I know that I will get to them one day:)

  6. I check out books from the library AND buy more than I could ever possibly read. The books from the library automatically make it to the top of my TBR pile, because they have to be finished by a certain date, which means that I might never get to some of those books I bought. And yet I continue to buy more...

    It's not great, but I, too, figure that there are worse addictions a person could have. I at least have gotten to the point where I try to limit myself to used books - I quit my new book habit cold turkey during my job search and have managed to keep myself from buying new books to the extent I once did now that I have a job.

  7. I really didn't become a book glutton till I moved to Korea. Since getting a library again, I'm trying to cut it back a little, but newish old habits die hard. For example, I walked into a bookstore today swearing that I wouldn't buy anything except Olive Kitteridge. If it wasn't there, I'd walk out empty-handed. I walked out with Then We Came To The End. Sigh, but a happy one.

  8. I am with you 100%, Sam - I must have over 300 books on my TBR pile, stacked up in my home...and I keep buying books, and requesting review books. It is a hopeless addiction. But I rationalize it by saying: 1. I could be addicted to something harmful to my health instead of books, and 2. I intend to read ALL the books on my stack (eventually)

  9. Try working in a bookstore! It's like an alcoholic working in a bar. I'm not going to even tell you how many books are in my TBR pile(s).

    We're selling a New Yorker mug right now that I want to get - it's got a man in his library pointing out which shelves are the books he started and hasn't finished yet and which books he hasn't started yet. It's, sadly, all too true.

  10. I work in a library so at least I do not have to pay for the books. The problem is that everything that comes in looks promising so I end up with stacks and stacks! I suppose I could have worse problems!