You’ve heard it said a hundred times, and you’ve probably said it yourself too: so many books, so little time. I’m too scared to count the unread books on my shelves, but I estimate that, between the hardbacks I’ve bought at author events, the many bargains I’ve bagged at Strand Books, and all the e-books I’ve accumulated on both my Kindle and my Kobo, I probably have enough reading material for the next five years. Maybe more. Maybe quite a lot more.
And that’s not including the books I have in storage back in Europe.
So, the thing is: I really don’t need to buy any more books. But I will. I know I will. It’s a sickness. A beautiful, inspiring, life-giving sickness.
And I’m all the more likely to keep buying if any of these apply.
1. I hear the book talked about often, especially by people I trust.
This last happened to me with Fates and Furies. On publication day, it was everywhere, particularly on Twitter. Book critics, other authors, everyone seemed to be talking about it. Then I listened to All the Books and Rebecca was raving about it too. I added it immediately to my mental shopping basket.
2. Conversely, if I’ve never heard the book mentioned, that also draws me in.
Usually, a book like this will catch my eye when I’m browsing in a bookshop. Maybe – as happened to me with Frances and Bernard, which I loved – it’s on a table of books that have been lovingly curated by a bookseller; maybe it’s randomly mis-shelved in a section where I’m looking for something entirely different. Or maybe I’m running my finger along the spines of the books in a charity shop and a title jumps out at me. It feels like uncovering a secret. Precious and mysterious and all mine.
3. Its cover grabs my attention in some way.
Maybe it’s pretty; maybe it has one of those irresistible (to me) super rough textures. Maybe it’s just big and bold, like The Clasp, which comes in three versions, blue, pink, and yellow. (This, incidentally, makes me more likely to buy it in a physical bookstore, so I can spend a long time deciding which cover I prefer.)
4. The book is a bargain.
I’ve mentioned my love of bargains already. They make me happy, and warm fuzzy feelings towards finding a book can only predispose me to buy it, read it, and like it.
5. I have a personal connection with the author.
Maybe I’ve tweeted them and they’ve responded in some way. Maybe they’ve followed me or interacted with me on The List App. The responsiveness and kindness of an author makes a good book feel like a great book, and it makes a great book into one I will never stop recommending.
6. I loved the author’s last book.
But not too much. If I loved it too much, I’ll be terrified of the disappointment of finding the next one to be “less than”. I’ve been burned by this before. I’m still scared of not loving Colum McCann’s other books the way I loved Let The Great World Spin.
7. The author writes about one of my kryptonites.
DC, Hollywood, doomed love, ballet, the return of a long-ago lost love. A tangential connection of the plot or the author to The West Wing. All of those things make it feel as if the books was written with me in mind as an ideal reader. So how could I not buy it? It’s my duty and my privilege.
8. I get hold of the book early.
DC Trip snuck onto the shelves a few days before its official publication date. I am a rule follower; buying a book like this is a tiny adrenaline rush. My version of extreme sport.
9. Personal(ish) recommendations.
Sometimes all it takes is one person’s mention of a book, by an author whose work or Twitter personality I like, or a friend with similar tastes to mine.
10. People say the author is a lovely person.
I think that deep down, possibly, the rational part of me knows this shouldn’t matter. But it does, a little bit. Don’t we want nice people to have nice things, like good books sales? I know I do.