Why Book Buying Bans Are a Bad Idea

Tiffany Hall

Staff Writer

Often to be found curled up on her couch in a blanket, regardless of the weather outside, Tiffany Hall is what you’d call an “indoor person.” An inquisitive student aspiring to obtain a degree in economics, Tiffany's main obsessions are reading, screaming at Sudoku puzzles, making sarcastic remarks, and writing short stories that she aspires to get published one day.

This is a guest post from Tiffany Hall. Often to be found curled up on her couch in a blanket, regardless of the weather outside, Tiffany Hall is what you’d call an “indoor person.” She constantly has a novel in her purse, maybe even two, and pulls them out in the middle of class, parks, conversations…Even so, she is a genuinely friendly person who adores sharing her love of reading with her friends and family through extensive and unsolicited book talks. While reading is one of her main obsessions, Tiffany also likes to scream at Sudoku puzzles, make sarcastic remarks, and write short stories that she aspires to get published one day. Tiffany is also ever the dedicated student, always willing to look up new factoids, analyze different arguments, and learn more about the wonderful and crazy world around her. Follow her on Twitter @gjannacurls.

2017: a year that will live on in history, regardless of how you look at it. Wondrous or disastrous, 2017 has finally drawn to a close and that can only mean one thing: New Year’s resolutions.

It is no well-guarded secret that readers often cling to several goals in an attempt to assuage their guilt over the massive amount of books they have either accumulated or haven’t been able to get their hands on. Typically this includes posting reading goals online, organizing the bookshelf that has been reduced to entropy, or forcing oneself to read outside of a much beloved genre. However, the most popular of these that I have found is the dreaded book-buying ban. I don’t particularly care for them, I don’t abide by them, and I don’t recommend them. Here’s why:


New Year’s resolutions never stick, and putting yourself on a prohibition of bookish goodies is no different. How many times have you looked online and read a blog post or an update about someone “breaking” the ban and caving to the pressure of printed pages? While many reasons cause a lapse in adherence, fear of missing out  (FOMO) is probably one of the most significant. According to the Oxford Dictionary, FOMO is defined as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.” With websites and blogs constantly pumping out reviews and recommendations, it’s hard not to feel like you are falling behind somehow. While this is a ridiculous notion that unfairly shames a lot of readers, it is a real one that we all struggle with at some point.

They Don’t Save You Money

With so many novels, poems, essays, scientific volumes, et al. being published year round, it is hard to compile a list and watch them all pass you by. So, you’ll wait. But here is the crux of the issue: whether you buy them today, tomorrow, or next year, you are still spending the same money. Sure, you could theoretically forget a few books on your list, but chances are you will just wait ’til a later date to empty your wallet. Bans don’t save your hard earned cash at all. In fact, one could argue that you will end up binge buying massive quantities of books to compensate for the time you haven’t been purchasing.

Whatever Makes You Happy

The main reason I don’t advocate for “The Ban” is that it causes me unnecessary stress. Sure, I have an endless TBR sitting and waiting for me on my shelves, but seeing their glossy spines brings me a lot of joy. If I want a book, I buy it because that’s a financial choice I have made for myself. Some people spend money on fancy cars or nice jewelry; I throw my dollar bills at the cash register in my local bookstore. Books, read or not, bring a light to my life that a few extra coins and pieces of paper in my wallet do not.

Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that you have a book-buying problem, and don’t know how else to rein in your library. Bans can’t be all bad if they stem even one book from making it to your shelf, right? I would disagree. Instead, I am going to propose what I like to call “Mindful Book Accumulation” or MBA for short. In fact, it’s one of my resolutions for this year!


It may seem that I am a huge proponent of limitless buying of books, and while that sounds immensely appealing, I am not. I just believe an outright ban is no more effective than no ban in the first place. Instead, I think that being a sensible consumer is the best approach. Buy books that make you happy because of the opportunity the prose or poetry proposes—not because the cover calls out to you. Purchase your tomes with a degree of questioning—do you really need it? And grab those titles only after you’re sure that you do. If not sure, hit up your local library! They deserve love too.

Whether you put yourself on a ban, or choose to try out MBA, I wish you all the best. I hope you find books this year that inspire you and make you feel like a better you—we all deserve that.