Our Reading Lives

How I Survived My Book-Buying Hiatus

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Remember that darling meme, something along the lines of, “I have twenty unread books but I really, really need to buy this one.”



Occasionally I hear about folks who decide to save money for a period of time by signing themselves up for a voluntary book-buying hiatus. And my thinking-thoughts are always the same:

“I could totally do that. How virtuous! I mean, why would I want to?! ASIDE FROM THE VIRTUE. Oh, and the money. But, yeah, I totally could stop buying books. I don’t have a problem.”

So, shortly after the 2016 election, when the whole world went sideways, one morning I decided to give it a whirl. Because, sideways.

On my lunch break at work that day I took a stroll over to the student union building. And, lo, the bookstore was having a sale, and I accidentally bought two cookbooks. For less than a latte.

How I Survived My Book-Buying Hiatus | BookRiot.com

Hiatus Day One: Score. In Italian and English, published in 1988, on brown pages. Below, just barely visible, a 1961 New York Times “Cook Book.”

Home that evening, I found that a book had arrived in the mail for me. I had accidentally ordered the same one twice, for a penny plus shipping.


I was still pretty sure I didn’t have a problem.

And hiatus? This hiatus is awesome. ROCK ON.

But then, after nearly killing myself stopping for books on the way to the emergency room last January, it was clear that my bookishness might possibly, perhaps, maybe…actually be a problem. 

And it was a wake-up call, too. It dawned on my that should I have dropped dead, my children might not been so tickled with my…habit. There is nothing like almost dying to make you realize that your beloved possessions will one day become the detritus of your life. (Note to my children: I do not plan to drop dead for another many decades. And I promise never to stop for books again if I am in MORTAL PERIL.)

Earlier this spring I met a date at a plant nursery that’s more about gardenishness and fancy decorative items than interesting or unusual plants. It’s all about atmosphere. I love that place because in the very large gift and coffee area, I can gaze at all the pretty things that I don’t want to have in my house. Also the scones are wicked good.

(Once, while waiting for my beverage, I saw an elderly couple flirting in line ahead of me. He whacked her on the bum, a love pat. And then he saw that I saw, and he winked at me with a devilish grin. Honestly. How could one not love that place?)

New this year, a book display. I was attracted like—well. You know. Kathy Willis & Katie Scott’s large and exquisite Botanicum immediately caught my eye. I didn’t know they had another, that this one had come out a year ago—although I’ve seen their other work. I lifted it from the table and breathed the scent of the pages. Ah. Perfect.

I wanted that book.

I sighed and whispered, “I have a book problem.”

He cocked his head to the side and asked, “But is it really a problem?”

Bless him.