Our Reading Lives

No More Book Shopping

Courtney Rodgers


Courtney has been reading and collecting books almost as long as she's been alive. She holds a B.A. in Theatre and Creative Writing. Courtney has been writing with Book Riot since 2019, and is a Bibliologist with TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations. She's currently brainstorming for her next creative project. You can follow her on Instagram.

As a personal experiment or project, I decided to make 2019 the year that I don’t buy anything. To clarify, I am not buying anything unnecessary this year. I am still buying food and gas for my car, but everything else has become extraneous. When I realized shopping had become my main source of entertainment, I was horrified. Not only was I spending all of my money on stuff I didn’t need, but I was neglecting other hobbies. I had to quit shopping. Cold turkey. No more buying an extra pair of socks here or there, shopping the library sales, or making online orders.

It is only mid-February as I write this, but so far, not shopping has been easy. I thought I would have the most difficulty with not buying beauty items, which has been my biggest vice in previous years, but no. Clothing, I realize will eventually be a problem, as my current clothing will become shabbier and shabbier. Oh well, that’s fine. I can be shabby for a year. It’s books. I am having the most difficult time with not buying books. I have never been one to buy stacks and stacks of books at a time, preferring to buy a manageable 1–3 books. Library sales and used book clearance sales overwhelm me. I buy gardening books from the ’70s and the third book from series that no one has ever heard of.

“Ha! Ha! Tricked you into buying a book you will never read!”

“You’re right! But I only paid 50 cents for it, so who’s the real winner here?”

On a rare occasion that I do buy a new book, it is because I want to read it so desperately and the hold list for my local library system is horridly long. I live in a city of nearly 1.5 million, but with only one copy of a new release per branch. Not complaining, because public libraries are free and I am fortunate to live close to one. Still, sometimes I am impatient. Books might be the one area of my life that I am impatient.

I will occasionally buy a book if it seems that I will never find it at the library. The books I do buy are almost always bought used, at a discount, and after I have read the library copy at least once before. I tried being a person that had to have their own copy of every book they wanted to read.  I couldn’t be that person. It was expensive. Why then, with my extensive library usage and rare book buying habit, has it suddenly become difficult to NOT buy books?

I’m reading more. That’s a conscious choice. Previously, my evenings consisted of TV, browsing online stores, TV. I’m now trying to read every evening as I did as a teen. That kid got into college, she did alright. Maybe it’s part of the collector’s mentality so prevalent in social media. If you don’t own all the new releases, you’re not a real reader. If you don’t read everything the second it’s available—well, you might as well not. This mentality goes beyond books, of course. It’s in everything commercially available. The collector’s mentality is especially prevalent in the beauty social media space, which is what prompted me to stop shopping, buying, and seeking the next new thing.

I am choosing to use and enjoy what I already own. With books though, is what I have good enough? Haven’t I read these books before? Books are not like a tube of toothpaste—I cannot use one up and then buy a new one. I can’t stop the collector’s mentality, but there’s no way I can collect or read absolutely everything. That is impossible. Even a well-stocked library doesn’t have every book ever published. That’s why inter-library loans exist. Do I want to browse bookstores? Desperately. However, I know doing so will make the collector mentality fire up again. Instead, I am sticking with my libraries because I know there is no possibility that I can ever own those books. I am hoping that over the course of this year, my collector-shopper brain learns to enjoy other things again. Until then, I envy anyone with a gift card to a bookstore.