Our Reading Lives

My Book-Buying Ban by the Numbers

Ashley Holstrom

Staff Writer

Ashley Holstrom helps make books at Sourcebooks. She lives near Chicago with her cat named after Hemingway and her bookshelves organized by color. Newsletter: Crooked Reads. Twitter: @alholstrom.

Near the end of 2016, I had a brilliant idea: A book-buying ban. My bookshelves hold more unread books than read books, and I feel a little guilty about it. Not for those weird “my books are so lonely” reasons, but because I feel like a scumbag when someone picks a book off my shelf and asks about it and I say, “Oh, I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard good things about it!”

A logical solution, naturally, is telling myself I can’t buy any more books until I read what I already own. It’s like dieting. But for books.

But there must be exceptions! Like when I go to author events, or when my friends write books, or when I am blindfolded and brought to an indie bookstore and just have to buy something to support the store.

These numbers are close to accurate of my book acquisitions over about six months. Yes, I am pathetic. Yes, I will hate myself the next time I have to pack up my books and move. No, I will never change.

1: Number of books I pre-ordered before the ban went in place.

4: Number of books I added to my holiday wishlist.

2: Maximum number of books I purchased at a time.

13: Number of indie bookstores I went to and had to buy just one book.

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Waiting to see the bad feminist herself. #crookedreads

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4: Number of author events I went to and therefore number of books I had to purchase for said authors to sign at said events.

12: Number of books from my to-be-read mountain that I actually read.

202: Number of books that remain on my to-be-read mountain.

23: Number of books I’ve borrowed from my library.

6: Number of books I’ve borrowed from friends.

6: Number of books I’ve greedily snatched up from Little Free Libraries.

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What a great week for book mail. 🌈

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7: Number of review copies of books I’d requested.

3: Number of those review copies I’d then purchased finished copies of.

11: Number of books I’ve sniffed, hugged, cradled, then whispered “I’m coming back for you” to.

47: Number of hours I’ve spent scrolling through my library’s digital catalogs.

29: Number of times I’ve said, “No, really, this is the LAST book I’m buying this year.”