Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Progress Report

Tom hands out progress reports for his students a few times during the term, and I thought the name was fitting for this post. For it is indeed a progress report on how I'm doing after four months, one third of a year not buying and not borrowing books. Even as I write it, I can hardly believe it. Has it been easy? No, it has not. It seems like every single day I read about some book I want to read. It is almost a physical feeling because it is so strong. I want to call up my local independent bookstore and order The Kitchen Congregation by Nora Seeton (thanks to Dulce Domum), The Blue Rose by Antony Eglin (thanks to Margaret Powling), and most of all I want The Sweetness At The Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (first heard of from dovegrey reader, but many times since). And these are only three. I keep lists. I pore over the Persephone catalogues. I yearn for books.

But am I glad I set this personal challenge for myself? A strong and resounding, yes! I've had more fun than you could imagine. As I near the end of a book, I begin to get excited, thinking what shall I read next? I absolutely love the time spent after I've finished a book. I walk into the study, then the living room, then the bedroom looking at all the treasures to be had through reading. I've loved reading books which I've owned for years.

What I haven't enjoyed is looking at some books, really too many books, and realizing I do not want to read them. Oh, to have that money back. I could have painted my kitchen or bought flooring for my bathroom. This is not a good feeling at all.

Which leads me to what I've learned. Borrow, borrow, borrow if possible. Then, if I read a book and simply cannot live without it, then buy it. The books I cannot borrow, mostly British books, I will buy one at a time. And when I buy a book, I want to read it as soon as possible. No more putting it on my shelf for years and years.

I plan to come back with another progress report when I've gone eight months, two thirds of the year; and then once more at the end of 2009. This endeavor has been one of the most interesting I've ever embarked upon. I have learned immeasurably about myself, and it has extended into other parts of my life. I have simplified my gardening life, not buying many seeds whose plants I can buy readily at the local farmers' markets. I'm not buying music unless I am positive I must have it. Even my food shopping has been influenced - I buy less and I think about whether I really need a particular item. I am quite amazed by the ripples a little decision about not buying books has made in my entire life. I look forward with interest to how I feel in August and December.

Just a few books that are waiting for me


  1. Kudos to you! I've been buying mostly poetry and reference books and trying to keep my fiction purchases to a minimum by using the library a lot. You're doing great!!


  2. Oh Nan, it is most interesting hearing about your decision not to buy books. I have to be so careful about how I spend money now days that I really think about this. What can I find at the library, what do I "need" to purchase. I love to borrow books. A great way to find out whether it needs shelf space. I rarely watch a movie twice. I rarely read a book twice. This is my criteria for a purchased book right now. Would I read it again or is it one of those trendy books that is on the best seller list or a friend has mentioned. Such is life. I don't feel like I am deprived. I feel like I make better decisions.

  3. I give you credit, Nan. Trouble for me is that I tend to donate my books to the library and get a tax deduction. I keep just 4 shelves of books that I treasure; the rest go to the library.

    I know what you mean about buying food. My daughter has been discarding expired cans of food that have been sitting in my pantry for years. I originally bought them in case we had an emergency, like a hurricane that closed the stores, or a shipping strike on the west coast that prevented shipments of food. I guess the secret is not to buy too much at one time. Less waste that way!

  4. Thank you, Lezlie, Lisa, and Gigi for sharing your own stories, and for your support. I loved reading your comments. Thanks again.

  5. Nan
    I enjoyed your comments today.
    I've tried, since we moved back to the US, after 5 years overseas, and got our things out of storage and a lot of our things were my boxes and boxes of books... to stop buying books. Borrowing, using the library, shopping at thrift stores, because I suddenly realzed when all my books were boxed up and I had to go through each box and book by book decide how to move into this house!
    It has helped me to think twice about buying books like I used to.
    More with less in all areas is my mantra.

  6. Since I started working at a library, I spend I *lot* less on books because I still get that feeling of having beloved books at my fingertips... they're just also at others' fingertips, too!

    As a side: I got Lovejoy's "A Blessing of Toads" in the mail today! Am taking it on vacation with me tomorrow so I can read it. Thanks so much!

  7. I am amazed and awed. I don't think I could accomplish such a feat. Glad you are enjoying your books at home!

  8. Well done! I am in awe. I try to restrain myself but am still buying books.

    I see Cider with Rosie is there waiting for you - what a treat that is. As you know I love that book and I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts about it.

  9. Nan, you inspire me to try harder - to make a note of the books I want to read instead of going straight to Amazon. I *am* buying fewer books but I succumb when I read about books that have been out of print and are now available. I admire your resolve.

  10. Congratulations on sticking to your resolve. I was doing well until my recent visit to Bristol, where there are bookshops galore and I succumbed to the 3 for 2 offer in one of them.

    I'm interested in the ripple effects in other areas that you mention. You have inspired me to renew my effort.

  11. For an avid book lover - not just reader, but lover - it's a courageous path you've chosen. I haven't quite gotten myself to that point yet and have piles of unread books in the bedroom, living, on the dining room table, and in the most inconceivable place - the TV room.

    Something ironic about that.

    I've reduced myself to only buying poetry books since I often go back to them. Fiction, reference, business, etc come from the local library.

    But like the sly matchmakers they are, those bookstores tempt me with special offers, coupons, promises of love requited and 30% off.

    But love must be shared - and so must books! The financials have affected the addiction!

    - J.

  12. Mim, whew! Boxes and boxes! A lot of books mention moving as a good time to scale down, to rid ourselves of accumulated stuff, to really simplify.

    Kiirstin, what a good way to think about it. Next year, I'm going to spend a lot more time at the two libraries I visit. And my scheme is to bring home one book, read it, and then get another. :<) I used to come home with a stack and never get through them.

    Edelweiss Transplanted, thanks for stopping by. I've just been over to yours and will be back. Truly, I'm amazed myself. I wasn't sure I could do this but it is working out better than I expected.

    Margaret, thanks to Carole I also have the second LL book (right next to it, though title doesn't show), so it will be a treat to read them one after the other.

    G.Cat, I've been copying blog entries of books I want into a book ideas folder in my email. I love going in and just looking at the reviews. Sort of like window shopping. :<)

    Maureen, how could possibly resist, and why even try?!! Yeah, the ripple effects have been very interesting to me.

    Jeff, I love 'sly matchmakers' - perfect!

  13. Nan,
    I love reading everyone's response to your post....which I can so relate to!
    My family spent this last week sorting and eliminating *some*
    (4 boxes) books from our bookshelf. It's hard work as we can recall every single book and why it came into our home (many used books, some new)
    We plan to have a yard/garage sale in the coming weeks and it feels good to see less on the shelf. Hopefully it will spur us on to read more of the current books we do have on our shelves!
    I am in agreement with Kiirstin(whom I have the great pleasure to work with:)....I love borrowing from the library and use it extensively!
    It is truly such a wonderful and valuable resource and in our area, most of the best sellers are available with a wonderful book collection throughout our system. I am so pleased with our library!
    Thanks for sharing!

    Joanne in Ontario (who hopes you have received my recent emails:)

  14. I'm a librarian, so I naturally think books=good. However, years ago, after moving hundreds of books across the country, I decided to keep only my personal favorite out-of-print novels, poetry books, and reference books (how-to, cooking). It's worked out just fine for me, but I could never manage with my local library, where I go once a week.

    I'm not sure if everyone realizes that libraries will do their best to get the books you want. In New Hampshire, this meant that our town library would borrow books they didn't own from other libraries (inter-library loan) at no charge. They had a weekly delivery, so there was very little waiting time.

    Here in New Mexico, our library has a healthy budget and welcomes book purchase suggestions. I try to limit myself, but lately it seems like I am asking for two titles a week that they don't own. In the two years that I have been using this library, they have purchased everything I have requested (!) except for one out-of-print title, which they borrowed from a library in another part of the state.

  15. _I Was Told There'd Be Cake_ was written by a woman I went to college with! She was...let's see..a year behind me? Maybe 2. Her book keeps popping up everywhere, which amuses me to no end :)

  16. Joanne and Clair, I think I miss borrowing from the library even more than buying! But I knew that I couldn't do it, and still read the books on my shelves. But how I miss looking through the D.E. Stevensons and the Georges Simenons and the Phoebe Atwoods. And I love the ILL program. Most of my books in recent years have come to me through inter library loan.

    Jenn, that's amazing! I first heard of her on National Public Radio when she was talking about The Secret Garden. It is here, if you'd like to listen:


    I went right out and bought her book, and here it is a year later, and I still haven't read it. Hence, my resolve to read my own books! :<)

  17. What a great accomplishment so far this year! I'm very proud of you for sticking to your resolution. Wishing you much success with this the rest of the year.

  18. Thank you for those nice words, Heather. They mean a lot. Hey girl, it's Wednesday!!!

  19. Hi Nan! This year I "gave up" book and yarn buying for Lent. That short span of time alone, was a challenge. I see Stuart McLean is on your TBR pile. We saw him in concert earlier this year, and found him to be as humorous and nice in person, as he sounds on the Vinyl Cafe on Sunday afternoons.

  20. So interesting to see how this personal challenge has spilled over into other areas of your life! I look forward to the next update - good luck!

  21. Lisa, you are so lucky! I'm on the mailing list so I see where the shows are but none I can get to. Quebec would be the closest.

    JoAnn, thanks for the good wishes!

  22. Cider with Rosie is in my queue to read. I'll be interested to hear what you think about it.

    And I would like to point out that borrowing books from the library can be a pricey endeavor when you neglect to return them on time. You can guess how I've discovered this...

  23. Whoa! Your willpower is impressive!

    Where does paperbackswap.com fit into your resolution, if at all? I have cut way down on purchases and cleared out the bookshelves using that site.

  24. Sprite, I look forward to reading Cider with Rosie. I can't tell you how many years I've owned that book.

    J.G. I am not part of paperback swap. When I'm done with a book, or know I'm not going to read it, I donate it to my local library. They either put it on their shelves or into their big annual book sale. (and sometimes I offer giveaways right here!)

  25. Nan,
    I understand your love for books -I am the same way and have such anticipation when I have a new book on hand that I am about to read, even when I sit down to enjoy the moment, I will sit and look at the cover and even rub it (I know I am weird LOL) allowing a moment of two to pass before I open the cover; but I have so enjoyed the "trips" I have taken via the book highway and the wonderful life lessons and knowledge shared by wonderful authors over the years. I have four books right now on my "to read" shelf and can't wait until I have a chance to pick one up and begin the journey. I had quite the collection at one time but have learned not to hold on to most books, only my "all time faves". Now days I pass them on to those I think will enjoy them or just donate them to Good Will.


  26. Blessed with Four, I enjoy passing them along too, even if just to the library or the lib. sale.

  27. Good for you, Nan! I don't think I've bought very many books this year at all. I know I bought Revolutionary Road for my book club read since I couldn't get a copy at the library (all checked out), but other than that, I'm pretty sure I've only bought a couple of books for Rod. However, I haven't been reading too many from my "old stacks" since I keep bringing so many ARCs home from work. And reading new books authors and publicists have sent to me. I'm getting a bit better about being more selective in what I accept and look forward to reading some of my older books later this year.

  28. Les, I've already tried and put in the library bag one of the books in the picture. I may end up with only Faulkner and Hemingway on my shelves by the end of the year. :<)

  29. Well, Nan, as I hve recently stopped work, not because I wanted to but because of large scale redundancies in the law firms in London, I have had to review my spending and have renewed my library card. I am still buying books but those that in the past I might have bought on the premise 'oh that sounds interesting', I am reserving at the library and only buying those I simply MUST have.

  30. Elaine, I'm quite sure your method will be the one I live by after this year.

  31. Thanks zetor! It's really going fine!


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