These are two of my bookshelves.
I have many, many, many more. Many, many, many more.
Okay – not all are used for books. Two I use for general storage in my closet. Three and a half are primarily for digital media – they hold a TV, and DVDs, and box sets, and DVD players, and receivers, and cables, and other things. One is half books, and half shoes. But the rest, of my total eighteen bookshelves, hold books.
They hold books from left to right. They hold books stacked. They hold books sitting on top of stacked books. They hold sock monkeys in front of books. Little clay penguins from atop a wedding cake. Ties on top of books, ties in front of books, ties on shelves. Why haven’t I put that hammer away? That’s on top of a bunch of books, too.
There is very little room left for books in my apartment. (There’s almost no room for me, either).
But that’s not why I’m stopping buying books in 2012. That’s my resolution (one of them, anyway): I will not buy any more books in 2012. Let me now, quickly, apologize to Second Story Books, Books For America, Kramerbooks, Idle Times, Bridge Street Books, Politics & Prose, and Capitol Hill Books. To a far less extent, allow me to apologize to Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million. (I shall refrain from apologizing to Amazon, as I will still be buying vast quantities of cat food & toilet paper from them, and they’re set to conquer the world soon anyway so whatever).
So: no more book buying in 2012. I feel I need to go back to late February/early March, when I found out my dear part-time employer Borders, was closing the 18th & L store that I’d worked at for just shy of three years. I found another job and, sadly, left Borders in the dust. And it’s weird, because even though it has been less than a year, I really have no concrete memories of my last shift. I vaguely remember that a few of us went over to Mackey’s that evening for drinks but …
Anyway, so skip ahead a bit. I bought myself an Amazon Prime membership. And I began exploring all of the bookstores in DC. I got a bit … how do I put this … I got a bit hoardy.
I don’t know if it was because I somehow thought actual paper bound books would disappear. Maybe I just wanted one more book. But I started trolling Amazon’s used book listings, and scored some amazing deals: used and new books, in great condition, coming to my door with two-day free shipping. And I scored some great deal – a “used” trade of Lynn Olsen’s Citizens of London in practically new condition from Amazon for $1.90 the same week it was published in paperback. I stocked up on Bill Bryson’s catalog, and picked up several titles from Richard Russo and Arthur Phillips. I rounded out my Alan Furst spy novels.
And from used bookstores I was finding a treasure trove of titles. I picked up a bunch of classic Len Deighton thrillers from Second Story’s Rockville warehouse. From a handful of bookstores I found all of the Graham Greene books on my assorted shelves – Our Man In Havana, The Power & The Glory, Brighton Rock, The Quiet American, and more. The Sunday after Thanksgiving I found seven of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series on the outdoor carts in Dupont, and bought them for $3.50. I made a resolution to buy all of the books in the series used, and with two exceptions failed – I did not find a used copy of The Affair and declined to pick it up new, and I picked up Running Blind at Politics & Prose, only to find a used British edition at Idle Times this past weekend.
I bought used books because their covers looked beautiful, or interesting. I found a love letter in one. I don’t even know when I’ll read the book.
I own close to fourteen hundred books. In a four hundred square foot apartment. That’s a lot of books. And many, many hundreds of them, have been bought this year. If you think I’m exaggerating? Believe me I’m not.
So the problem is that I’ve been buying books far faster than I can read them. The other problem is all the money that I’ve been spending on books — a couple of hundred bucks a month, at least — is money that I could be, y’know, putting into my savings account or something.
So. I am not going to buy any books in 2012*. The goals are two:
First – to decrease the amount of books I own versus the amount of books I own that I’ve read.
Second – to increase my savings account. I am far too old to neglect that account as much as I do.
*With the caveat that I will still buy books for people as gifts. Otherwise, next Christmas would be really weird. (“You’re not giving us books?!”)