Two science fiction conventions in one week have exploded my physical to-read pile. Again. The shelves are double stacked. On the heads of those books more books lay horizontally, forming T after T after T of stories. I wish I could read them all at once. I wish I had a time machine. I wish that my to-read shelf was a little more manageable. Except that I don’t. Because I am happiest when surrounded by potential, and an unread book is a bombshell of potential.
Geekdom versus materialism is a philosophical battle for a more detailed post. For now it will suffice to say this: I often feel uncomfortable with the amount of materialism, of buy buy buy, of the mania to collect that is deeply ingrained in much of geekdom. Fuck that. I love libraries and lending books to friends. (I don’t love borrowing books from friends because having something on my shelf I feel pressured to read as quickly as possible stresses me out.) I love finding ways to celebrate books that doesn’t involve spending a lot of money. I’d rather have the time to enjoy a book, my family, the sunshine, and my friends than the money to own every beautiful copy of every beautiful book I’ve ever drooled over. If I worked full time I would be able to buy all the books I wanted, and I wouldn’t have the time to read them. So today I take this oath: For the remainder of the year 2014, I, Nicolette Stewart, will buy no further books.
Stop laughing. Seriously, STOP LAUGHING. I know, I know, I’ve tried this before. It’s really hard. It is an addiction. In part because I really love books. In part because I read quickly and need fodder for the word fire. In part because I read a lot of book blogs, which is a lot like staring at really effective, personalized advertising written by a friend for a product I already know I love. But in part, maybe even in the largest part, because our society is set up to get us addicted to consumption. We are taught to feel lacking, and we are taught to fill these perceived holes in ourselves—real and imagined—through consumption. Critical as I am of these tendencies, I remain susceptible. And that is kind of scary.
Buying books isn’t bad—it supports art, creativity, stories, knowledge, and people like me who don’t want to do anything but write stuff down and still want to eat. But sometimes enough is enough and you (I) need to step back and examine your habits. Why am I consuming more than I can read in a year? Why is it hard to stop? Why don’t I borrow more? Where do e-books fit in? There is no more room on my shelves. I couldn’t even keep track of the number of incoming books this month, it was a list so long. It is time for a break.
Here are the rules for my pledge:
1. I can trade or borrow books. I am a member of a book trading website called bookswapper (Germany only) and any books traded there will not count. The entire system is based on subverting the buy buy buy tendency, and that is something I want to continue to support.
2. I can buy a book at the flea market. I live in Germany, and it is hard to find English language books, particularly of the cheap variety. It is highly unlikely that anything I will want to buy will show up at the flea market, but if it does, buying it for a flea market price would be a one-time opportunity, and I’m going to take it. I will not, however, set foot inside the used bookstore. That one is going to be harder. But my bookshelves will thank me.
3. I am allowed to spend the book store gift certificate that I got for my birthday, but…
4. The following books, should the siren song become too strong, will be the only acceptable buying exceptions. Sometimes you have to take withdrawal slowly, with a conscious dose to keep you from keeling over and binging in a blind frenzy.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
I really like Patrick Rothfuss, and if he’s not going to finish the third Name of the Wind book any time soon, then I want to read the things he’s writing in the meantime. This one doesn’t come out until October 28th, but you can preorder it now. (Fyi, preorders really help authors look their shiniest, so if you want to support an author, preordering their upcoming books is a good move.)
The City and The City by China Mieville
Big China Mieville fan right here, and after hearing multiple people—namely Lauren Beukes—recommend this book emphatically during Nine Worlds and LonCon3, I feel compelled to get it on my shelves post-haste. I have quite a lot of China Mieville back catalogue to catch up on, but with Railsea and Embassytown still untouched on my shelves, I need a new entry point. This is going to be it.
Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
Lauren Beukes is incredible. Having heard her speak several times during my London con run this year, she became a favorite author—without me having read any of her books. I have Moxyland and Zoo City on my shelves, but if I devour them and need more immediately, then this will be next up. Having heard her read the first chapter during LonCon3, I am already hooked, wondering whodunit.
Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
Six-Gun Snow White killed me, and I immediately set out to buy everything Catherynne Valente had ever written. (Valente and Jeanette Winterson currently battle in my head for the title of Best Writer Ever.) But alas, money. I ended up with the Fairyland series, Myths of Origins, Deathless, and The Melancholy of Mechagirl, but after hearing Laurie Penny talk about Palimpsest, I realized that it was the book I needed to read next. Apparently it’s full of sexy times, but also, and most importantly, polyamorous relationships. Bring it on.
When 2015 comes I’ll regroup, rethink, and decide what the new year should bring. Have you ever gone on a book-buying binge? Have you ever given up book buying completely? Do you want to join me? Then grab the button below, put it on your internets, and let me know in the comments below. The more the merrier. I have a feeling a support group could be a useful thing here. Perhaps with monthly update posts to get us through together?