Maybe Matilda: When I Buy Books

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

When I Buy Books

I have no idea whether this will come as a surprise or not, but I don’t buy books very often. I love reading, and I love owning great books, but I also love not spending money. It’s an interesting balance.
when to buy books
I had a friend who told me years ago that she never reads books from the library. She said that if she wants to read a book, she just buys a copy, because all she can think about when flipping through a library book is the germy hands that have touched those pages in the past, and what if someone had brought the book into the bathroom with them?

These thoughts had never, ever crossed my mind . . . but I guess she’s not the first one to be concerned about toilet books.

Almost everything I read comes from the library, and luckily the thought of other readers doesn’t bother me. But I thought I’d write a post today on how I decide which books earn a permanent spot on my shelves. I don’t buy books terribly often, but I try to be thoughtful in choosing which books to purchase.
what books i buy
^ life with children—those aren’t calendar blocks, they’re building blocks.

I narrowed my book-buying criteria to 3 main questions I ask myself before buying:

1) Will I reread it? My main consideration in whether to buy a book is if I think it is a book I’ll read more than once. There are plenty of books out there that I read once, and feel pretty sure I won’t read again. But then there are books that I read and enjoy so much that I can easily picture myself wanting to read them again at some point. If I think I might reread a book, that’s a good sign to me that I ought to buy a copy.

2) Would I want my kids to read it? This has nothing to do with content or maturity (I own plenty of books I wouldn’t be comfortable handing to a kid), but everything to do with providing quality reading material for my kids. When I read a children’s or young adult book that I think is great, I like to buy it for my kids to read someday. My theory is that they’ll grow up loving to read if they have easy access to great books. Time will tell if this theory pans out, I suppose.

3) Is it a book I might loan out? If I read a book, enjoy it, and immediately think of a few friends or family members who I know would love it too, I might buy it to have ready if I’m asked for a recommendation.

I buy most of my books used from Thriftbooks (they don’t know me except as a customer—this isn’t sponsored in any way). My only complaint is that they come with a Thriftbooks sticker on the spine (see photo below), and I have ripped the covers more than once trying to remove the stickers (as is the case with the 3rd book in the stack below). I order probably 1-3 books per month from that site, and occasionally pop in to library book sales (although I rarely buy books I haven’t already read, unless the price is really low and it’s a book or author I’m interested in).
My most recent book purchases:
84, Charing Cross RoadI always get nervous when a book is billed as “a book for book-lovers,” but this one is perfection.
Ella Minnow PeaQuick and funny and so lovable.
The Best Bad Luck I Ever HadPerfect example of a book I bought because I hope with all my heart that my kids will read and love it someday.
RebeccaAn English teacher recommended this to me in high school, and I grouchily reported back to her a few weeks later that I hated it. After rereading it as an adult, I am embarrassed for my high school self.
BloodrootAfter reading and loving this in February, I knew I needed to get a copy to keep. Very good stuff, and I can definitely imagine reading it again as well as letting friends borrow it.
On my book wishlist:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy
Bread and Wine
Anne of Green Gables (the Rifle Paper Co. edition—I already own it in paperback but I want a pretty copy)

A quick thought on ebooks:

I love reading ebooks, but I rarely buy them. I figure that if I’m spending money on a book, I want to actually have that book, and see it on my shelves where I’ll be way more likely to pick it up and read it again. More than once, I’ve thumbed through my kindle and been surprised to see a book there—I’d purchased it and completely forgotten about it, since there wasn’t anything physical to remind me I’d bought it. I own maybe half a dozen ebooks, but I vastly prefer buying hard copies.

I’m really hoping that someday, hard copies of books will come with a free digital edition—wouldn’t it be nice to have both? The ebook exception for me is books that are hard to read (for instance, my copy of Gone With the Wind has such tiny print packed into such a short, squat book that it’s tough on the eyes and difficult to open wide enough to read along the inner edges of the pages), and non-fiction (I love being able to highlight interesting passages to return to easily on my kindle).

Do you buy books? How do you decide which books to buy and which to borrow?

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