An Addiction To Books

Hello, I’m m741, and I used to be addicted to books. Well, to admit the truth… I still am. I have a problem. But I’m working on it.

I don’t own very much, but I do have a lot of books. Three years ago, I had 8 bookcases of books. 25 books/shelf * 6 shelves/case * 8 cases = 1200 books. Maybe 1250. And they’re fucking heavy! Jesus, moving was a pain.

Why do I love books so much? I had a lot of them, after all, so there must be some reason. I’ll tell you why: I loved books because they represented a better me. Books I’d read that changed me, or books I wanted to read that would make me more informed. A huge library of personal entertainment available right in front of me. But the hard truth is that I don’t do so much reading: roughly a book each week. At that rate, it would have taken me 24 years to read all the books I owned. What’s the point in that?

Two years ago, I eliminated a bookcase – down to 7. I’d gotten a crappy e-reader and threw out all the classics I owned but would probably never read. Pygmalion, Dante’s Inferno, The Good Earth — so long, goodbye. I could buy them for cheap of get them free.

But to me the real turning point was when I first downloaded a collection of books. In 20 minutes it’s trivial to download many times more books than I had accumulated in 20 years. Books have entered a post-scarcity world. We’re just flooded with the things. It’s not like I would enjoy reading any faster. I could have 100,000 digital books, and wouldn’t matter to me at all. It might even make me less happy since I could still only read 50 books per year.

This past year, I’ve eliminated another bookcase – down to 6. Each weekend I take a load of books – 10-15 books each week – to a book sale in a local church. I’d like to eliminate another case or two this year. Progress, right?

Here’s a few tips I’ve uncovered:

  • When choosing books to eliminate, ask why you are holding onto them. Some books I’ve read, and they’re meaningful to me: I get pleasure seeing them on my shelf. A close friend or relative ahs given me other books, and they’re a memento of that person. I see no reason to eliminate these books.. Some books, I have because I thought they’d be interesting, but they weren’t interesting enough to read for 4+ years! Some books, I got because I’d heard they were good, but I really have no interest in reading at all.
  • Libraries are great, but they don’t always work. I can’t go to the library on a weekday, because I work too late. And on a weekend, I don’t want to walk half an hour to the library and half an hour back. So I was constantly having overdue books, and that gets expensive quick. The booksale is much better – not as good a selection, but I’d rather buy a book for 50 cents (or free!) and be able to hold onto it for two months, and maybe even keep it if I really like it. I’ve probably spent about $15 on 20-30 books this past year, and returned 10-15 of them after reading (or deciding not to read them).
  • Read your books! The biggest reason I held onto books was because I thought they looked interesting and couldn’t bear to discard them unread. After I’ve read them, I have no such compunction donating them.
  • Record your readings. Another sticking point was that I wanted to remember everything I’d read by pointing to it on the shelf. But it’s actually a lot easier to point to it on a website. You can use something like GoodReads to record everything you read. Or just a spreadsheet or text file.
  • There’s little to no reason to hold onto any public domain books, or books which you can find cheap online. They take up no space on your hard drive… and one hard drive is physically smaller than a single book.
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  1. 1250 books is a lot! I used to have 500 books. When I got a job overseas I took a suitcase. I sent a few boxes of photos to my parents. Everything else I sold, tossed or gave away.

    People worship their junk — but especially books. Its the ideas that are important, not the physical object. The physical object has no value. Most of my books were selling for 10 cents used on Amazon. After weeks of calling and searching I was shocked I could not get a single charity or library to take them. Some friends were upset I threw them out. I offered to give them the books. They said no. Maybe I should have searched harder. But I had to throw out a lot of nice things. People just don’t want used stuff — even for free.

    That was five years ago. I can still move with a suitcase. I haven’t bought a single physical book since. I don’t miss my books or my other stuff at all. I am not suffering. I feel free and liberated. I do wish I could invest in some tools though. When I buy a house I will have more things, but I plan to keep it minimal.

    Owning stuff is great but its also a burden. You have to store it and care for it and clean it. You need a big house with an attic, basement, spare room, garage, …. I don’t plan to get caught in that trap again.

  2. Hey m741 –

    I enjoyed your post on the sentimental power of books. I need to build some space and time to read more myself of the books I have collected on my shelf.

    Check out private sites like if you ever want to free your electronic book need. Information will be free…



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