My book purchasing philosophy

**This is lots of words, bear with me.**

I read too much.

When I was making $34K and living in Manhattan about 10 years ago I was poor. I both knew it, and I didn't know it. Like, I kept my groceries to a minimum and basically wore my clothes until they were ratty and my mom would come and visit and see and offer to buy me a sweater or something. Or I'd just wait until something at the Gap was on sale, and then there was also a 30% off sticker. But, I was 22 and living in NYC. I totally went out on the weekends and tried to keep up with my college friends socially (even when they were working at financial companies) and we all wanted to try the latest restaurant and take cabs downtown to check out the scene and make memories and have fun, so I did that as much as I could, but then I used my office pass to go to the museum every weekend for free, too.

It felt hard and sometimes unfair, but, I got to work at a publishing house that I loved and talk to inspiring authors and editors and read manuscripts, and work with other crazy book nerds I so loved that life. I learned to be frugal and I babysat on the side so I could make it work. I also had amazing friends. As people spread across the city to different publishing houses there weren't many books I couldn't get my hands on for free. There was a giant book case near the cafeteria at Random House where people put their extras and you could take whatever you wanted--from ARCs to cookbooks (those didn't last long). And every quarter, you'd get a list of books from the parent company and from that list, you could select 5 to bring home. That's how I got my beautiful coffee table books. Books felt less like objects I could buy and more like objects I could ask a friend for and interoffice one in exchange.

When I moved to Boston, I started making more money. I felt like I was LIVING THE LIFE making more than I had in NYC and living in a cheaper city (although I missed NYC a lot). I started a dangerous book buying habit. I was used to having tons of manuscripts and books available at all times. I wasn't used to being discerning when it came to buying books. I accumulated a lot of garbage books. Books I either didn't like and would loan out hoping to not get back, or books that just weren't that great. My bookshelves started looking a little full and a lot lost and I was mad at myself for spending so much money.

I made a decision that appealed to my New York frugality.

The library.

I have tons of librarian friends, I used the library in NYC, and in my hometown during summers, but in Boston, I really got with the program. I use my library's online system and request books, manage when books are arriving (I think I have about 40 books on hold a the library right now, but suspended...). I really love it.

So now, I read books first and THEN decide whether to buy them.

That means my book shelves are full of books I love. No more airport best sellers, no more books that my friend recommended to me even though we have opposite taste, no more books that were just OK-but-not-my-favorite sitting on my shelves. I absolutely love my plan and advocate it to everyone who will listen (my dad is addicted to the BPL because he can get Kindle books there).

I also love supporting my favorite independent book shops, and this change makes it financially feasible to do that. I like to spend timing finding a pretty hard cover version of books to purchase or getting a book that's somehow special. I was visiting a friend in Austin this fall and found a first edition of one of my favorite books at a shop on Congress street there! My mom even found a special signed copy of Love Story by Eric Segal and put it under the tree at Christmas for me.

Here are some of the copies of books I've either purchased or am coveting... (New books don't tend to have cover variation, but so many have beautiful covers the first time around.)

Alice in Wonderland is one I just added to my list:

This beautiful British edition of The Handmaid's Tale£22.50

Blood, Bones and Butter $28, one of my favorite memoirs.

I missed the boat on this To Kill a Mockingbird edition, but think it's gorgeous:

These Australian Editions called Penguin Threads are beautiful. They're embroidered covers. Particularly I like this edition of Emma (26.99 AUS)and this edition for the Wizard of Oz (>26.99 AUS) 
"Commissioned by award-winning Penguin art director Paul Buckley, the Penguin Threads series dincludes several special edition covers sketched out in a traditional illustrative manner, then hand stitched using needle and thread, the final covers are sculpt embossed for a tactile, textured, and beautiful book design that will appeal to the Etsy(tm)-loving world of handmade crafts."

Someday, I'd love to commission one of these art projects based on my favorites:
Ideal Bookshelves (mine would have to be epically large)

How do you decide which books to buy and which should grace your shelves?

Also, I support the library through donations and spreading the word and some volunteering.


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