My Book Buying Rule (And A List Of Exceptions)


As an inveterate reader, I’m always on the hunt for more books to add to my collection.  Sometimes I think Steve probably wonders why I bother to buy books, since I am also addicted to my local library.  What can I say?  I love using the library, but I also love seeing books lined up on my shelves, their spines neatly facing outward, reminding me of all the possibilities and new worlds for exploring from the comfort of my couch.  I’m choosy about the books I do buy – since I have limited shelf space and a limited budget, I want to make sure that the books I add to my collection are worthy of taking up room in the bookcase and dollars out of my wallet.  But there are so many books that meet that standard, that I am never lacking in options and no matter how many books I buy, my list never seems to get any shorter.  (Funny how that works.  I blame Penguin Random House, which keeps reprinting classics in beautiful new editions and taking my money.)

Since I try to be a generally responsible person, some time ago I decided to make a rule for myself: I am allowed to buy two books per month.  That’s two books regardless of the cost, so a Folio Society hardcover counts the same as, for example, a BL Crime Classics paperback in this exercise.

This seems like a reasonable rule to me.  It’s not as if I’m likely to run out of reading material on my own shelves – I have so many unread books already.  And even if I did, there’s always the library.  Restricting myself to a creep of only two books per month won’t slow down my actual reading pace at all.  And it gives me something to look forward to – I usually postpone buying the month’s books until the very last day, and spend all the days leading up to that in a delicious anticipation of trying to choose.  (I’m an INFP.  The process of examining all the possibilities is a thrill for me, particularly when it comes to new additions to my personal library.  It’s actually making the decision that is painful – even when I know that I’m going to have another bite at the apple in the next month.)

That said, I am also a lawyer.  So it is impossible for me to adhere to a book-buying rule without coming up with a host of loopholes that allow me to buy way more books than the actual rule says.  A rule is not worth the paper (or screen) it’s written on unless it has at least ten exceptions, amirite?  Here are mine:

  • Books that I pre-order don’t count.  I mean, how do you know what month to assign them to?  You can’t count a pre-order to the month in which you order it, because you’re not going to get it right away.  And you can’t count a pre-order to the month it’s paid for, because you didn’t order it that month.  Best to just exempt pre-orders from the rule, I think.  It’s too confusing otherwise.  And don’t you dare point out that you can pre-order a book during the month it’s released.  I reject your reality and substitute my own.
  • Comics don’t count.  Don’t ask me to explain why they shouldn’t.  Sometimes the Executive makes a rule or carves out an exception for no apparent reason.  Just chalk this one up to chaos.
  • Books I buy when I’m having a bad day don’t count.  If I’m struggling through a rough week, I should have a little retail therapy if I want and need it.  I wouldn’t buy a scarf and count it toward my monthly book total, so books bought under the same circumstances shouldn’t count, either.
  • Books I buy when I’m having a good day don’t count.  Sometimes I successfully get through a tough week, or I accomplish a goal I’ve been working towards, and I think I deserve a treat.  In this case, again, I don’t think that should count as a regular book purchase.  See scarf example, above.
  • Kindle books don’t count.  I mean, how would you even quantify this?  When I buy every book Elizabeth Gaskell has ever written for a total of $0.99 for the entire library, am I supposed to then refrain from buying books for the next year?  Don’t be silly.  (I will say, if I bought a new release on Kindle and paid something like $9.99 for it, I would count that.  But all I ever buy are classics for a dollar or two, or sale ebooks from Modern Mrs. Darcy‘s daily Great Kindle Deals emails.)
  • Books I buy for the kids don’t count.  Obviously, they’re not for me.
  • Books that I buy on vacation don’t count.  If I’m traveling and stop into a cute little indie bookstore, I give myself license to shop.  It’s souvenir shopping, okay?  If I ever make it to the Persephone or Folio Society bookshops in London, you can bet I will be leaving with an armload.
  • Books that I buy during the Folio Society’s semi-annual sale don’t count.  I shouldn’t even have to explain this, y’all.  Those deals come along twice a year at most.  If I can get a Folio Society hardcover edition on deep discount, and I passed up that chance, I’d fully expect my family members to have me committed.
  • Slightly Foxed back issues don’t count.  Because they’re not books!  They’re not books so it shouldn’t matter that they cost more than a lot of the books I would otherwise be buying.
  • Books I buy with birthday or Christmas money don’t count.  Again, I refer you to my scarf example.  If I got a windfall and used the money for a pretty scarf, I wouldn’t count it toward my monthly book quota, so books bought with gift money also get exempted.  (But what if I buy a scarf that is printed with text from a book, like my Jane Eyre scarf?  The head spins.  Best not to think about it and just buy more books instead.)
  • Books that I buy for special occasions don’t count.  If I buy a Penguin Christmas Classics edition (I think I’m still missing one) or a volume of poetry for National Poetry Month, those are exempted from the quota.  Because I said so.  (I did count Poems Bewitched and Haunted toward my October book quota, even though it is a Halloween book.  How virtuous am I?  I should probably reward myself for that good behavior by buying another book.)
  • Books from the library book sale don’t count.  I mean, $2.00 Nancy Drew hardbacks?  How am I supposed to keep track of that?
  • Catch-all exemption.  I don’t want to box myself in, so let’s just say if I have a good reason, as determined in my sole discretion, then it’s on like Donkey Kong.

To answer your question, no I don’t think that this list of exceptions is at all irrational or unmanageable.

Do you have a book-buying rule, or is it basically a free-for-all?


10 thoughts on “My Book Buying Rule (And A List Of Exceptions)

  1. This is hilarious! How have I known you for years and you never explained your book-buying rules to me? I knew you liked buying/collecting books but I had no idea about all this. Reading this made me smile. 🙂

    • They’ve been a work in progress for some time! Glad to give you a smile – it was definitely my intention to bring a little levity. And the rules really are fluid and/or made to be broken, because I just ordered a shipment of eight books from Persephone. One was my second October book, that I pushed back until November; two were my November books; and five were to make myself feel better after the election and after a couple of super-busy weeks at work. It’s all good!

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  5. Love this post! Read it a few weeks ago and came back to thank you — I checked out the Penguin Christmas Classics editions and ordered The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus for Frankie (and another copy for my nephew). December is the perfect time to read it aloud together.

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