Reflections on Project 24

Last December, I thought it would be a good idea to sign on to Simon‘s Project 24 – a commitment to buy only twenty-four books for myself all year.  (Books gifted to someone else are exempt, and books that I receive as gifts are also exempt.)  Since I try to only buy two books per month anyway, I thought this shouldn’t be too terribly difficult.  I just wouldn’t utilize any of my exceptions.  And it seemed like a good idea, since my shelves were already looking… well, there was space, but not a ton, and my little urban townhouse is a pretty good size for my neighborhood but still not exactly what you’d call spacious.  At some point, I’ll run out of room for books – especially when you consider that the kids have a considerable library of their own now, and it competes with mine for shelf space.  (This both delights and horrifies me.  I love that they’re into books.  But I’m territorial about my shelves.)

So – long story short – I went for it.  And I did it!  I only bought, for myself, twenty-four books this year.  They were:

  1. The Red House Mystery, by A.A. Milne
  2. The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge
  3. Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
  4. Anne of Avonlea, by L.M. Montgomery
  5. Envelope Poems, by Emily Dickinson
  6. Mary Barton, by Elizabeth Gaskell
  7. Wives and Daughters, by Elizabeth Gaskell
  8. North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell
  9. Anderby Wold, by Winifred Holtby
  10. The Land of Green Ginger, by Winifred Holtby
  11. Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome
  12. Before Lunch, by Angela Thirkell
  13. A Memoir of Jane Austen, by Edward Austen-Leigh
  14. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  15. Father Brown Stories: Volume 1, by G.K. Chesterton
  16. Father Brown Stories: Volume 2, by G.K. Chesterton
  17. After Many Years, by L.M. Montgomery
  18. Sylvia’s Lovers, by Elizabeth Gaskell
  19. Ruth, by Elizabeth Gaskell
  20. 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Washington, D.C., by Renee Sklarew & Rachel Cooper
  21. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Illustrated Edition, by J.K. Rowling
  22. The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery
  23. Portrait of Elmbury, by John Moore
  24. Brensham Village, by John Moore

And that’s it!  Kind of – read on.

Reflections on the experience, and a confession or two:

  • I didn’t cheat!  I didn’t use any of my exceptions, and I was scrupulously honest about… well… some things.  For instance?  Father Brown Stories came as a two-volume box set.  The volumes are packaged together and have an illustration that spans both spines.  I could maybe have gotten away with calling it one book purchase.  But I didn’t.  And the hiking book – well, that is a book for the whole family.  I could have argued it wasn’t “for myself” and exempted it from Project 24.  But – again! – I didn’t.
  • I cheated a little.  While I abided by the letter of the rules, if I’m being completely honest I’ll have to admit that I didn’t always abide by the spirit.  I bought kindle books that were featured on the Modern Mrs. Darcy daily ebook deals emails.  (Never more than $2.99!)  I used my feminine wiles to get Steve to buy a copy of A Gentleman in Moscow for me when it became clear I wasn’t going to be able to finish my library copy by the deadline.  And in the run-up to Christmas, I ordered several out of print books, including a boxed set of five Jeeves books (as my friend Susan said in support of this bending of the rules: “Baby, this is Jeeves.  You do what you have to do.”) and handed them to Steve with instructions to wrap them up and put them under the tree.  This is probably against Simon’s rules.  But the thing is – when you come across a rare and out-of-print book, what are you supposed to do?  Clearly, there’s only one right answer.

  • Goddess bless the library.  I wouldn’t have gotten through this year without the library.  (That’s true of every year, of course.)  It’s a lot easier to keep to a strict book-buying budget/diet when you have more books than you could ever read just a few short blocks away, all neatly shelved in the neighborhood library.  Also, who are these people who claim libraries are irrelevant and no adult uses them?  I’d go broke without the library.
  • It’s a good thing the kids’ books were exempt.  Since buying gifts for other people doesn’t count toward Project 24, I made liberal use of the allowance to buy even more books for the kids.  I buy them tons of books – all the time – anyway, but I’d be less than honest if I told you that I didn’t enjoy their books, too.  I love a beautifully-worded, sumptuously illustrated picture book just as much as the next preschooler.  Quite a few of my “ooooooh! pretty!” book purchases this year ended up being children’s books.  After all, as C.S. Lewis said: “A children’s book that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s book at all.”
  • I don’t think I saved money.  Here’s the problem with a strict book-buying diet.  When you’re only buying a very limited, very small number of books for yourself over an entire year, it’s way too easy to justify those books being big, expensive Folio Society books.  If I only shopped at used bookstores and thrift shops, maybe I could have massively trimmed my book-buying budget.  But I fell into the deep, deep trap of rationalization: “I haven’t bought any books in almost two months!  I DESERVE this $70 out-of-print Folio edition of Wives and Daughters!”  If I hadn’t been restricting myself, I probably would have bought more $8.00 BL Crime Classics paperbacks and fewer hefty Folio editions of Gaskell.  Just saying.  And on that rationale, I’m off to eat some chocolate and cruise Amazon.

Have you ever put yourself on a book-buying diet?  Did you cheat?

3 thoughts on “Reflections on Project 24

    • I both did it and didn’t really do it – haha! And of course now that it’s over I’ve gone crazy buying books – everything I waited on last year is finding its way into my house now. I am starting to think about picking up another bookshelf.

  1. Pingback: Some Recent Bookish Acquisitions | Covered In Flour

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