I Keep My Shelves Decluttered By Only Buying Books AFTER I Read Them

published Jun 12, 2019
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Credit: Lauren Kolyn

I spent childhood with my nose in a book. The bookstore was my equivalent of a candy store, especially during my Babysitters Club phase (mom would let me pick out a new book in the series on every trip). Then, I studied English in college—and amassed an even greater home library. At some point, though, after the minutiae of adult life commandeered many of my hours, my reading time waned drastically.

When I moved cross-country after I got married, I decided to majorly thin out my book collection—but to my surprise, it wasn’t something that made me sad. Instead, I loved the library I was left with. It was full of books that had made a lasting impression on me, and only books that had done that.

These days, thanks to the invention of the Kindle and the ability to read in bed at night even after my husband needs the lights off, I’m fervently back to my favorite childhood hobby. Even though e-books don’t take up any physical room, I still get most of them from the library. They don’t cost anything, and I also feel more free to “try” books when I’m not committing to a purchase.

But there is a time when I do still buy my own physical books. If I read a book and it makes a big enough impact on me that I mope around when it ends or that I tell my friends they need to read it or I don’t want to lose my highlights, that’s a book I’ll put on my buy list.

Credit: Submitted by Dean Sameshima

Why I Buy Books After I’ve Borrowed Them

I love supporting my local library almost as much as I love reading, but there are several books that, after I’ve borrowed them, I want to add to my slimmed-down personal collection.

I buy books that moved me in one way or another, in order to support authors I love. My thinking is that if I want more good books from authors whose work has brought value and depth into my life, I should help support them! I’m ashamed to admit that this didn’t even occur to me until recently, at the admonition of a fellow bookworm on Instagram.

Most recently, I’ve bought Tell Me More, both for a friend and for me. And I wouldn’t hesitate to gift it again and again. I’ve also bought Gift From the Sea (while the author is no longer with us, we need to keep this treasure in print) and Home Comforts as wedding gifts. On my current novels-to-buy list are An American Marriage, Where the Crawdads Sing, Beartown, The Brothers K, Animal Dreams, and The Goldfinch.

Adding physical books to my own library is slow and deliberate. By buying books after I read them, I’m not only contributing to authors’ success in my own small way, but I’m continuing to curate a collection that’s exclusively full of books that I love. And that’s a library I don’t have to declutter, ever.

How do you decide which books to buy?