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Bookish Pet Peeve #7: Buying Books I Don’t Read

Today’s bookish pet peeve is about me. I am my own pet peeve.

But let me first clarify. Reading through the Time list has immensely helped me with this problem because the only books I buy right now are books on the Time list.

So I’m very purposeful, rarely experiencing one of those bookstore binges in which I buy 10 books, only to read 2 of them before the next bookstore binge.

You know how it goes, right?

We’ve all done it. Readers like us, we mean well. We have the best of intentions. Of course we’re going to read Martha Stewart’s biography, War and Peace, and Gardening Techniques in Northern Ohio—of course we’ll read them. At least that’s what we convince themselves when we buy all three at the used bookstore.

But Spring passes, and you’re not as interested in gardening. Your two-week obsession with Martha Stewart thankfully ends—as does your interest in her biography. And War and Peace? Have you seen that thing? What were you thinking?

So there those three books sit on your bookcase—with dozens of other unread books. Many of which have, sadly, never been opened since that magical serendipitous moment at the bookstore years ago.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

We’re like a glutton in the buffet line, grabbing six biscuits but only eating two. Is there a cure? Can we save ourselves from this overestimation of our reading capabilities?

Why can’t we just read the books we buy before we head off to buy more?

What is it with this addiction?

***

Previous Bookish Pet Peeves:

#6: Speed Reading

#5: The Book Borrower

#4: The One Upper

#3: The Book Snob

#2: The Nosey Over-The-Shoulder Reader

#1: Bookstore Cell Phone Blabbermouth

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66 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on Rosie Writes… and commented:
    I do this all the time, though I have read the majority of my books, there are still a few that I’ve never even opened. I got distracted by the blurb and a pretty cover, and have et to find the time to read the book.

    I will eventually.

    Like

    August 1, 2014
    • Back when I was dating, I was always fooled by the cover and the blurb. Then I met a book I really liked and wanted to read over and over.

      Like

      August 1, 2014
  2. Alison Marie #

    I have had the same problem for years! I have a stack of unread books that have followed me to 3 different homes, every time I move they get boxed up and then unpacked and put on a shelf. This year I have made a bit of a project out of getting them read, and it’s quite satisfying to move them off the TBR pile and pass them on to someone else. Some of them have been really good books and I’ve been frustrated with myself for letting them sit on my shelf unread for so long. I think to book lovers libraries and book shops are our sweet shops and we just want to devour everything. I’m trying really hard this year to just buy one book at a time, but it is difficult to resist sometimes!

    Like

    August 1, 2014
    • I hear you. Books are like Lay’s potato chips…can’t “eat” just one.

      Like

      August 1, 2014
  3. Thanks for the laugh this morning…all I can think about is the number of books sitting at home right now that I purchased with zealous and have yet to open…it’s been years for some! Perhaps this weekend I will open one…probably not!

    Like

    August 1, 2014
  4. Good to know I’m not the only one… In my room the unread books stare at me like the eyes of guilt itself… Aaak

    Like

    August 1, 2014
  5. Alexandra #

    I have a problem where I will buy a book, start reading it, get distracted by something else, not pick it up again (for years), and then start the cycle all over again. I always hold on to them telling myself that I will sit down read them when I get time. Hasn’t happened yet.

    Like

    August 1, 2014
    • I do that a lot too. I can think of one Bill Bryson book that I’ve started twice but never finished.

      Like

      August 1, 2014
  6. Thanks for posting this! Gives me an idea for my next post on benefits of renting/borrowing a book. 🙂

    Good thing I don’t have this problem but I do see my friends struggling with compulsive shopping during book sales. My friends buy books at a particular book sale (held annually) every year even though they have not completed reading all of the previous year’s books. In Malaysia, books are generally expensive (approximately RM30 per paperback when minimum wage is approximately RM5 an hour). So when books are sold at discounted price, most book lovers tend to go overboard and buy books they don’t read.

    Like

    August 1, 2014
  7. Oh Lord, this is like looking into a mirror. LOL! I have books on my shelf that have been languishing there for years, pleading for my attention. Yet, I love book buying. I love browsing through bookshops and picking up a few items each time. Even ordering off Amazon gives me a giddy little thrill.

    I guess the peeve part lies in not actually getting around to reading the books, but I love my addiction and have no intention of getting clean. 🙂

    Like

    August 1, 2014
  8. It’s such a bad habit! 😀

    Like

    August 1, 2014
  9. Finances are what holds me back most of the time. But at the city library annual book sale–where you can walk away with a dozen books for a dozen dollars (and half-price on the last day), all bets are off. I will get to stack of books in the corner sometime, I promise.

    Like

    August 1, 2014
  10. Story of my life. I can’t help it, I’ve tried. People mention just checking them out at the library and I do that too – I’ll request like 8 books at once. Only to have to return them without reading them…No one said the booknerd life was easy.

    Like

    August 1, 2014
    • Alison Marie #

      I try just using the library to help, but like yourself I still check out as many books as possible and just end up constantly renewing them or returning them unread!

      Like

      August 1, 2014
  11. Kat #

    Reblogged this on Kat Webber and commented:
    I, too, suffer from this malady. I’ve been trying to get better but bookstore binges, library book sales, trips to the library, my Goodreads list, and recommendations from friends all serve to increase the number of books on my shelves and somehow I can’t add more time to my day. Most unfortunate.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 1, 2014
  12. I think (for me) it’s just to guarantee that I *always* have something to read. I’ll never be in a position in which I’ve finished a book and don’t have another one to start as soon as I want. Plus, I like seeing a billion books in my house. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    August 1, 2014
  13. I just tell myself that as habits go, this is a pretty healthy one to have (as long as I’m not spending the grocery money, but I do most of my book binge buying at books sales or used book stores). And, I do it because I love to look at all the reading possibilities that are available to me. Whatever mood I might be in, I probably have an unread book to match it!

    Liked by 1 person

    August 1, 2014
    • Yep, out of bad habits, it’s a pretty healthy one.

      Like

      August 1, 2014
    • Me, too, Naomi. My TBR stack of books is tall as a kindergartener and growing! But I usually have a book to match my mood, no matter what it is.

      Like

      August 1, 2014
  14. Susan #

    This is my defense against nothing-to-read anxiety, a serious malady that sets in around the last 50 pages of the book I am currently reading. Having a supply of unread books prevents panic from setting in.

    Like

    August 1, 2014
    • I agree with you completely!! I love having a ton of unread books, because it means when I’m done with my current one I can be sure that there’s at least a half dozen I can’t wait to open at any given moment.

      Like

      August 3, 2014
  15. I used to have the same problem. Well, still have, in that my TBR pile of impulse buys is still shaming me with its overly large existence. But (a) I work in a library now (which means [1] I’m surrounded by freebies and [2] I don’t have a lot of free cash) and (b) I committed to a cash-only “fun money” system, which means if I’m in a bookshop I’m limited to whatever bills and coins are rattling around in my wallet. I’m not 100% successful with this method, though… I do carry a checkbook that probably gets pulled out at bookstores more often than it should be!

    Like

    August 1, 2014
  16. When I look at our bookshelf, I see a sea of paper notes, sticking out of books. These are bookmarks, and they remind me of all the half-read books. Why is it so difficult to finish? Sometimes I do, and then I feel good. I finished The Constant Gardner in ten years. That was perhaps a record.

    Thanks for this post, and when I see the comments I see that we are more than one with this habit.

    Like

    August 1, 2014
  17. Books make me happy, I couldn’t even imagine not having them. You are right, some of them might never be read, especially some of coffee table books…com’on they were on sale I had to buy them (BTW they come in handy if you need a last minute gift) and you can’t have too many cookbooks. As for the rest of bestsellers and recommendations, they were fine on my shelves for years…and then, there came a strong winter (last year). We were literally drowning in snow and hibernated at home for months. A lot of the ‘shelf books’ came in handy, we found some real treasures 🙂

    Like

    August 1, 2014
  18. I think my personal addiction to physical books is the problem. In my case, I have the digital copy of the book, then when I decide that I like it very much, I buy the physical copy of the book, even though I know I’ve read it. I convince myself that it’s my way of appreciating the author (since most of my e-books I get from borrowing) and maybe it’s not that good of an idea. It’s definitely a habit to think about. 🙂

    Like

    August 1, 2014
    • I’m new to this blog and was wondering if I was the only one reading e-books. I love my reader and have definitely found it easier to binge buy with one. Somehow this has made me more, not less, discerning in my purchases, which was an unexpected bonus. (I’m not nearly as discerning on Zappos.)

      Like

      August 1, 2014
  19. I used to beat myself up over this, but no more. It’s not unusual for it to take a few false starts for me to get into a book. Sometimes I’m bored after a few pages. Sometimes I get distracted by another “shiny object” book that has something more interesting at that moment. But every book gets a second, and probably third, chance.

    One thing I know: if I’m not grabbed within 100 pages, I quit. Life is too short for bad wine and books I’m not enjoying. When I began my blog I was upfront about only reviewing books I loved because I toss the others. Patience is more important in other areas of my life.

    Like

    August 1, 2014
  20. I already have War and Peace and Martha Stewart’s bio. And Julia Child’s too. I’m not Russian and I don’t cook. But you never know. I might want to move to Moscow.

    There’s a book called Gardening Techniques in Northern Ohio. I have to have that one. I never know when I may move to Northern Ohio. I have no plans right now. But I want to be ready when I do move. Besides I think I am going to do a story about a gardener in Northern Ohio. You just gave me the idea when you mentioned the title. Uh,oh. Now you’re freaking me out. I just looked on Amazon. It’s not there. C’mon. I am going to have a nervous breakdown. Geez. Why did you do this to me?

    Liked by 1 person

    August 1, 2014
  21. Hi! New reader here 🙂 I only ever do this with kindle books. Actual books sit on my shelf looking sadly at me and I have to read them, kindle books are forgotten about as swiftly as they are purchased with “one-click” from Amazon!

    Like

    August 1, 2014
  22. I have found as I get older I still buy as many books but I read a higher percentage of them. In fact, the list of un-read book son my shelves has been slowly dwindling over the last few years.

    Like

    August 1, 2014
  23. The call of the bookstore is real. Thankfully, there are libraries near where I live. I’ve always gone to the library. Free books and excellent services. I’m a huge supporter of the library. But put me in a bookstore and I can resist buying 1 or 2 (or 3) books.

    Like

    August 1, 2014
    • Sorry, I meant to say that I CAN’T resist buying

      Like

      August 1, 2014
  24. I have had this problem…and I still do, but it’s taking less of a toll on my wallet. I have a bad habit of downloading books in the public domain. I have hundreds of books I intend to read, and I may get to…10% of them. At least I am no longer spending all of my money at 2nd hand book stores!

    Like

    August 1, 2014
  25. We are so guilty of this…. we have over 100 books on our shelves that are yet to be read and would you believe some were bought when we were in university (over 10 years ago). Yikes! We do admit it is a bit of an addiction. But we do promise ourselves before we buy another book from now on – we must finish all the ones on our shelves FIRST! Seems like there a lot of others out there who do the same 😉

    Like

    August 1, 2014
  26. Just think of how many more bookstores would have gone under by now if we didn’t have this nasty little habit?

    I fully intend to spend my 90s reading everything on my shelves. I will be moving more slowly and not as able to carry those large bags of books home, so I may be able to catch up.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 1, 2014
  27. You know, I have done this so often. But, with more and more bookstores closing, and ebooks becoming more popular, I don’t feel bad about buying books I will (probably) not read. A) I’m building my library, that’s how I choose to view it, and B) books may become more expensive in the future, so I’ve got a head start on people. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    August 1, 2014
  28. sylviemarieheroux #

    An associated pet peeve: Not finding a book I am sure I own!

    Liked by 1 person

    August 1, 2014
    • There are three volumes I wanted this week that I KNOW I own, but have been unable to locate. Sorely vexing.

      Like

      August 3, 2014
  29. I don’t know, may be we are so busy that we actually look for easy way, we rely on those lists and that is the biggest problem

    Like

    August 2, 2014
  30. Liz #

    Not only am I a book hoarder I sometimes have several copies of a book because I like that they both have different cover art. It’s a problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 2, 2014
    • I can understand that. There’s a set of classic novels in my local bookshop (beautifully bound editions) that I would love to get my hands on but are just too expensive. I have the books in paperback already but they are just soooo pretty that I have to stop and take a look everytime I’m in there. It might be silly but there is nothing quite like a gorgeous looking bookshelf. 🙂

      Like

      August 2, 2014
  31. Ugh I buy so many books just because I’m in love with the idea of reading them, and never even get round to it. I have a set of French leather bound books from 1906 that I bought just because I romanticised the whole idea of reading them to myself. Haha it’s a terrible habit! Take a look for me at http://www.thehedonistavista.wordpress.com 😉 I think you’ll like it! x

    Like

    August 2, 2014
  32. It’s the fear of missing out. Although it’s not having too many books, but not enough time.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 2, 2014
  33. fdicct #

    I do this all the time. I convince myself I will read them when I’m old though.. but who am I kidding..

    Like

    August 2, 2014
  34. Set your mind at ease. The purpose of a library is not to “get through” all the books it contains. A library (personal or public) is there so that your mind can turn in whatever direction it wishes, at any time. You are under no obligation to read all–or even any–of your books. Do you serve your library, or does your library serve you?

    Liked by 1 person

    August 2, 2014
  35. I don’t mind. That way, when I want to read that kind of thing I have it there and ready. I’ll always have a new book to read if I get bored and my personal library has a great selection (though the organization has much to be desired, at the moment.) As long as the books were cheap and I didn’t overspend myself, I don’t feel guilty.

    Like

    August 2, 2014
  36. I have a box filled with books I haven’t read yet! They’ve been around for over 2 years now so my mom keeps saying I have to sell them- but I keep saying that I’m going to read them.

    I think it’s because I finally live right next to a book store.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 3, 2014
  37. I’m actually broke most of the time so buying books for me is a treat. I tend to be very selective about the books I buy and I keep them in a stack next to my bed. I read them in the order in which I purchase them. It’s all very organised. I would love to go mental and have a bookstore buying orgy, but alas…

    Like

    August 4, 2014
  38. My wife says no more books till we read what we have. So I bought a Nook to conceal my purchases. Can’t stand the thing. I need paper pages and a binding! Dust jackets are optional!

    Like

    August 4, 2014
  39. I like to think that compulsive book buying is a sign of intelligence- you have more interests than you have time for! It’s curiosity at its best.

    I once tried to go 100 days without purchasing a book and I had to go “total abstinence”: no walking into bookstores “just to browse”, no book fairs, no credit card information on the iTunes account- and I did well (except for the few times I coerced other people to buy books for me which totally doesn’t count) until Day 86, when I had to go into a bookstore to buy a birthday present. And then I fell so far off the wagon…. Worth every penny.

    Like

    August 8, 2014
  40. Marie #

    My next reading challenge is going to be an ‘unfinished challenge’, where I go through my shelves and finish every book I’ve previously abandoned. I’m planning to blog about it, although the shame of having to list just how many books I’ve left unfinished may be too much for me.

    My problem is that I usually have more than one book on the go, so even if I’m enjoying Book 1, Books 2 and 3 distract me and then Books 4 and 5 come along before I get a chance to go back to Book 1, which ends up back on my shelf, forgotten about.

    Like

    August 11, 2014
  41. Reblogged this on measurebymoments.

    Like

    August 16, 2014
  42. alanjryland #

    It’s the bane of my existence! I have countless books just stored away in boxes, and I DO plan on getting to them, even if it means it’ll be the death of me!

    I have a copy of Sylvia Plath’s journals that I’ve got my eye on.

    Like

    August 16, 2014
  43. This is the best description of my reading habits I have ever seen. The worst is Christmas/birthdays, because everyone in my family knows that I have this obsessive love for books, and so they all provide me with gift cards to various book stores; giving me the little needed excuse to continue on my asinine quest in owning an entire bookstore.

    I think that the reason I never actually finish reading all the books I purchase before my next spree is because I buy too many and don’t allow enough time between trips. I will say that recently I have been really good about going back and reading all those poor abandoned books.

    Like

    November 14, 2014
  44. I end up buying new bookcases instead of going through my books or buying fewer. One day I might read them and I have to buy them before I forget about them, right? What if they disappear into the recesses of my mind and I have missed out on a great book? It’s better I just buy it right then and there. So now I have an entire bookcase of books I have yet to read, but that doesn’t stop me from buying them!
    Thank you for sharing your obsession!

    Like

    November 17, 2014
  45. Me. Every time I go to a bookstore. I can buy 10 books, read about 4 of them, and the rest sit on the shelf. I have had one book since I was about 10 years old and I still haven’t read it. It was the last book in a series too, but I never got around to reading it. Now, I have completely forgotten the premise of the story.

    Like

    February 27, 2015

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