Little Bits of Luxury: Books

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I love libraries, we as a family visit our local library regularly and do what we can to support it. But there’s something so lovely about owning a book. To not feel guilty about breaking the spine or dog-earing a page, to take a favorite from the shelf, find an old plane ticket or receipt in there from the last time you read it, to see the book take on more memories and love and wear with each reading. Sorry Mrs. Arnold, but I stole my high school copy of The Handmaid’s Tale, it was such a powerful 11th grade reading assignment. In it I highlighted and took notes when I read it in your class, when I read it again for a college course, and the dozens of times I have read it since. I have loaned it to so many different people, and some of them have left their mark by forgetting their receipt or concert ticket bookmark. It makes it not just a story, but a scrapbook of sorts.

But books cost money, and they take up a lot of space. While we did put an addition on our home when Emerson joined our family, our house is still far smaller than most standard townhomes and space is a hot commodity.

Space: If you want to organize your bookcases by color or arrange them creatively to have a good amount of negative space and ways to showcase art and knick knacks, I commend you. However, in the Gary household, we constantly rearrange our bookcases (three tall ones in the living room, a chest-high one in the dining room, and a few shelves in the office) to fit more books. Our neighborhood does a book drive every summer, and sells the books they receive at the Labor Day Festival to fundraise for the elementary school. Each summer I go through our bookcases and see what books don’t HAVE to be part of our family. We inherited books from Karl’s dad when he passed away and as the years go by, we realize that some don’t have sentimental value or are a topic we care for. We’ve also pared down the college books, the airport paperbacks, the books that made us realize for the 4th time that we didn’t belong in a book club. We’re now considering adding bookcases to the bedroom, imaging that extra space will give us the room to organize our collection better and possibly have room for mementoes between the books.

Money: New books cost money. Every year for Christmas and my birthday I ask for books. Not novels, but those fancy coffee table, art, or fashion books that I would never buy myself. I’ve done this for years, from Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams in high school to now where I prefer Tom Ford to a new sweater. But when I want something that isn’t under the Christmas tree:

  • Amazon Used: You can find books for a penny on Amazon. Granted, if they’re that cheap you have to pay $3.99 shipping, but $4 is still cheaper than retail, and you’re keeping a beloved book out of the landfill. I have bought pretty much every level of condition, Acceptable means you will likely have a bit of damage, some highlighting, maybe stickers from a university book store on the spine, but the way I look at it I would likely provide such wear anyway, and I’m quite handy with the packing tape. More often than not, the books come in near-mint condition and one couldn’t tell if they were bought new or used.
  • Library Book Sales: When books have newer editions, aren’t as hot (what library in 2014 needs 50 copies of a John Grisham novel?), or have a bit of damage, many libraries sell them either at a special event or maybe in a room in their basement. You can find wonderful books for pennies, and your money goes towards supporting your library. Win win!
  • Thrift Stores: Recently I found Diane von Furstenberg’s Book of Beauty at a thrift store. I have found gorgeous art books still in their shrink wrap, the very version of a beloved book from high school, and the best autobiographies and memoirs I didn’t even know were written.
  • Kindle: Well a Kindle completely goes against the beginning of this post writing about my love of tangible books, but sometimes you just want to read something that you don’t care to own or reread in the future. Sometimes you need the convenience of something small and handheld. You don’t need an actual Kindle to enjoy e-books, the Kindle app is free and is available for Droid and Apple devices. And if you do a bit of searching, you can find so many books for free or nearly free. I use my Kindle to read books I don’t want people to see me reading on the Metro (hello all three 50 Shades of Grey books) or know I won’t read again (I could again say 50 Shades, but I’d also include chick lit and romance novels) or books that are more of a reference and I’d want to reference easily (books on blogging, what I do at work, etc.). There’s a few Facebook and Twitter accounts you can follow that will notify you of free books, I cheat and have friends whose taste I trust and wait for them to share on social media when they find a bargain Kindle book. I don’t feel so bad getting lost in Passions of Lust when it’s free, and I can save my money for books that I will read again and again and again and will smile down at me from their shelf, remembering the memories we’ve shared over the years.


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  1. Love books but I don’t let myself buy any physical books, unless it’s a really special coffee table book, since space is limited. I either check it out from the local library or buy an ebook if it’s fiction.

  2. I’m totally with you on this one…and my e- vs. book strategy is the same as yours. If I want it on my shelf for years to come, I get the bound version…otherwise, e-version it is!

  3. I could never say books were a luxury, they’re a necessity for me, as vital as breathing. I have tried culling, but seldom manage to gather more than a handful. The Kindle (which augments all the real books), is a much easier way of reading Shakespeare than trying to handle the old Complete Works that belonged to my nan 🙂

    A lot of mine are second hand, simply because they’re otherwise out of print, a drawback when most of your favourite authors are dead! Nothing, but nothing, beats browsing the stacks in a library (state or privately owned), you come across the most amazing finds.

    I love them not only for their content, but also for everything that their physical state tells me – not only what sort of life it’s had, but also how it was made, what the social/cultural context was, the decorations or lack of, particularly in the austerity editions printed during and after WW2.

    And I will admit to a dedicated library room with floor to ceiling bookcases that are overflowing, more bookcases in other rooms (ditto), and a list of wants longer than my arm…..

  4. I still have a big rubbermaid bin full of books at my parents’ house. When I moved out in the fall, I picked my favorites (yes, my whole Tolkien collection came with me…), and some books that I’ve been meaning to read. I’d love to have floor to ceiling book cases, but that’s not going to happen in a studio apartment unfortunately…

    The library has always been one of my favorite places, and I always go there first when I’m looking for a specific book. I don’t generally buy books unless I know I’m going to reread them. There’s also a website that my sister introduced me to called Paperback Swap (www.paperbackswap.com) where you trade books you have for books that you want. GoodReads is also a good website if you’re looking for reviews, and a place to keep track of what you’re reading, what you’ve read, and your to-read list. 🙂

  5. When we renovated our house four years ago, one thing we both agreed on was built-in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on one wall. They were full instantly (and we still had to get rid of about 6 boxes of books) but we love them. Every few months or so we do go through and try to cull (because we’re always buying more books). We both have e-readers (a Kindle and a Kobo) but that means when we buy real books we can justify a hardcover … I won’t ever give up real books.

  6. Ah books, how we love you so! We sorted through our bookcases when we emigrated and after being very strict with ourselves, managed to get rid of 2 1/2 boxes, leaving us about 8 boxes of books. They’re sitting in storage on the other side of the world and I’m trying not to buy a whole bunch more to keep here. I occasionally buy a reasonably cheap book for my lovely Kobo e-reader.

  7. I love reading, I love books and our house is full of books 🙂 We even have crates stored in the attic, as we don’t have enough space. But books are vital to me. I remember visiting a friend in her new apartment many years ago. It was a nice apartment, but I kept feeling that something was missing. When I came home it suddenly hit me: Not one single book! My dream is a wall with built in book shelves.

  8. I buy all of my books as Kindle ebooks now. I read often, I often reread books and I often travel so it’s so great to have the bulk of my library at my fingertips. There are some old favorite books that I’ve carried around with me over the years and those definitely bring back a lot of memories whenever I take them down from the shelf to enjoy. Overall though, I am happy to have the space that would otherwise be taken up by too many books.

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