How to buy books with intention and curate a home library you truly adore // Part one

4/25/2020


Photo credit: Annie Spratt

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I started this post a few months ago. I had this urge to create and start writing my blog again. Then The Virus hit. Writing a post about how not to buy books felt contradictory to suggesting we all shop local and independent on my Instagram. I also immediately bought two books, taking me to a total of four for the year. However I did buy them from the amazing independent bookshop, The Book Hive, in Norwich who are offering free postage and packaging during this time of lockdown. In short, I felt conflicted suggesting we should stop spending money when so many businesses are struggling to survive. All my tips on making good use of the library were suddenly outdated as the libraries shut their doors for the foreseeable future. But if these past few weeks have taught me anything it's how to be more intentional in everything I do, including my reading. So I hope you find these posts on intentional book buying useful. I hope it's a way of saving you money and space by curating a book collection that you truly love.

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Of all the ways I am trying to live more intentionally, buying less books is by far the hardest. But when you own far more books than you have read, perhaps could ever possibly read, then something's got to give. I could easily have allowed my book addiction to be exempt from my more mindful way of consuming, but that really did feel like cheating. This post isn't necessarily about how to stop buying books (I certainly haven't done that) or creating a minimalist bookshelf, but you could certainly use all these tips to do that. It's more about buying less, and those that I do buy being well considered.

I'm a true bookworm. I love books. I love reading them, I love talking about them, I love hearing about them. Books are a huge part of my life. I could avoid temptation and stay off YouTube and unfollow all the Bookstagram accounts I love, but consuming information about new books is a big joy of mine. In the past, hearing about the amazing new books being released, hell, even seeing a beautiful cover would have seen me quickly making an online order. I haven't stopped spending on books completely, part of being able to buy less physical books is that I am consuming them in other ways. I have an Audible account, an audiobook subscription service that allows returns if you don't enjoy a book. I've also bought the odd Kindle book for 99p. And I happily spend 60p per reservation at the library. So although I do still spend money on books, it is an awful lot less these days and many of the tips that follow are completely free.

Make use of your local library

I am very lucky to live in Norfolk, where the library service is fantastic. They generally have any book I've ever searched for and when they haven't I have requested that they buy them in. Since the libraries closed a few weeks ago I obviously haven't been able to take any more physical books out, but Norfolk Libraries also have a fantastic digital service. They use apps like Overdrive to loan out ebooks and audiobooks and you can even subscribe for free to certain magazines. I've had a guilt free flick through Gardeners' World and Red Magazine on many occasion. To reserve books it costs just 60p and they will deliver them to your local library or library bus. Author's are also paid under the PLR system when their books are borrowed from a library, so you are supporting both writer's and your library when you use them.

Read Ebooks

I get it. I love holding a physical book too. Flicking through its pages, the weight of it in my hand, the smell of it, using a bookmark. But I also love my Kindle. I only need one hand to read a Kindle, which is handy with a baby. When I go on holiday or do any kind of travel it easily fits in my bag. Robin can't steal my bookmark out of it. I can easily highlight and make notes in ebooks, something I don't do with my physical ones. Nobody chopped a tree down to make the ebook and when I don't enjoy a book it isn't left taking up space on my bookshelf. Ebooks are a lot cheaper than physical books and I believe (although not tried it myself) you can loan your Kindle books to other Kindle users. If you happen to have an Amazon Prime subscription you can read a lot of Kindle books for free. My Gothic Fiction Book Club are currently reading Wakenhyrst, which I got for free with my Prime membership. This section is a little Amazon heavy, but that's just down to the fact I own a Kindle. There are subscription services for ebooks but I've found none of them are perfect due to publishing rights. Your best bet is to always check your local library first. Again, if my library doesn't have a certain title I can request they buy it in.

Listen to audio books

I'm a subscriber to the biggie - Audible, but there are other subscription services out there. I love audio books. They're how I get so much reading done. I always crank up the speed and listen to them whenever I can. In the bath, while I'm cooking, out in the garden. I can return a title if I don't enjoy it and some of my favourite books I will ONLY listen to on audio. The Cormoran Strike books for example are so fantastically narrated that I've never physically read them. You can also pause your account without losing your credits, which I have just done as my credits were coming in faster than I could use them. There are a few free options out there, again, always check your library to see if they subscribe to a service like Overdrive, but websites like Librivox offer books that are in the public domain for free.

Buy books from charity shops

I am not condoning buying piles of books from the charity shop, in terms of shopping with intent, it's no better than a Waterstone's haul, but if you keep a TBR and you spot a book you want in the charity shop, then go for it. You can always take it back when you're done. I try and limit my charity shop spending as I'm liable to go home with big stacks of books that I'll never get around to reading, but I do like to keep an eye out for cook books I want.

Photo credit: Annie Spratt


So those are my top tips to avoid buying physical books and with a good library service you really don't need to spend anything, but what if you want a home library full of books you love. I own a lot of books, many I've never read. Years of impulsive spending, charity shop ransacking and just generally being a book buying addict means my shelves are overflowing. I have a never ending TBR list on Goodreads and if I wander into any book shop I will find a title I want. So I've set myself rules. I call these my rules of intention and you can set them for any purchases you might make, but these are specifically for books.

These rules can be different for everyone and you certainly don't need to follow mine, but I'm trying to avoid impulse spending and an overflowing shelf of books I may never read. I don't want to deprive myself the joy of opening a brand new book ever again, but I've learnt over time what I do and don't like and from now on each book I buy will be well considered and fit within my self imposed rules of book buying intention!


  • I can buy a physical copy of a book I've loved and I know I will read again
  • I can buy a book that I know will nurture my creativity, skills or self worth
  • I can buy/pre-order a book by an author I truly love

    I've only made 4 physical book purchases this year and one pre-order. Two of my purchases were before my year of intention started, but all the rest were bought following these rules. I've just pre-ordered Emma Block's newest book as I loved and used her watercolour book so much. I ordered my own copy of The Comparison Cure as I loved the library copy I read and wanted my own copy to fill in. And I bought Save the Cat! Writes a Novel as I've been personally recommended it by two people so I can GET MY DAMN NOVEL WRITTEN. It's probably just another way of procrastinating but as long as I read it right? Having spent less on books this year I ordered them from my local independent book shop. I paid cover price, unheard of! And I felt good for it too!

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    In part two I'll share how I'm curating my home library, albeit very slowly. It's not about slim lining my book collection down. I love having a library of books. I get a huge thrill out of seeing friends and family scour my shelves and ask for a recommendation, but I can't go on accumulating and I want to live with intent in all areas of my life.

    Have you got any tips on book buying? Let me know any rules you've set yourself on book buying.


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