I am a book buyer.  My home is filled with books, hundreds of which I have not yet read. I enjoy the act of purchasing a book, putting it on my shelf, and I’m just as happy no matter if I read it immediately, or stick it on my shelf to devour at a later time. Regarding my book purchasing, I must quote Nick Hornby (whom you will hear a lot about shortly!)

I don’t want anyone to point out that I spend too much money on books, many of which I will never read. I know that already. I certainly intend to read all of them, more or less. My intentions are good. Anyway, it’s my money. And I’ll bet you do it too.

I love that little paragraph, which is part of the first column in the collection The Polysyllabic Spree. Let’s take a step back.

A few weeks ago, my fiancé went back to school. Our life, financially, has changed in many ways, mainly that we now have a very strict budget. I work in the book industry, which means I am constantly aware of new books, and my to-read pile doubles weekly. For every, say, 10 books I decide I want to read in a week, I perhaps purchase 1 or 2. Some months, I go the entire month buying nothing, and solely borrowing from friends or coworkers, or reading off my own shelves. Some months, I am a force to be reckoned with and spend a good chunk of my pay-check on books. It’s anyone’s guess month by month, which structure I will follow.

Until suddenly, the budget does not allow for book buying, thus my re-introduction to .. the LIBRARY! Growing up, my mother used to take me to the library occasionally. I would pick up 7 books, come home, flip through them, then put them away. I don’t recall ever actually reading them, though I do know that I probably borrowed every book on vampires that the library had when I was eight and obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

When I moved to Toronto, I promised myself that I would make an effort to use the library, which is literally five minutes from my house. I pulled the same stunt, borrowing, not reading and returning. Then, a few days ago, I came upon a review of The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby. I have never read Hornby, but the book is a collection of columns he has written for the UK magazine The Believer. The column, entitled “Stuff I’m Reading”, is Hornby’s monthly review of the books he has bought versus the books he has read. Let’s just say.. I’m in love. And also, can I have that job too?!

I dragged Jay to the library where I located and pulled the book from the shelf. It’s a rather skinny volume, clocking in at under 200 pages, but nicely put together. Or it looks like it was.. before someone with an unsteady hand and a coffee mug clearly got hold of it. I frown as I brought the book to the front, wishing I could have just bought my own fresh and lovely copy, but Jay told me, once again, how this was a really great thing for us staying on budget.

Then, the unexpected happened. I read the book. I sat on my bed for hours, snorting, laughing, smiling and falling in love. Hornby is hilarious, warm, but direct and so smart. I immediately started looking up the other collections and found that there are four in total (counting this one) but that tomorrow, yes, TOMORROW (what wonderful timing) a bind-up of all four collections, PLUS new material (thank you, Adele!) is releasing. I also discovered that proceeds from these books go towards a writing program in Brooklyn for children aged 8-18 and to a London-based charity dealing with autism.

So, I have the library to thank for a few things. One – for having a book that I couldn’t find in any bookstores. Two – for allowing me to read and love something I couldn’t afford at the time. And three – for letting me come to my own conclusion that when the budget allows, I will actually want to purchase this large collection, with a happily warmed heart knowing that the proceeds will go towards a wonderful cause.

I can’t promise that I will always be a library person, but I can tell you that I greatly appreciate the services it provides, and the sincere kindness of the people who work there. I love knowing that no matter what, a five minute walk gives me access to thousands of stories I haven’t read and do not own. I love that for those who face financial difficulties, there are still stories awaiting them whenever they want. So thank you, to all those libraries and their dedicated workers! You have helped me find a new love.  (And now, off to check the online catalogue for every single thing Hornby has written.)

Oh, and also, my monthly wrap ups are totally going to be written in Hornby’s column’s style. So much fun!



17 thoughts on “The Library and I

  1. I actually formed my (earlier) monthly summaries in this style after leafing through Nick Hornby’s Ten Years in the Tub, listing the books I acquired and the books I had read. Then, embarrassingly, I took out the “Books bought” section because sometimes the list was just too long… I can’t wait to see how you do! The library is definitely a great way to continue to read new books while staying on a budget. :)

    • Okay, now I am headed over to your blog to check out those old posts ;). I am fascinated by what other people buy and read. I was reading Hornby’s columns and telling my fiancé that I’ve finally found someone just like me haha. “He buys tons of books and reads maybe one of them, and a ton of other ones! He gets it!” .. I got a head shake from him lol.

      • Hahaha I get SO much (justified, I guess) crap for my book buying habit! I can’t help it though, there are just SO many good books and I’ll get to them eventually…right?!?

  2. We could seriously be the same person in this post. I too have a more limited budget than I’m used to and library trips have been the solution to that. I’ve realized that I LOVE going to the library but I know that as soon as this period of restrictive spending is over, I will be right back at the book store buying all the books.

    • I am right there with you. I do love the readily available books, but there is just something about OWNING the book you’re reading. Knowing that if you love it, you can keep it, cherish it, all the nerdy goodness of book loving :). But I’m glad I have someone to share the limited budget time with before we both go back to our old ways lol :).

  3. I’m trying to become more of a library person. I’ve recently felt weighed down and burdened by the hundreds of unread books in the house, and after a serious culling and unhauling this weekend, I’m ready to be more of a library person. Cheers to free range reading!

    • Thanks Andi :)! It definitely helps with the acquiring of unread books, but I’m still having trouble giving it back to the library when I finish lol. I caved and bought this book this weekend.. which I really shouldn’t have done, but I guess you can’t teach an old book nerd new tricks.

  4. I’m a bookseller who goes to the library every week. I love libraries (and I love Toronto library system and really miss it now that I no longer live there). Hornby’s columns are hilarious and amazing and very true. At one point I did monthly tallies somewhat similar to his, to see what I was acquiring and reading.

    I don’t feel too bad about borrowing and not reading. Sometimes I would borrow the same book again and read it then.

  5. Love it!! Wish I still had all these collections, I would just mail them to you! But alas I stupidly gave them away to Value Village a few months ago (not because I don’t love them, but because I’m a compulsive book purger!)… p.s. The Believer is actually an American magazine started by Dave Eggers (another author I think you’d like!) :-)

    • Gah, this comment kills me lol. We’ve already Twitter chatted about this, but I am now going to beg my fiance for a subscription to The Believer for Christmas lol. Which of Dave Eggers should I start with?! It may have to wait a while (mountains of books to finish, but you know, that’s the life) but I do want to know where to start!

  6. Can I start by saying I love this book by Hornby and that I just read it for the first time about 2 years ago, a copy i borrowed from the library. I would love to own it…
    Also the TPL is one of the best in the world. I always took that for granted. I no longer live in TO and will never take it for granted again.
    And the library has gotten me through many periods of fiscal restraint. I just like to think of it as supporting an institution I truly believe in.

    • There is actually a collection of all these columns that came out this month! So if you want to own it for cheap, great chance to get it :).
      I think I’ve always taken the library for granted simply by not utilizing it. Now I’ve definitely started to see just how ignorant I’ve been about its existence.

  7. Yay for libraries! :D Your post has made me so happy! I’m glad to hear that you’ve finally started visiting your local branch! .TPL is a fantastic library system with so much to offer in addition to books, like various clubs, computer courses, esl classes, lectures, ect!

    It’s sad to hear that the book you checked out was coffee stained though :( Usually we charge the patrons for doing that and re-order a new copy (at least where I work)

    • It’s okay! I was still readable; the cover is not glossy, just papery, so I can assume in the years it’s been passed around, it got a bit beat up lol. And you are totally right, TPL has wonderful services! :)

  8. I used to be SO good about checking out books from the library instead of buying them, but I mysteriously got worse a few years ago. I think it was the combination of the poor selection from the public libraries in San Antonio + the habit of buying my textbooks for classes in college. Sometimes, if I really, really love a book, I want a copy all for myself. But since most books fall into the “meh” category, it’s always better to check them out from a library first! Great post, as always.

    • Thank you, Alina :)! I always have to have my own copy of things I love too. But then there’s the part where I buy the pristine copy and it’s not the one I read and that makes me sad. I love knowing I was the one who flipped through those pages and it bugs me owning a copy that I haven’t read. So.. I buy them all, and then my bank account hates me, and the vicious cycle repeats lol. Oh the sorrows of a book nerd!

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