2014 Book Challenge

Let’s begin with a story.

Two weeks ago, I was enjoying a day off. I went to my favorite used book store in Greenville, Mr. K’s, looking specifically for a book for a white elephant gift exchange. In the process, I shopped for myself. I first found a paperback copy of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. I love Neil Gaiman, and though I read this book last year, I don’t own a copy; I’d borrowed it from a friend. For $4, I should own this book, right? Of course. 

Next, I headed down the road to 2nd & Charles, which used to be Books-A-Million and now sells used books, DVDs, comics, and all sorts of other goodies. It is, indeed, a delightful place to wander around, and one of my students works there, so I dropped by for a visit. While there, I found a used copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. I own a copy–somewhere–but I’m teaching it for the first time this semester and decided I needed a copy to write notes in. I kept walking and discovered a true treat: a hardcover, used copy of The Knife of Never Letting Go, my favorite book of all-time. I bought it. This is now the fourth copy of this book I have purchased. The first (paperback) I lent to a friend and never got back. The second (paperback) I purchased when I began to write my thesis; inside are all my notes and underlinings, and that marginalia is indeed a treasure. I also own the Kindle version of the book, which I’m currently re-reading (for the fifth time). And now I own the hardcover, which matches the second and third books in the trilogy and looks lovely on my shelf.

When I arrived home, there was a box from Barnes & Noble waiting on me. Inside was a copy of When She Woke, an incredible feminist-dystopian retelling of The Scarlet Letter, which I read last year (checked out from the library). That book had been on sale on B&N’s website. Also, I bought the special edition version of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, one of the greatest young adult novels ever written. Yes, I already own a copy–hardcover, autographed, part of the special edition boxed set released last year. But this cover is silver instead of blue! And is a special edition!

Let’s recap. In a few hours, I acquired five books, all of which I’d previously read. Three of them were at least the second copy (or, in the case of Knife, the fourth) that I’d purchased.

I made a decision that day. I won’t buy any more books during the month of January 2014. I’m limiting myself to a month just as a trial period. If it’s working well, I’ll keep going. I have a feeling, though, that on February 1, I’ll rush to Mr. K’s and buy an armful of books.

Books are, by far, my most valued possessions. And I own SO MANY of them. One bookcase in my room stopped being enough long ago. I have stacks in front of the case, bags and boxes beneath the bed, two bookcases in my office, and half a 10×10 storage unit full of books. Not to mention the boxes still in storage at my parents’ house. I can always validate buying a book (especially since I primarily buy used, both online and in stores). But as a professor, I have so little time to read, with the exception of breaks, that I could not possibly read every book I own if I keep buying as many as I do. So many books are sitting un-read while I keep buying multiple copies of books.

I’m going to a few bookstores this afternoon to prepare myself for my month-long (at least) hiatus. My goal for January and the rest of 2014 is to read the books I own first, or to borrow from friends or the library. Buying books is a wonderful thing, and something I enjoy very much. I work very hard to support my local used book store (as well as BetterWorldBooks.com!), but it’s time to spend time with the books I already own.

My official book challenge for 2014:

1) Don’t buy any new books (new, used, Kindle) during the month of January.

2) Each month throughout 2014, read at least one book that I own but have not yet read. This does not include previously unread books I check out from the library, books borrowed from friends, or books that I own but have already read. I’ll try to post a blog each month on my progress and new reads.

Let’s see how this works! Happy New Year! And happy reading!