Can I stop acquiring books?

Posted January 21, 2018 by Lory in discussions / 59 Comments


Last week, I described how I tidied my bookshelves according to the “KonMari” method, and how I’m dealing with the problem of unread books, which are piling up at a rate that is uncomfortable for me. Rather than doing as tidying guru Marie Kondo suggests and discarding them all, I decided to put them on their own shelf (okay, four shelves) and have a serious go at reading only from these for three months. After that, I’ll assess whether I want to keep them longer or discard them. I do think that unread books can “spark joy” rather than guilt and stress, but not if they’re just pushed in a corner and forgotten.

One of my four shelves of unread books. The left-hand pile is nonfiction, the middle is fiction, and on the right side are books that I want to reread before deciding whether to keep them or not.


In the next few weeks and months you’ll see me posting a lot of new release/reprint reviews as I strive to get through my backlog of review copies (and guilt). I really want to clear these out and get a fresh start.

Now, during this time can I really stop myself from adding to the pile? Can I resist the lure of bookshops and online stores, and even the library? Not to mention the kind publishers who are so willing to send me their latest titles. Can I say no to these wonderful offers?

I don’t want to put a permanent ban on book acquisition, but I’m wanting to become more conscious about the books I put on my shelves, and a temporary abstention seems as though it might be helpful.

Have you ever tried to stop acquiring books, for a short or long period of time? What effect did it have?

Linked in the Book Blog Discussion Challenge hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction AddictionΒ andΒ Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight!



59 responses to “Can I stop acquiring books?

  1. A couple of years ago (2015 going into 2016) I made a determined effort not to acquire more books, having discarded a huge number (well, huge for me!) preparatory to a house move. I wrote a number of posts exposing my ‘pain’ under tags like ‘declutter’, ‘discard’, ‘reduce’ and ‘recycle’.

    Being very strict with myself I don’t believe I acquired more than a half dozen or ten titles new to me. But, perhaps a bit like dieting, I have in the last year or so been adding to my shelves, to the extent that I’ve almost filled up all those aesthetic shelf spaces I’d created!

    So, reducing book consumption (via compulsive acquisition) must be rather like going for a strict diet regime. Perhaps actually reading the damn things when I get them and then immediately recycling them to a good home is the equivalent of a good physical workout or long walk, getting through pages of text just like burning off kcals!

    I know your reading rate exceeds mine, Lory, so you may be better at this than I am — I seem to have unconsciously espoused the Slow Reading trend — perhaps I’d do better to take on board the hashtag #ReadMoreTweetLess if it wasn’t for the fact that I’d miss out on posts like this!

    • Dealing with the stuff in our lives requires some soul-searching. What is truly useful to us, and what is just an extra burden? How can we become more active transformers and less passive consumers of all that passes through our homes and our minds? It can be a painful process, as there’s so much we’d like to do and be, but we can’t have it all. This temporary ban is reminding me to be more conscious when I am ready to start acquiring books again, though I’m sure I’ll fall off the wagon more than once.

  2. My goal this year is to only buy as many new books as the number of my own unread books I read. My total number of books may thus expand but my TBR shelf may not (actually it may, as I’m not counting gifts but at least only at a slow pace). It will be interesting to see if I manage.

    • I think “one book in, one out” is a good way to at least stop the pile from growing, and get through some of the backlog. Good luck!

    • I’m an “all or nothing” type, so this approach helps me (for a short time anyway). I’ve already read several books from the pile, not making much of a visible dent, but it feels good.

  3. haha! One shelf, four shelves… πŸ˜‰

    My current TBR pile is getting out of control as well! A few months ago my fiancΓ© actually asked me to cool it on snagging books from Goodwill until I’ve read through some unread ones. I agreed! Our space is much too small for the amount of books that we have! I’ve bought a new book perhaps once a month since then, but I’ve read through a number of my TBR’s and donated them back to Goodwill or gave them to friends. So far it’s working!

    Good luck with your TBR shelves! πŸ™‚

  4. BJ

    It’s really difficult to put a hard stop on acquiring books. I find myself going to the library or bookstore–just to look around–even when I’m currently reading a book! I dont know why I do that. But, I am trying not to do that right now. Instead of looking at it as “discipline” to not get new books, I see it as “focus” to read and enjoy my current ones.
    In the end, if you do add new books to your pile, it’s going to be something that really sparks joy for you, so it’s ok…just another book you can look forward to reading! πŸ™‚

    • I know the “hard stop” is only going to work for a limited time. Going to the bookstore is one of my favorite things to do! Plus having 24 hour access to ebooks from the library has greatly added to my load, since as soon as I hear about a book I can often get it immediately, which often means the physical books on my shelves get neglected. I am hopeful that once some of those are cleared out, I’ll be able to keep things flowing better.

  5. Buying fewer books is one of my ‘try harder’ goals for this year, to encourage me to get into the habit of reading from my TBR – which has years worth of reading in it. Good luck in your project

    • Good luck to you as well. I know I could perfectly well read for a whole year from my own shelves, and maybe I will try that someday…

  6. I got into the habit of buying books when I started my blog several years ago. That was new for me. After a while, I too, couldn’t keep up. I felt good about supporting authors, but after a while I didn’t feel comfortable with all the accumulating books, and it was expensive. I simply stopped buying books unless I couldn’t get them from the library or unless I couldn’t get ones I wanted to read in a timely fashion from the library. It hasn’t been difficult since it is, for me, essentially returning to a life-long habit of frugality when it comes to books. I also had access to a fab library with excellent interlibrary loan. My blog is not set up so that I review scores of books, or all the books that I read, nor do publishers send me books that I then feel I should review. I don’t do traditional “reviews’ anyway, that is not my focus as a reader or a blogger. If reading begins to seem like a chore, I know I need to change something.

    • When I started blogging I got all excited about review copies and giveaways, and thus have accumulated way more than I can read in a timely fashion. I’ve become much more realistic, but I still have a backlog from those days. I think once I’ve dealt with that, I won’t let it build up so much in the future. I can hope, anyway!

  7. i’ve tried the total abstinence method but it didn’t work longer than three months – problem is, once I had started I couldn’t seem to stop buying again. This year I am making an effort to restrain myself – not looking at the NetGalley site is a good start. Its impossible to not buy any books at all though since I belong to two book clubs which meet in a book shop so we have to buy the books selected for the next month’s meeting.

    • Three months seemed doable for me. I have energy at the beginning of the year for this kind of goal but then it fades over time. I think the book club purchase would be an reasonable exception (if I belonged to one).

  8. I only really let myself buy books if I’m going to read it right away. I used to buy books with abandon. I personally don’t mind owning a bunch of books I haven’t read (I love having lots to choose from!) but it wasn’t really financially feasible for me. If I can’t wait for it to come in from the library and I know I’ll read it right away, I let myself buy it. I also try to practice self-compassion when I don’t get it right–beating myself up about buying too many books just causes me anxiety!

    • That is a really healthy habit I think. I’m not sure I could adhere to it completely, but I’ve definitely let the unread books get out of control.

  9. I understand how the issue of a large tbr could make you uncomfortable and it sounds like you have created a good process of dealing with it. I hope these next few months go as planned.

    I have not gotten to the point of minding my tbr. I guess I have come to the conclusion that there will always be tons of books that interest me and I should just get used to that!

    Also, I think since my reading is so much about the classics, I am not so up on contemporary fiction. Usually, when I discover a new author it’s from an older title or a dead author so I don’t have to worry about their new releases πŸ™‚

    I wish you well and hope you stay on track and that you don’t have a used bookstore closing down with sales you can’t refuse…as happened to me yesterday….Ack!

    • I should make a distinction between my TBR list – which I’m not trying to reduce, at least at this point – and my TBR pile – physical copies of books that I’ve acquired, mostly in the past few years since I started blogging, and failed to read. The latter is what I’d like to pare down because it makes me uncomfortable to have so many unread books in the house. I’d still want to have some, like maybe 25 or so, but I must have about 100 and it feels oppressive to me. Everyone is different though!

      And I must stay FAR away from such bookstore sales for the next three months, if I’m to have any hope of success.

      • “I should make a distinction between my TBR list – which I’m not trying to reduce, at least at this point – and my TBR pile – physical copies of books”

        Oh, of course, I did conflate the two and they are not the same. Now I really understand where you’re coming from!

        • Some people find having a lengthy list oppressive too, but I don’t (so far). Although sometimes it feels as though it should just include nearly every book in the world, which is less than helpful.

  10. oh boy, yes, I’ve tried, numerous times. I’ve even given up book buying for Lent, with only partial success at this form of abstinence. Lent’s coming soon! I plan to give it another go, maybe even starting now, since I too am alarmed by how many new books “came in the door” (as if by themselves) recently. I do love opening those envelopes, but really… Thanks, Lory, for sharing your shelves and our common woes and joys in the book world.

    • Let’s be kind to ourselves, and just do our best to keep our book buying and reading habit one that gives us joy rather than stress.

  11. There was a time when I was buying books like crazy. As I have embraced the ebook I have actually stopped doing this. I only buy what is not available in electronic form. Real books do have an appeal for me. I have it in my head that I will start collecting nicer versions of the books that I love. This might get expensive however.

    • I read a lot in ebook form now too, and do appreciate its “weightlessness.” Quite a few of these predate my e-reader, or are books not available in electronic format. I also often prefer to read nonfiction books in print – looking at maps and indexes is way easier. Plus the ones with beautiful color illustrations would not work that way. I’m glad both formats are still available to us.

  12. At the moment, I’m on a library ban. I have a “books for later” list on my library account where I keep adding titles but for now I’m reading just from my TBR shelves and review pile. I am not necessarily limiting what I buy but am trying to add to my library list instead — unless it’s something I know I will want to read immediately. If I can clear away the review pile and get my TBR under 100, I’ll feel much better (I think!).

    • It’s easier for me to avoid buying books than checking them out from the library. The latter is a big reason why my TBR pile has grown so large. Those physical books will sit until I’m ready to read them, but the library books have to be read within a time limit…so I pay more attention to them and forget about the others. After three months, I’ll also need to find a way to deal with that problem – maybe ration myself to a certain number of library books per month?

  13. I don’t worry too much about acquiring books, since now they are mostly electronic (though I do have guilt if they pile up unread). Getting ebooks from the library has really helped me cut down on book buying! I keep a long wish list on Amazon, and I usually only buy if there’s a really great deal, or if I know I’m ready to read the book.

    • Oh, I’m not even counting my electronic pile (I don’t usually buy ebooks, but I have a lot of free classics I’ve picked up and that are sitting there unread). It’s just the physical copies that bug me. Irrational, perhaps, but so it is.

  14. Amy

    Oh, I’ve tried. I’ve done it for a few weeks at the MOST. I kind of don’t let myself count books as hoarding. πŸ˜‰ I do really try to make sure the ones I’m buying are ones we love or authors/illustrators we know, love, and trust. I don’t have the problem that you have with piles of unknowns coming into my house. That would be VERY hard. I do have many on my shelves that we haven’t read, but for the most part we’ve read a lot of them and/or have plans. It helps that I have a lot of people here reading, so it can justify my purchases. πŸ™‚

    • Yes, that does help! My son and husband do their part, but in terms of volume I’m still the main reader in the house. πŸ˜€

  15. My current problem is my volunteer job sorting used books for the library book sale. I don’t often come upon something that I really really love and have always wanted, but I very frequently grab books (mysteries!) that I would like to read for fun and then put back into the sale. The pile is now too large. I can’t read them as fast as I can bring them home. But it is super-hard to resist, esp. when hey, look, a free copy of that new Bronte biography, and it’s in great shape! Oh, two Georgette Heyer books I’ve never read…I can just read those real quick and then take them back…obviously this book-sorting job is not entirely good for me, but they really need the help…

    • Haha, no that book sorting job is NOT good for a book addict. But as you say, who will tend to the poor neglected books otherwise? It’s a dilemma.

      • If I didn’t help out, the library workroom would just be buried under thousands of old 70s cookbooks and financial planning books from the 90s! Nobody would win.

        • Absolutely. Maybe they could be used to build an extension to the library? I think “useless old books” may be an untapped resource.

  16. I’ve never put a ban on my book-buying (I don’t tend to buy a lot of new books anyway). However, if I were going to do it (I had to think about this), I think it would help me to make a list of all the books I *want* to buy, so that I could choose from those once the ban was lifted. Good luck with it!

    • I don’t buy that many new books for myself either. But somehow I’m gathering them anyway, from giveaways, exchanges, review copies, books I wanted to reread but never have, and whatnot. Then, when I get books from the library (must read that book I’ve just seen mentioned on blog X!) I always read them first and the physical pile is neglected. Thus the acquisition ban (not just buying).

      I am making progress! The last few weeks have been great, so we’ll see if I can keep it up.

      • Oh, yes, an acquisition ban would be MUCH harder. My soft spot is the library. πŸ™‚
        Happy to hear it’s going well!

  17. While I think the KonMari method probably works really well for a lot of things, when it comes to bookworms and their books I just don’t see this working too well. I have tons of unread books but they don’t stress me out at all. I love having them! πŸ™‚ While I’ve not gone on an outright book buying ban, my bans usually are for no library books for a period of time. I love going to the library but try to stop going at various times throughout the year so I can focus on my books. Good luck with your goal and can’t wait to hear how it goes!

    • The method definitely needs some modifications for books. I enjoyed reorganizing my books and getting rid of some dead wood, and that was enough for me.

      I think the temporary library ban or rationing is going to need to be part of my practice too.

  18. Good luck to you, madam! I don’t actually buy books that often except when it’s book sale time OR I’m on vacation, so I’ve never instituted a formal book buying ban. I will say that it helps me to have all my TBR books piled up in front of my face — I did it once for a few months and I’ve never read so many of my own damn books. Good luck to you!

    • That sounds true to my experience. Having the books in front of my face and not allowing myself to bring any more in the house is VERY motivating.

  19. WOW, did you strike a nerve here or what? I too hate the hoarding urge that has overcome me since I started blogging. I don’t request ARCs or do many reviews, but I am still so greedy to READ READ READ all of these books. Even my library habits have gotten ridiculous–I have something like 77 items checked out right now. Most of what I buy is for my classroom library, but I’ve been using that as an excuse to grab any MG or YA title that looks good TO ME lately. So my goal for this year is to only buy books that not only are for the classroom, not my personal collection, but that meet at least one of these criteria:
    –graphic novels
    –Latinx authors or POV characters
    –student requests
    –picture books that will help with teaching points
    –duplicates and series finishers of very popular books

    I hope it helps my budget and with keeping my classroom library really useful.

    • Those sound like really good criteria for purchase/acquisition. I don’t have students to buy for, but I need to think about what kinds of books I want to bring in the house once my ban is over. Probably that will be the topic of a future discussion.

  20. Lots of comments so I imagine you’ve already heard something like what I have to say! But anyway – I have never really had to limit my book buying, because I am very selective about what I acquire. However, I think a lot of that comes out of having limited space and budget. I think my problem is more so one of limiting what I add to my TBR. I try to be very aware of what goes on that list, and to remember the wonderful variety of books already on the list. I think similar habits (ones of being ‘more conscious about the books’, as you mentioned) can be sparked by even just a temporary book buying ban.

    • I’m really enjoying appreciating the books I already own, and quelling the impulse to always look for something new. When I’m ready to branch out again, I think it will be with more awareness.

  21. My New Year’s resolution is to not buy any new books for a year… So far so good, but it’s going to be hard. My goal is to read almost exclusively from my bookshelves (the occasional library book being the exception). I noticed a lot of book bloggers trying to read from what they already have, so I created the Back To My Bookshelves Challenge. Would love if you’d join me! Check it out if you’re interested:

    • Fun, I like your categories! I’ve been SO GOOD for a whole month so far (no books bought, no library books) and I’m hoping for at least two more months. After that I think my resolve will weaken but I’ll keep reading as many of my own books as I can.

  22. I truly can’t stop acquiring books myself! They just keep appearing in my house, you know. I do go through times where I tell myself to stop looking at Netgalley and requesting books to review. This year, I’ve slowed down about 90% about accepting author requests and blog tours, over what I was doing in the last couple of years, so that’s good! And I’m staying away from “browsing” on Netgalley as often, and that is helping me too.


    • I had a lot of fun doing reviews and tours for a while, discovering new authors and publishers and feeling good about helping them out, but at the moment I need to do this just for me. So I’m not even looking outside my own shelves for the time being. Hope you can find a balance that works for you!