What books should I buy?

Posted March 11, 2018 by Lory in discussions / 44 Comments



By this I don’t mean to ask for specific suggestions of books I should purchase (though you can feel free to make them), but to question what criteria I should employ when facing the vast multiplicity of reading material available. Now that my three month book acquisition ban is winding down, I can start to think about buying books again…but I want to be more discriminating.

Books I own mainly fall into three categories: books I have read and loved, wanting to make sure I have them on hand to read again; books I was unable to get easily from the library and want to read at least once; impulse buys (bargains, linked to a particular but ephemeral interest, just because). To reduce my overwhelming TBR pile, I think I should try to eschew the third category. The second should also be approached with caution; I already have so many of these. And honestly, I already have plenty in the first category too. I should think hard about what holes there truly are in my collection.

So for a while longer I think I’m going to try to buy as little as possible, especially in an impulsive way. I need to replace retail therapy with actual reading therapy.

Do you have criteria or strategies for deciding what books you should buy?

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



44 responses to “What books should I buy?

  1. My buying process is exactly the same! I really try to only buy the books I know I will read time and time again. But I’m just a sucker for second hand shops… I definitely need to tone back there. And of course when something can’t be checked out of my library, I may decide to buy a copy and I need to stop that.

    I’ve realized that I prefer audio books when I have already read the book… so I’ve been duplicating things there as well…

    • I actually think it’s fine to buy a book you can’t get from the library. But I tend to do it too much, when I have a lot of those unread on my shelves already. Get through those first, Lory!

  2. diana

    I agree with your criteria. I stopped last year buying books because they were bargains once i asked myself if the price was the biggest reason I was considering buying it! I also figured out that if I buy $3 book because its cheap I have $3 less to buy a book I might really really want or need!

  3. Although I always try to stick to your first two categories, when I haven’t been able to get out to the library as easily, during the past year, I order more books to come right to my house, and I end up having more to take to the second-hand bookstore, where they give us a fraction of the price for trade-ins and then we can buy more books.

  4. Most of the books I buy are ones I’ve already read and know I want to reread. The others are primarily books by authors I already know and love, though there’s the occasional off the wall purchase just for fun. And I never buy on impulse – even the just for fun purchases. If I want to buy a book, I usually step away for a week or two and then if I still want it after that only then make the purchase. I have a great library system that I use heavily so that removes a lot of the desire to buy books.

    • Wow, you have incredible will power. I would like to work on that one-week rule.

      I used to have a terrific library system (with multiple branches sharing their collections) that supplied most of my needs. Unfortunately that’s no longer the case.

  5. My suggestion may not sit well with you, but it works for me. Read electronically, and then go back and buy only the books you truly loved and would want to reread.

    • I do read e-books from the library (I don’t buy many e-books, they just seem too ephemeral to me to spend money on). That is a great way to try them out before buying, and so convenient.

  6. I don’t buy many books anymore. I buy at my spring and fall book fair, and at Texas Teen Book Festival. I have bought a couple of books this past year on Amazon – ones I had read (The Best Christmas Pageant Ever) and wanted to read the next in the series. I buy based on author primarily, and at the high recommendation of my librarian.

    • Book fairs are so much fun. I’m mostly shopping at my local bookstore and that’s a regular source of entertainment for me.

  7. I really am the last person to give you any advice on this, Lory: I’m an impulse-buy sort of guy — shiny new books, charity shop bargains, titles I like the look of, authors I feel guilt of not having read, rare titles long sought after, all are temptations beyond my ability or desire to control! Some I keep to treasure, some I keep to read at some unspecified date in the future, some I realise have been a mistake and are recycled to new readers ASAP.

    I’m sure none of these are of any help to you whatsoever, sorry!

  8. I don’t buy a lot of books anymore, so I don’t have much advice!

    I have a great city public library and my county library system is fantastic, so when a book I hear about sounds worth checking out, I start here.

    When I do buy, it’s usually a classic, so I take my list with me to one of the used bookstores nearby or see if it’s available on Kindle. However, I do sometimes impulse buy at the vintage section of the public library. These books have been gotten from estate sales and I have found remarkable titles for just a couple of bucks. They are usually first editions and the owners took very good care of them, the hardcover designs still bright and sharp. I have started my own little vintage section and do not mind purchasing these.

    I think in the end, it’s really what speaks to your heart as to what you want to buy!

    • It’s nice you’re making a collection of classic books to treasure. I do think it’s important to listen to your heart and do what gives you true pleasure.

  9. I try really hard not to buy anything on an impulse – but my teetering TBR pile suggests I’m not very successful…

  10. I’m in complete agreement with your first reason. For a long time, I only bought books I had read and loved enough to know I would want to reread them, or unread books from authors or series that I already knew I loved. I used the library for book discovery. Once I started getting a lot of ARCs, I used them the same way I did the library — enjoyed the book (or not), and only bought a physical copy if I loved it enough to want to reread it someday. I bought a smattering of category 2 books, too — the ones I couldn’t find anywhere else. Then I got a Kindle and started buying a ton of Kindle books. *sigh* Oh, well, at least they don’t take up much physical space.

    I still pretty much stick to buying category 1 and the occasional category 2 books. And I’m trying to purge my shelves of books that no longer bring me joy, or that I don’t want to to reread… or books whose print has become too small to read comfortably. No one warned me that my eyesight would worsen in my 50s; I wasn’t expecting that until my 70s!

    • I have lots of ebooks too (mostly free, a few I bought) that I forget about even MORE because they don’t take up physical space! I’m not even counting those on my TBR quest, but at some point maybe I will tackle them when the piles are a bit more under control.

      The eyesight thing is a bummer, isn’t it? I’m resisting the glasses so far but the day will probably come when I have to give in.

  11. I struggle with buying too many books. I have SO many that I bought because my library doesn’t carry them and I wanted to read it eventually. But I get so many books from publishers that I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’m also thinking of going on a book buying ban for a while. I’ve done it before, and it’s not easy, but I think it helps with the overwhelmed feeling/retail guilt.

    • Getting books from publishers was so exciting when I started blogging, but I got totally overwhelmed! At the moment I’m not requesting any books, though that so much goes against the grain. I just have to realize they’re not “free” when I become burdened by them.

  12. I did too much of the impulse buying a few years ago which now partly accounts for the toppling stacks in the house. I bought them in charity shops and library sales often just because I’d heard of the author but had no clue about that particular title. I’m doing a bit better and being more restrained by not buying the book if I think I can get it via the library.

    • Without the library, I’d have so many more books to deal with (or have to go without). I’m very impulsive about checking out books as well but at least I have to take those back.

  13. Yes to all of the above. After years of accumulating books without much thought about space and the fact that I will not live for ever, I have started to cull my books over the past few years.

    I did fairly well last year in that more books left my home than came in permanently. But things like library book sales happen…its a work in progress I guess. 😀

  14. This is so interesting! I love reading other people’s views on this. I am like Christopher Lovegrove, above, I cheerfully buy anything I want to read. I do try these days to be reasonably thoughtful about this and this year I am making a concerted effort to buy as little as possible and read what I already have.

    I suppose my circumstances are unlike many of your other readers, in that I don’t live in an English-speaking country and the English-language books I can borrow from the library are of course quite limited. My own abilities in Flemish mean that I can’t read anything more demanding than a thriller in that language without having to use a dictionary so much it becomes a chore. I hope one day, of course, to do better in this. So for me, it’s buy it or never read it.

    On the other hand, I only have the opportunity to enter an English-language bookshop about twice a year, so that does keep purchases down a bit… 🙂

    • Being in a foreign-language country does make things quite a bit more challenging. I remember when I was in France I coped by buying and reading the longest books I possibly could (e.g. David Copperfield, The Mists of Avalon). More bang for the buck that way!

  15. I’ve just realized I don’t buy very many book these days. I used to be an extreme impulse buyer but so many sat on the shelves and were never picked up. When I moved last year, I donated many as I was no longer interested in reading them. My main source of reading material at this point it ARCs. I’ve also started going to the library again after a 20 year hiatus. When I do feel compelled to purchase, I choose Kindle vs physical based on cost. I’m slightly more inclined to buy physical if I have a strong feeling I’m going to really love the book and it’s one I know a friend would also like to read. I don’t reread and there are very few books I keep just because I love them so much I can’t bear to part with them. Therefore, I’m the odd bookworm that loves to let others borrow her books and gives not one hoot if they are ever returned.

    • Books are meant to be read! If I don’t think I’m going to reread a book I’m also very happy to give it away.

  16. Reading your post got me thinking about how I buy books! I actually have pretty specific rules for what I buy, beginning with not having too many “too be read” books on my Kindle. Generally, it has to be a book that isn’t available at the library, and that is either on sale, a favorite author, or needs to be read for a book club or event. I keep a pretty long Amazon shopping list, and I check it for sales or when my book supply is getting low. At the library I use the “recommend” feature a lot, so if they buy a book I want, I’m automatically on the wait list. I feel good about this system but the downside is that given all the books I want to read, I mostly choose the ones that are at the library, and that often determines when I read them as well. Still, I’m mostly happy to let outside forces choose my reading sometimes, otherwise I’d be overwhelmed.

  17. My main criterion is whether I think I’m going to want to read the book again. The only exception is that I am prone to buying nonfiction books I haven’t read, just cause I think that owning them promotes my project of one day knowing everything. I kind of advise against this, and advocate mainly buying books in the reread category, cause otherwise you (well, I) end up with a zillion nonfiction books you (still I) don’t actually make time to read. It’s a Problem.

    • Oh yes, the Know Everything project. I have a lot of nonfiction books related to that as well. I hope this year to actually read some of them.

  18. I buy books almost exclusively if I can get them signed, because I don’t do much re-reading. I do hold onto review copies and gifted books if I love them because I like my shelves to reflect recent books I’ve enjoyed and I’ve made a point of purchasing a handful of my favorite books ever, but that’s a pretty selective group. I’ve recently also bought a few books used because that was the only way I could get them for my book club. Basically, I’m pretty stingy book buyer and I hope I support authors enough by promoting their books!

  19. I’m very careful about what books I buy new. First, I check to see if I can get them through the library. If not, I’ll put them on a wishlist from which I eventually choose my favourites or the ones I’m still wishing I owned. I like to try to only buy new from small presses, because they are the hardest to find in the libraries anyway, and I like to support them and their authors. Same with local authors and publishers.

    • Those are great guidelines to have. Those small presses and local authors really need our support.

  20. I’ve got a pretty big TBR pile right now, so over the past year or so, I’ve taken a new approach. I only buy books if I intend to start them within a couple days of buying them. So far it’s worked out really well.