Are Book-Buying Bans Effective?

Olivia Furness

“Nothing is more important than an unread library.” ― John Waters.

Let’s go back to January 1st 2021, a day for new beginnings, new year’s resolutions… but not a new me? My old reading habits just stay the same. I can set goals, make lists of TBR piles and fill my head with the ‘Must Read Books of 2021’ but I already know how things will pan out. 

As I glance over at my bookshelf an enormous wave of guilt engulfs me. The sight of towering stacks of books dotted around my room and the overflowing shelves is enough for my mum to appear behind a stack nagging at me to “stop buying books”. Because the truth is, half of them I haven’t even read. 

Why haven’t I read this by now? Why did I buy that in the first place? These questions are just all too familiar. We know the feeling of picking up a book on a whim, but then university reading lists and other new releases get in the way, so said book just gets tossed aside and forgotten about. You’ve got those books in mind that you feel shame and shock-horror for never actually reading. And don’t get me started on the classics. 

Most readers that find themselves in this situation embark on the dreaded book-buying ban, in an attempt to assuage their guilt over the books they’ve accumulated over the years but still sit there untouched (at least they look pretty). But I’m not a huge advocate; it’s a movement I just can’t get behind. Here’s why: 

  • FOMO – Just imagine all the Twitter talk you won’t be able to get involved with because you can’t rush to purchase the upcoming releases everyone is getting excited about. Take for example, Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends being adapted into a new series this year, you just HAVE to make sure you’ve read it in time. Otherwise, just imagine that feeling of being unable to get involved with all the conversation. 
  • ‘Treat Yo’self’ – Ahhh remember the days we strolled into our favourite indie bookstore on the high street on a Sunday morning, searching those glossy spines for a new purchase. This was a treat. Buying books is an investment, but if it is something that makes you happy, then why not? 
  • TBR Piles Shouldn’t Cause Anxiety you shouldn’t be anxious because you haven’t gotten round to reading something yet, ultimately this is the problem when we are flooded with social media book related content that make us question whether we are actually a “reader” in the first place. Embrace the unread. 
  • Read What Takes Your Fancy – Okay, so, you choose to embark on ‘the ban’ but are still borrowing books from the library? It’s important to remember that our tastes in literature change and adapt over time. A book you once thought you would love on a random trip to Waterstones might not be your cup of tea anymore, and that’s ok. Don’t be so hard on yourself; it could result in the dreaded reading slump which is something you definitely want to avoid. 

When considering your next read, try to visit your shelf at home. You could even try the ‘One Chapter Challenge’ if you don’t fancy it after a chapter, leave it. Don’t restrict yourselves to what’s on your own TBR pile. The solution here is to find a balance, cut back on buying books but don’t stop entirely. I think having shelves of unread books is a pretty good problem to have. 

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