Do You Know How Much You Spend on Books Each Month, And Other Qs for a Book Lover

Logan Sachon: I’ve been thinking about books a lot lately, physical books, and I thought you’d be a good person to talk to about that. Especially since last night I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a post you wrote about wanting your books back! (“Hello! Hi. Have I lent you a book?? Do you still have this book? Trying to gather back books which have dispersed through the various boroughs in the past two years or so. I’m missing a lot, which is my fault, but “From the Library Of…” stickers are too too nerdy…”) So Tell me about your book consumption!

Chiara Atik: I usually buy 5–6 books a month.

Logan: Like actual physical books? Or ebooks.

Chiara: No, that’s total books, so probably about half and half. Well let’s see, in October I bought…. five ebooks and five regular books. So: 10.

Logan: Have you always been a book buyer?

Chiara: Yes. Always. When I was little it was the one thing my parents wouldn’t say no to. I could ask them for Polly Pocket or Littlest Petshop or whatever else and they’d say no, but they’d always buy me books. During the summers, I averaged about a Babysitter’s Club book a day. So, yes, I always buy books, and I never let myself feel guilty about them. And I love houses with books, I love reading books but I love them as objects, too

Logan: Do you have a book budget, specifically? or you just buy whatever books you want and if you dont have money to buy books you don’t buy books

Chiara: I don’t budget. I really should. And again, this permissive attitude I have towards buying books is probably a little…like, I push it too far. Sometimes I KNOW I can’t let myself go clothes shopping or out to an expensive dinner so then I’ll go to a bookstore and there I can’t give myself any trouble about it.

(I bought 12 books, I miscounted.)

(Two more physical ones.)

(That actually is a lot.)

(But I’ve read like, 8 of them….)

(One was a replacement.)

Logan: Do you keep all the books you buy?

Chiara: Unless I really, really hate them, in which case I give them to my teenage brother to sell. He keeps the money. He’s 15.

Logan: So tell me about lending books — is it something you do often?

Chiara: Yeah, unfortunately. Like — I think basically anytime someone comes over? Yesterday a friend was over and she asked to borrow a book “even though I still have halfway to go through the other one.” Which sort of prompted my Facebook status. I think I have like…20 books out in the world somewhere.

Logan: Mostly from people asking to borrow them? You don’t try to be a book fairy?

Chiara: No, I DEFINITELY try to be a book fairy. But I had just been one to her last week!!! With a different book that she still has.

Logan: Do you have a list you keep?

Chiara: No, or, actually, I think I started a Google doc once, but haven’t kept it up.

Logan: One reason I’m so interested in this is that I have mostly stopped buying physical books. I don’t even own any anymore, really.

The last time I moved cross-country, I left all my books in Oregon, basically. And it’s been making me sad lately when I’m in a house with books. It feels so good to be around them! I think I’ve missed that.

Chiara: Yeah! It’s like, the first thing I check out when I go to someone’s house. Just, see what kinds of books they have. For books I really love, I remember EXACTLY where I was when I read them. I remember my age, the room, what it made me think and feel at the time. I don’t want to go so far as to say my bookshelf is like a photo album but I do have very specific memories for most of the books.

Logan: I think that’s accurate though a little bit — books as memory capsules or photo books, objects that are transporting. I wonder if that’s why I miss them so much.

Chiara: It’s kind of not the same, replacing a book.

Logan: When I first moved to California, I brought a suitcase that was just books — and I’m not sure why, though looking back I feel like maybe they were to remind me who I was, ha. Or something. Or to show people who I was. I had books from anthropology classes I’d taken, novels. “This is who I am.” But even before I left all my books, I’d often be without the most important ones — I do love to share books. I’d make a new friend and give them whatever book I’d thought they love. I brought a few of my favorites to New York, but they’re all gone — lent out or given as gifts. The Dud Avocado is a book that just came at a really perfect time for me, when I was living in Portland, and I’ve given it away and lent it out and that out and bought it a couple more times. I don’t have any copies right now.

Chiara: Do you know who has it?

Logan: I do.

Chiara: Considered doing a passive aggressive Facebook status?

Logan: I keep planning to just take it when I’m at her house again, but I always forget. Plus I don’t think she’s read it yet. And I want her to read it.

Chiara: Are there ever any books that come out that you DON’T want in ebook? Like, Kindle is the most convenient thing in the world, and I think I buy way more books because of it — there’s no deliberation, just a click of a button but sometimes for a particular author or topic, I know it’s a book I want to physically own, so I wait.

Logan: It’s also cheaper, often, to buy ebooks.

Chiara: Way cheaper.

Logan: I’ve pretty much only bought ebooks for the past year or two. Though I have a few books that I’ve bought ebooks of that I know I want to have physical copies of. One of the early Emily Books picks was Sempre Susan by Sigrid Nunez, and I’ve read that book on my phone …. I don’t know, maybe four times all the way through and then in excerpts. If I’m on the train and don’t have a book I’ll just open it and kind of scroll through to do whatever the ebook equivalent is of opening a random page. So I think I’d like to own that book.

Chiara: Yeah, I think that’s a good litmus, if it’s something you’ve re-read twice, you can assume you’ll reread again. Although it’s nice to have it on your phone in addition! I also think that because of ebooks, publishers have really stepped up their cover art game. Have you noticed that? So, often I’ll get a book and the cover art is gorgeous enough to justify — in my mind — the $30 hardback price.

(I just remembered one of the books for October was a gift from my mom, so 11.) Also, The Marriage Plot, which I got in hardback, has a MUCH nicer paperback cover than hardback, so I was tempted to buy the paperback, but I didn’t.

Logan: In addition, you mean?

Chiara: In addition.

Logan: Are you a bookstore person or an Amazon person?

Chiara: Bookstore. I don’t browse Amazon.

Logan: So do you walk into a bookstore knowing what you want? how do you pick out books?

Chiara: It depends — sometimes I know I want a specific author, like when Alice Munro won the Nobel and I’d never read her, I walked to McNally Jackson to choose a random one. If I am in the mood for an author I’ll go to the bookstore. If I KNOW a book is going to come out. Like I KNEW Jhumpa Lahiri’s book was due in October, I’ll pre-order so I have it that day. Often once I’m in the bookstore I’ll see something else I want and sometimes I go into a bookstore just to look around. I probably go…..once a week.

Logan: Do you ever buy used books?

Chiara: No, unless it’s like a vintage copy of something I want. But, no. AND!!!! I don’t borrow from the library, but I’d like to change that. I’d really like to change that. I am 100 percent pro-library. There is one across the street from me. I’m sure that if I went to the library I’d start reading all kinds of books that I wouldn’t necessarily have purchased. Maybe I will get a library card today.

Logan: Why haven’t you used the library before?

Chiara: Probably just a sort of spoiled wanting to own, wanting what I want IMMEDIATELY without having to be on any sort of waitlist. I still wouldn’t use the library for contemporary fiction, I think. But I don’t necessarily need to buy a copy of, I dunno, whatever random thing I’d be interested in reading or trying out.

Logan: So it’s not because you write in your books? Dog ear the pages?

Chiara: NO!

Logan: But … how do you remember your place???! Or mark the parts you really love!

Chiara: I just….remember my place, I guess. And I wrote down the parts I really love in a notebook, OR, take a picture with my iPhone.

Logan: Do you know how much you spend on books?

Chiara: No.

Logan: Quite definitive! And I’m assuming you don’t want to know.

Chiara: Right. But I mean if you told me, I don’t think I’d feel bad about it. I’d probably throw up if I knew my taxi/Seamless/alcohol consumption, but books, I think I’d be okay with.