I Want Books

Photo by Glen Noble | Unsplash

It’s the last thing I need, of course, more books to add to the teetering stacks of possibilities. More items on “to-do” lists, more distractions for the free moments. But it’s all I want. The more distraction, the better.

There are so many of them — classics I’ve missed and nonsense I’ve side-eyed and everything shiny and new that catches my eye in reviews or on the library shelf. I have stacks of NYT Book Reviews and stray copies of The New York Review of Books, not to mention all those New Yorkers waiting to be read in various corners of my house (magazines, not people — though there are a fair number of those loitering about, too). They all shout at me about books. It sounds a bit geographically restrictive, but it’s terrifying to think what I may be missing elsewhere — The Paris Review or The Washington Post. The LA Times and The Boston Globe. The Guardian. Everywhere I look someone is saying, “You must read this now!”

I hesitate to spend much cash on this dearest desire of mine, as a quick perusal of my house indicates that I have enough reading material to take me through the end of times (which may be closer than we thought, but that’s another essay). Also, cash is important for things that the loiterers find necessary (food, heat, blah blah blah). But there are lists — so many lists — of books that really should be part of my collection. My inclination (and desire, frankly) is to start listing them here, but I know that would be tedious for most of you. Let’s just agree that the book rabbit hole is my favorite rabbit hole of all and I would stay there and talk/think/read about books until the end of time (see above).

I currently have 40 books in the “Saved for Later” part of my Amazon cart and 19 books in my Wishlist, but I’m a little mad at Amazon right now (different essay, see above). And I’m trying to save money. I have a shocking 543 books to read on my Goodreads account and there’s surprisingly no overlap between those lists. So that’s about 600 books I WANT to read and it doesn’t even include the lists I add to each day that fill notebooks and sit in drawers and mingle in my devices. This is clearly a problem (a delicious problem, but a problem nonetheless).

I live in a tiny charming town with a tiny charming library and they are having their spring book sale in a few weeks. It’s the perfect solution (every fall and every spring) to my penny-pinching book lust. For five dollars, I can fill a paper grocery sack with books and waltz out with my treasure. It’s often the happiest day of the season for me. You’d be amazed to see how many books one can get into a standard issue paper grocery sack. I think I’ve made it home with as many as 15 books — for five dollars.

A problem with this activity (albeit a delicious one) is that I probably won’t find books that are on any of my lists. I’ll find new, fascinating candidates that had not previously presented themselves. I freely admit that, on occasion, some of those hastily grabbed books end up in the library donation bag after the fact, but still — we’re looking at, maybe, fifty cents a book. And I have scored some beauties over the years.

So, for five bucks, it seems that I can have what I want — as much of it as I can carry. And — bonus! — I can score gifts for everyone on my list, which is no small thing after the Laid Off Christmas. Five dollars, gifts for everyone and treats for me. I wonder how much I’ve saved over the years with my book sale habit? Some simple calculations reveal that it’s enough for something else that I want. Like a massage or a bottle of Lillet. Or, probably, more books.

The library book sale has always been a magical place for me, with my dreams bigger than my wallet. It provides the perfect combination of savings and satisfaction, allowing me the luxury of indulgence and the good sense of frugality. I win, every time.

Lisa Renee is a freelance writer living near a Finger Lake in New York. She is also fiction editor at daCunha.global.

This story is part of The Billfold’s I Want It Now series.

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