Self imposed book buying ban

Whilst I took my annual trip to central Australia, to organise the yearly fundraiser for the retention of indigenous women’s culture, my wife secured and built significant bookshelf space in our front lounge room. Earlier this week I tidied up piles and piles of books and before I know it I had filled those bookshelves. The activity itself meant I was dwelling on certain titles, ones I had read many many years ago, ones I bought and never got around to, others that I’d never finished (they formed a “donation” pile) and yet others that I would like to reread at some stage.

This exercise had me dwelling on the practice of reading, raising numerous questions;

  • Why did I buy this book in the first place?
  • Did I enjoy this one so much I will reread it?
  • Why did I buy this title?
  • Why so little Australian fiction?
  • Who on earth gave me this one?

It was a nostalgic and memorable exercise, a little like spring cleaning, cathartic but also educational. The whole process highlighted something that I’ve known for quite sometime, however one I hadn’t quantified;

How many unread books do I own?

Without spending a considerable amount of time counting them, the obvious was brought home this week as eight new books arrived in the mail whilst I continued on with reading one, Marcel Proust’s “The Guermantes Way” (translated by Mark Treharne) part three of “In Search of Lost Time, there will be more posts about my Proust journey in the coming days. This stark fact meant that each week I finish one title and collect eight, meaning if the current trend continues each year I will add between 300-400 unread titles to my shelves!!!

Simply unsustainable, my house just isn’t that large.

Earlier today I floated the idea, on Twitter, of a personal ban on buying new books until I have read at least fifty titles from my existing shelves, this post was met with a range of responses from incredulity to laughing through full support.

Therefore, I am making a public announcement;


Now, with many independent publisher subscriptions this may still mean that I fall further behind, however I will keep a tab on the progress of reducing my unread bookshelves and it may even lead to a realisation that I need to reduce my subscriptions too.

How do I intend to remain firm is a decent question raised by more than one Twitter follower? I think I will implement the following strategies;

  • Tell my wife. She will certainly assist with curtailing spending
  • Keep a progress tab via Twitter (eg. “My book buying ban still requires 49 titles to be read before being lifted” etc. etc)
  • Before picking a title from my shelves to fill the “fifty book ban” I will ask myself “Why did I buy this?” helping me to understand my moving trends
  • Give myself an incentive book, something akin to a treat, to purchase once I have finished my fifty books

One title that is excluded from being completed is, of course, Arno Schmidt’s “Bottom’s Dream”, where I am making slow progress, dipping in now and again and revelling in the breadth of wisdom. I have been very remiss in my progress posts but plan to publish an update in the next couple of weeks.

Astute followers may notice that I may even read and review a book that has only recently been released, this does not mean I have lifted my ban, it simply means it was either pre-ordered, forms part of a subscription or was kindly sent to me by the publisher to review. One title that I think will fall into this category is the forthcoming “Letters to his Neighbor” by Marcel Proust (translated by Lydia Davis) and published by New Directions, currently I am making my way through his masterwork “In Search of Lost Time” (I will write more about that journey in the coming days) and have pre-ordered the forthcoming letters, a book I am very much looking forward to reading. Title one on the list of fifty books will be “The Guermantes Way” by Proust, I am sort of cheating here as I am currently 218 pages in but being less than half way through I have bent the rules to make this book one of my journey.

I do not intend to list the fifty titles I will read as my tastes will move as time progresses, however I do have four poetry titles I need to read as interviews with the poets are lined up, add in the four Proust books (volumes 3-6 inclusive) and I only have to source 42 more books to hit my goal!!!

Wish me well and keep tabs on my progress (or utter failure) via my Twitter handle @messy_tony – let’s see if I suffer withdrawal symptoms!!!



15 thoughts on “Self imposed book buying ban

  1. *chuckle* I’d better not fess up to how many books I have on my TBR, except to say that reading about 200 books a year, I have about five years supply if eBooks take over and there are no more real books to read…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t dare count mine as I’d probably faint. Needless to say I could have made it 200 instead of 50 and still not struggled to complete the task. At least a few poetry books will only take a couple of days to read!!


  2. I am ashamed to say I bought 7 books in Australia, was given two and have ordered 5 more since I got home (including Compass after talking to you and Des about it). So I think I need to join you on this, maybe 25 because I read so slowly, barring the few review copies that arrive. (I may also try to cull 25 that I will likely never read too—be brutally honest with myself.)
    Quite honestly I have so many books on hand that I really *do* want to read. I just submitted my last NC review for a while, and I feel freed up to spend a little time reading what I want. So time to start tackling the stacks I have on hand!

    Liked by 1 person

    • One of my main motivations was the amount of books I really do want to read, there’s 100’s & simply adding more makes the selection process even worse!!! Good luck with culling – I wasn’t brutal but there’s a decent pile to move to new owners!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good luck with this plan. I have tried variations of the ‘ban’ a few times in past years (like buying 1 book for every 5 I read from my collection) but none of them was successful. Still the pile got bigger and bigger. This year I decided that it’s the idea of a ‘ban’ that was the problem. So I turned it around and made a goal just to read from my own books for at least six months. If I absolutely want to buy something I can, but it has to be a strong reason. So far it’s going ok.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tony, Tony, how could you? Booksellers and publishers depend upon you and depend upon all of us. And the larger the number of unread books on your shelves, on your floors, and in your boxes, the larger the number of reasons to ignore mortality. This new trend to limit or repudiate book buying until TBR piles are attacked leaves me cold and uncomfortable, like pledges to forego chips or sweets. My advice: buy, buy, buy; sneak them into the house if you need to; and hope that your wife doesn’t notice the ever growing piles and the groaning bookshelves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t worry the publishers & booksellers will hardly notice me missing – I subscribe to four independent publishers & i am thinking more than 50 titles will arrive whilst I read my 50. Having said that I will take your concern on board, although it sounds like a line to an alcoholic “the breweries depend on you”


  5. Thanks for making me feel better about the number of my books I haven’t yet read- only 100😂. (Although I must confess I only have my bedroom, rather than a whole house, to hold mine, so it is rather full🙈🙈)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The book buyer in me applauds your bravery, but the Calvinist in me insists that all the subscriptions and review copies be placed in a sealed vault until the fifty books are read!!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Pingback: Too many books | Slightly Bookist

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