Tag Archives: book buying habits

How I Read

I saw this great post on the blog of writer Callum McLaughlin the other day, and thought: hmm. There’s a good idea! So, I decided to follow suit and answer the questions posed about how and what I read. I waffle on about how and what I write often enough on here!

Photo Credit: ~Brenda-Starr~ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ~Brenda-Starr~ via Compfight cc

How do you find out about new books to read?

Social media, a lot of the time. I follow whackloads of writers on Twitter who are always talking about books (naturally enough), whether their own or those of people they know, and I’m usually hovering over their shoulder, taking notes. I also love walking into bookshops and simply seeing what grabs my eye – and/or allowing knowledgeable and helpful booksellers to guide me! – but in general I’m just open, at all times, to picking up bookish vibes. I’m constantly on the lookout for new suggestions, and I’m always sniffing out new possibilities. It sort of comes naturally.

How did you get into reading?

I literally don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t read. My parents tell me I was reading by the age of two – not books, as such, but I was able to pick up on words and put sounds together, which meant I was a huge hit at family parties and suchlike. (‘Dance, monkey! Dance!’) My parents read to me from my earliest days and our house was always filled with books; I don’t think the importance of making books available to children can be overstated. My brother and I are both big readers, even now, despite the fact that neither of our parents are actually all that into reading. They supported our literacy with a passion, but neither of them really read for pleasure – which is interesting!

How has your taste in books changed as you’ve grown older?

Not by a lot, truth be told! I am an omnivorous reader, and I have always been. I read books which were probably deemed ‘inappropriate’ at a young age (usually without my parents’ knowledge or involvement!), on a wide variety of topics, and I’ve never censored my own reading. I love all sorts of fiction with the exception of romance novels, which I never really warmed to (though I did try them, in my teens) and I’m making an active effort to read more non-fiction. That’s probably the only real change in recent years, actually – I’m trying to expand my repertoire by reading non-fiction, which has an entirely different feeling and power to fiction. I love children’s books, of course, but I always have.

How often do you buy books?

Not as often as I’d like. When I worked as a bookseller, of course, most of my pay packet went on ordering books for myself – this, I feel, is a common problem among booksellers! It’s so tempting, as a book addict, to simply chuck a few tomes into the order basket for yourself at the end of a particularly slow day, just so you feel justified in placing the order. Now that I don’t have that job any more, I find it’s harder to buy books. I don’t buy online, and I don’t have an e-reader (phooey!) and never will, so I’m dependent on my occasional travels to nearby towns to visit bookshops in the flesh. This doesn’t happen enough. (I’m not sure my husband would agree!)

My happy place... Photo Credit: un.2vue via Compfight cc

My happy place…
Photo Credit: un.2vue via Compfight cc

How did you get into Booktubing/book blogging?

I’m not a Booktuber (whatever that is!) but I blog about books and writing and reading because it’s what I love to do more than anything else in the world. I think about little else but books, plots, stories, characters, creating worlds and people and situations, and when I’m not writing my own, I’m reading the visions of others. I blog about books because, basically, I know very little about anything else!

How do you react when you don’t like the end of a book?

Violently, usually. I have been known to slap books shut and fling them on the ground if I don’t get on with how they end! I’m told I mutter when I’m reading if I don’t like what’s happening, whereas I’m deathly silent – and totally focused – if I love what’s going on in the book. I don’t ever ‘assassinate’ books in public, or post (really, truly) nasty things about them, no matter how much they annoy me, but my nearest and dearest hear all about exactly how disappointing the book was, and I’m lucky that they put up with me so readily! Books are important to me, you see. When they end badly, it makes me mad.

And I’m a bit like the big green guy with the purple pants when I get mad.

How often have you taken a sneaky look at the back page of a book to see if it’s a happy ending?

Goodness me. I never do this. The very idea! *looks about, shiftily* One thing I do do, however, is read a book’s acknowledgements first, which are sometimes printed at the back of the book. If they are, then occasionally my eye will stray to the last few lines, but I’ve normally forgotten them by the time I actually get to the end, so there’s no harm done. Right? Right.

Thanks to Callum for the great post, and the inspiration! If anyone wants to take up these questions on their own blog, do let me know. I’m nosy. I’d love to know what your reading habits are like. It’s all in the name of scientific research!

Surprised by Books

This weekend, we spend some time with dear friends (and their darling little girl), which was very book-centric in the best possible way. I am far from being the only writer they know – and I’m very much on the bottom rung of the ladder of success in comparison to the others – and we are all big readers (including the darling little girl, of course). So, we talked about agents and book deals and academia and thesis-writing and books we love and Jane Austen and books for children and a whole heap of fabulousness.

Over the course of all this chit-chat, a book token was given by them to my husband as a gift. ‘There’s a bookshop in (local town)’, they told us. ‘And it’s open on Sundays. And there’s plenty of parking.’

Well.

We took our leave, and we trucked on down to this local town, and we sniffed out the bookshop, and – inevitably, dear readers – we went in.

We’d been warned that it only had a ‘small’ children’s section down at the back, so I was expecting maybe one bay of books, or a couple of shelves. However, I was met instead by five full bays, with more displays on the floor, and a whole wall of children’s picture books. This, of course, was ignoring the rest of the shop, which was just as cool. I immediately glued myself to the section in which I am most at home while my beloved went rummaging in the non-fiction sections.

But wait. Are you ready for this bit?

Between special offers and the generally excellent prices, I managed to purchase three books for the princely sum of twenty euro fifty cent, including (finally!) a replacement copy of my missing Stardust; now, my Gaiman collection is once more complete. Twenty euro! For three books! I practically danced to the register.

I was blown away not only by the great selection of books, the size of the children’s and YA section, the general appearance of the shop and the helpfulness of the staff, but also by the prices. I’m not a person who balks at the cost of books – I firmly believe they are objects worthy of a little expense (which is why I don’t buy very many any more, unfortunately) and that the knock-down prices offered by certain vendors, both online and off, are doing extraordinary harm to the book industry. Perhaps that’s a naïve viewpoint, but it’s mine, and it’s formed from years of experience. So, I like to buy books at full price where possible, in a bookshop – preferably, like this one was, an independent – and I don’t care that it costs more. For me, when it comes to book purchasing, cost is the least important factor, and I try to cut my coat to suit my cloth – in other words, I only buy books I really want, when I can. If I can’t afford something, I don’t even consider running to a piracy website and downloading an illegal free copy (because it’s infringing my ‘right to read’, apparently, to have copyright on books and actually, shock horror, charge money for them), or even downloading a legal, but dirt-cheap, copy; I just don’t feel that’s giving a fair deal to the people who worked hard to bring that book to the marketplace. If I can’t afford a book, I wait until I can. If a shop doesn’t have a book in stock, I wait for it to come in.

I think, sometimes, we’ve lost the art of waiting for stuff.

I’ve been looking for a copy of Stardust for ages – it’s funny how, even though Neil Gaiman is a writing superstar, not all his books are easy to find – but I wanted one, and so I persevered. Unfortunately the one I now have is the movie tie-in edition, which is a bit annoying because it makes me seem like an ‘ooh, look! There’s a lovely shiny movie! Let’s get the book and pretend we’ve been fans all along!’ type…

Ta-daa!

Ta-daa!

…but it’s better than being Stardust-less, and so I take what I can get. I will always miss my original copy, though, with its lovely (albeit Claire Danes-lite) cover art.

Gosh. Well this post started off being about the wonder of an undiscovered bookshop and has sort of devolved into a mini-rant about fair book pricing and copyright theft; I don’t mean to preach or sound ‘worthy’ or make anyone feel bad for their choices, so I’ll wrap it up here. My choices are mine, and I don’t judge anyone else for theirs (except those terrible people who run piracy websites and the equally terrible people who buy books from them while knowing they’re not sanctioned); I just worry about the future of the book industry, and my future choices as a consumer. I don’t want to live in a world without bookshops which take your breath away when you walk into them, and where just the right book is sitting, waiting for you to take it home. I don’t want to be a reader in a world where our only choice is to download the text to a screen. I don’t want to feel like, with every book I read, I’m hurting the industry and making writers work for nothing.

I’ll comfort myself with the thought that the bookshop we spent a happy hour in yesterday was full for most of the time we were there, and that our modest purchases were far from being the only ones put through the register. I hope, though, that our speed-obsessed, have-it-now society will start to slow down a little and realise that there are things worth waiting for, and worth paying a fair price for. Books, I feel, should definitely be included in those categories.

 

 

The Great Book Cull

It’s happening today, I’ve decided. I can’t put it off any more. Everything I hold dear is resting upon it – my sanity, my marriage, my peace of mind.

It’s time for a book cull.

My husband is the kindest and best of men, and among the most patient – he needs to be, with me. He knew when we got together that I had an addiction to books, but it has only really become clear in the last little while exactly how bad this addiction is. I don’t think he can really understand the logic in me buying more books when there’s still an unread pile waiting for me; to this, I say there is no logic. It’s just the way I do things. I don’t have to read books in the order in which I buy them – if I see a book I’d like, or one I’ve been waiting for, or the next instalment in a series, or even just a pretty cover (I’m a sucker for a pretty cover), I’m going to buy it even if it means I’ll read the new one before one I already own. I refuse to believe I’m the only person who does this, but I’ve finally begun to realise how maddening it must be to live with someone like me.

As a girl, I had books in every conceivable nook and cranny. Every drawer was piled with books, lying flat like babies in cradles; instead of socks in my sock drawer, I kept my Austens and Brontes. I had stacks of books in the end of my wardrobe, where most self-respecting teenage girls keep their shoe collection, and every inch of shelf space was taken up with displaying my Terry Pratchetts. Not for me the gew-gaws and trinkets of the average female teenage-hood – I had no interest (well, besides the occasional candle; I’m also a bit of a candle-freak). It’s been books, books, books all the way for me, for as long as I can remember. I think my parents were delighted to be rid of me, in many respects, once I grew old enough to move out of their house – the beams were probably just this close to snapping under the weight of my library.

I gathered a whole pile of books around me during college, too – I reminded myself of Smaug, except it was paper I hoarded instead of gold. Where we differed was that, of course, I loved and cherished (and made use of) my books, whereas Smaug just jealously guarded his gold, without making any use of it, besides as a bed. Plus, of course, he’s a fictional dragon and I’m… not.

Smaug the dragon sitting on a pile of gold

I couldn’t help buying books, and I still can’t. It almost makes me feel guilty to leave a bookshop without parting from money, even just a small amount. It has happened that I’ve managed to enter a bookshop and leave it empty-handed, but so rarely that I can probably recall each episode off the top of my head. When I was young, and at university, and my time and (cramped) space was my own, I could buy all the books I wanted. There was nobody there to raise their eyebrow at me in a slightly disapproving way when I came home with yet another tome, and if my housemates were annoyed by my piles of books in our rented living room, they never said anything (not to me, at least). The only time my collection ever caused me any trouble was when the time came to move house, which did happen a few times during my younger years. But, just as a parent doesn’t leave a child behind when they move house, no book was left behind by me. I managed. It’s what I do.

Now, I’m living in my forever-home. There aren’t going to be any more moves. My books are where they’re going to be for the rest of their natural life. But, it’s starting to come to the point where we can’t open our living room door because there’s a pile of paper behind it, refusing us access. Luckily, we don’t have an attic, because if we did, my books would have crushed us in our bed long ago. We’re the only people I know of who have a bookcase in their downstairs loo. I mean, some people have a pile of magazines in their downstairs loo, and maybe a few books piled in the window-sill, funnies to pass the time, that sort of thing. We have an actual full-size bookcase, with all the Penguin and Oxford Classics on the top shelves, followed by an assortment of novels and Norton Anthologies, children’s books and historical fiction, even The Onion Annual from 2005. Nobody really needs any of this stuff, but it’s there.

About six months ago, we had the first book cull. It was akin to self-flagellation, for me; I did it, but I really didn’t want to. However, even I can admit that I made a bit of a pathetic effort – my husband cleared out a lot more of his old stuff than I did of mine. But now, even I have begun to eye up our bookshelves more critically, asking myself if I really need all this stuff. I don’t, of course – I just have an emotional connection to most of the books I’m hanging on to from college, for instance. I’m never going to read ‘Deformed Discourse: The Function of the Monster in Mediaeval Thought and Literature’ ever again (in fact, I’m not sure I even read it the first time), and so it should really be encouraged into the cull-box, ready to begin its new life in our shed, and – at some future point – to take pride of place in a second-hand bookshop somewhere. I know that if I’m to be allowed to continue with my book buying, that we need space to put them away; I know that I can’t help buying books, and that we don’t have an infinite house; so, therefore, the conclusion is inescapable. Some of them will just have to go.

Just because I know it can’t be helped doesn’t make it any easier, though. Let’s hope I manage to clear more than one shelf before I break down in agonised tears, swearing to the books that of course I’m not going to throw them away – that can’t happen again!

Wish me luck… and happy Tuesday to you!