How to Support a Book Habit, Part 2


Since we've already covered How to Choose a Book and How to Find Time to Read, it's now time to get down to the nitty gritty.

How to Support Your Book Habit without Breaking the Bank:

First, you would do well to note the Reader's Prime Directive:

Never pay for books unless absolutely forced to do so.

Let's face it: like any habit, marathon reading can prove quite pricey. Even if you were only to read one book per week, the charges would really add up. 

After a bit of impromptu math, I discovered that based their list prices, last week's books alone should have cost me $83.19. 

At that rate, I'd be looking at an annual reading budget of $4,325.88!

In reality, though, last week's reading cost me next to nothing, mostly because I've learned to make use of every single book-borrowing system available to me:

  • Public Libraries - With the added benefit of inter-library loans, you can get your hands on a huge segment of your to-read list. Granted, holding periods are sometimes involved. No systems are perfect. But with the added benefit of being able to wander the stacks aimlessly, stumbling across gems we never would have intentionally searched for, the benefits of libraries far outweigh any small criticisms that we might offer. If not for one of those serendipitous moments among the shelves, I would never have stumbled upon Ann Rule and succumbed to the siren's song of the True Crime genre.
  • Friends/family/acquaintances - Developing a network of like-minded reading friends means that you'll rarely be in want of either reading recommendations or copies of the books themselves. I generally keep a Borrowed Book stack, which rarely collects dust due to the constant state of flux. Only because of an opportune loan from a trusted friend did I fall in love with Alan Bradley's pint-sized poisoner Flavia de Luce and the entire constellation of characters orbiting her self-absorbed little world.  
  • E-reader loans - Although the technological aspect seems tricky to a few readers, and some publishers have put various limits on whether or not certain e-books can be shared, the fact remains that many books can be loaned among devices. Granted, many of the books I've actually wanted to share haven't been share-able. But perhaps your luck will be better than mine.
  • Netgalley - Publishers, readers, and authors all benefit from sites like Netgalley, which provide advanced copies of soon-to-be-published books to teachers, bloggers, and other professionals. It's through the wonder of Netgalley that I've already lost my heart (and tiny, shredded bits of my soul) to Elizabeth Wein's soon-to-be-released Rose Under Fire. (*sob!*)

Every once in a while, though, for one reason or another, a book does need to be purchased. For one thing, you can't always find what you're looking for, even in the extensive public library systems or among the private collections of friends. 

In such desperate cases, when you absolutely must acquire a book, ask yourself the following series of questions:

  • Can I buy it used?
  • Should I download a cheaper e-book version?
  • Can I possibly wait until the next birthday/holiday and request it as a gift?

Of course, these principles aren't ironclad. There are certain exceptions that necessitate spending a little hard-earned cash, such as any time Connie Willis publishes something in the Oxford Time Travel sequence (as the row of pristine hardbacks across the room can attest. Such an event not only justifies shelling out full price for a hardback but also completely warrants pre-ordering). 

The point is this: supporting a reading habit can be expensive, but you won't necessarily have to give up the necessities of life in order to support your obsession.

Unless, that is, you want to.

Classical scholar Desiderius Erasmus, in writing to a friend about his intent to study Greek, once stated, "Ad Graecas literas totum animum applicui; statimque, ut pecuniam acceptero, Graecos primum autores, deinde vestes emam," which probably doesn't mean much to most of us. In English this translates to, "I have turned my entire attention to Greek. The first thing I shall do, as soon as the money arrives, is to buy some Greek authors; after that, I shall buy clothes."

This sentiment is most often quoted in variant form, thus: 

"When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes."

We get you, Erasmus.

We really, really do.



  1. You left out one important viable option ... steal it.

    Thank you Ruthette.

  2. A few more options for your loyal readers: This is perfect if you have extra books lying around that you no longer want - for each book you mail to someone else, you get to choose one book to have mailed to you.

    Library booksales/rummage sales/jumbles/creepy dark bookshops: yes, it can be a bit of a mess to sort through the mass of junk titles, but sometimes you find a gem for pennies.


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