I used to have a gorgeous, antique bookshelf, lined with a collection of books I’d collected over a decade. To me, a bookshelf was the height of a home. It was a source of pride, a source of status. It was a cozy space for me to retreat.
I especially love the smell of a physical book, I love the weight of it, I love that you can escape into a book. And I particularly love that it doesn’t send you notifications every five minutes like a phone does.
I moved overseas for a couple of years, and in the move, I needed to give away as many books as I could, and I gave most to charity. A decade of collecting – now gone.
I never thought I’d be able to adapt to life without books. But the thing I realised is that just because I don’t own books, it doesn’t mean I have a life without books. I haven’t gotten rid of books in my life entirely. I’ve just changed how I access them.
So, with a clean slate, I decided to stop buying books. I have four books that I currently own, two of which were gifts.
The unexpected thing is that I actually don’t really miss my books, because I still feel surrounded by books.
Here’s how I still feel like I’m bursting at the seams with books, despite owning only a couple of real books.
I have written about my love of libraries, and I feel so lucky to have access to multiple libraries in my area. Once a month, I spend the day leisurely strolling up to the library and borrow a handful of books. Often, I borrow more books than I can go through.
The thing that I realised is that I don’t need to own a book to love it. And I don’t need a million books on my shelf. I just need one book that I’m currently reading. As long as I have a book or two on my bedside table, I feel satisfied.
The other thing I never expected is that a library gives me the courage to try new authors.
When I go to a bookstore and think I might like a book – it’s an expensive gamble. Twenty or thirty dollars for something you might not enjoy at all. So, it often meant that read only authours I knew that I liked, or had been recommended by someone.
The library? Not an issue. You can borrow a stack of books, and you can find new, amazing authors you never knew you would love. It’s made me a much more diverse reader because I don’t stick to the authors that I ‘know’ are good. I love that I can experiment and explore and try authours I’ve never heard of and read amazing stories.
I’ve been listening to audiobooks for quite a few years, and I love the medium. Some books – especially if they are set internationally and the voice actor has an amazing foreign accent – feels more like theatre.
For a long time I subscribed to Audible, but then I switched to just accessing the audiobooks my local library has. Most have an audiobook app that syncs with your library card and lets you borrow audiobooks from home.
For those lucky ducks living in NSW in Australia, you can join any library in the state, which means you have access to thousands of audiobooks for free. Your nearest library might not have a big audiobook collection, but another library a few doors down might.
Again, the aforementioned love of libraries means I can listen to new authors, too!
I had always thought that if you used a kindle, you needed to abandon paper books. You’re in the paper camp, or the kindle camp. But actually, I can do both.
I love having a book I can carry with me every day due to the lightness of the Kindle, but I love curling up with a paper novel before bed with its comforting weight and smell. Like the girl in the Old El Paso ad says: “¿Porque no los dos?”. Why not both?
I was given a kindle for my birthday last year, and while I don’t use it for every book I read, if there’s a book I really want and I can’t find it at the library, I will buy a version for the kindle. And, Kindle books are generally half the price of a paper book, because there isn’t the cost of printing involved.
The cheapest kindles are around $70. If I buy the kindle and read three books on a kindle, that’s basically the same cost as three paperback books – and every book after that is half price. Sometimes spending a little more on a digital device, means you can spend less in the long run.
But, I still try to be smart about buying books: just because it’s half price on Kindle, doesn’t mean there isn’t a free version of that book at your library to check for first.
Pro tip: I have a plugin on my web browser, which tells me if the books that I’m browsing on amazon are available at my local library. It’s pretty amazing.
Book Swap Party
Don’t overlook the resources you have in your community already. Your friends have books. You have books. Why not have a book swap party? Everyone brings three books to lend to friends, and you swap them.
Pop a post-it note on the front cover with the name and number of whose book it is originally, so one day it might work its way back to them!
It’s a great way to connect with your friends and experience new books too.
A book-rich life
Books have always been a massive part of my life, and something I thought I’d never thought I could do without. But, since moving overseas and being forced to cut down my possessions, I’m now living a more minimalist life, I’m happy to report, does not mean a lack of books at all.
For me, it has actually led to more exciting authors, because I have more opportunities to read authors I’ve not tried before. It means connecting with friends about books you didn’t know you had in common. It means becoming a stronger part of my local community by using the library.
And, to be honest, I can’t think of a single book from my old bookshelf that I’ve missed not having. Like a film, you experience it, so not owning a physical copy does not dimish the book’s power, because I carry that book’s experience with me.
In the end, I find that I treat books a little more lightly. These books dance in and out of my life, not to be caged on a bookshelf, waiting to be read ‘one day’, or stuck on a shelf for display. I live and breathe and share these books – so my connection to them is much more vibrant than before.
What are you up to this weekend? Why not take a leisurely stroll to your local library and find an authour you’ve never read?