Broken resolve

Huh! It’s a couple of days into January and I’ve already broken my blogging New Year resolution.

You know, the resolution I declared on 31st December 2019 that I would not to do any bookish challenges for 2020. Here on this very blog.

What a loser, fallen at the first hurdle! And what is this heinous oath-breaking I’ve committed? You’ll gasp with shock when you’re told. It’s — I can barely bear to say it — something that will freeze the blood of every bibliophile who ever tremblingly anticipated entering a bookshop, taking a book off a shelf, opening it …

Charity shop shelfie, Bristol

I’ve resolved to see how long I can go in 2020 without acquiring a new book.

It’s genuinely distressing, is it not? How can any human, let alone a booklover, subject themselves to such torture, however would they survive such an assault on their equilibrium, how indeed could they submit to such intellectual impoverishment?

But you understand, don’t you. You’ll have reached a stage before now when your rate of discarding was overtaken by the rate of yielding to temptation. You’ve seen yourself shamefacedly placing books lengthways across neatly packed vertical books when you’d run out of shelf space. You’ve doubtless succumbed to using cardboard boxes as temporary storage, pretending they were intended as containers to take surplus books to the charity shop.

You have, haven’t you, overconsumed — go on, admit it. It isn’t just me, is it?

So, what now? Well, I’m going to rely only on books I’ve hoarded, squirreled away, saved for a rainy day. I’m going to pretend the rainy day has in fact come — as many of you can vouch for — and I shall explore and discover what treasures I’ve kept, in many cases from last century, unbeknown to me, neglected and forlorn for two or possibly three house moves.

And I shall try not to break this resolution for, oooh, quite a few days.


By the way, library books don’t count, do they?

65 thoughts on “Broken resolve

        1. Thank you. 😊 I gather that bibliomania isn’t yet on the list of certifiable diseases, but it’s likely that — apart from a build-up of some kind of natural immunity — there is no known cure, and unlikely to ever be.

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        1. I was (still am) on the committee of the Friends of our local library to save it from closure by Powys. With support from the local high school and a smart chair of the Friends it’s still up and running but of course one can never say anything’s ‘forever’. So I continue to support it by keeping the book issue figures healthy.

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          1. The closure of libraries and loss of professional librarians is just one of many signs of the lack of understanding of human society by our government. But don’t get me onto politics – I steer clear of it for StillWalks even though, in itself, it takes an indirect political / social stance. Keep up the good work in Crickhowell 😊👍

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            1. I like to think my comments on and choice of many books here clearly indicate my general political stance, too, even if I didn’t express my strong feelings in the occasional overtly opinionated post! I certainly think your walk posts are vocal in their espousal of green issues, a love of nature and your attitudes towards both good and bad aspects of the urban environment.

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          2. I hope Powys proves more enlightened that their counterparts in the Vale of Glamorgan. I took them to the High Court to save our library – sadly we didn’t win so our library became a volunteer run place. It’s still operating which is great but its so hard for them to raise the funds every year just to keep the lights on

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            1. I don’t think any council in financially straitened circumstances — even those with the best of their constituency’s intentions — can afford to be enlightened about libraries. Crickhowell’s was earmarked for closure if the Friends and the high school hadn’t acted: it saved Powys the cost of maintaining the building at least. Until the next round of cuts…

              I’m sorry to hear of your experience with the Vale of Glamorgan. It’s so shortsighted in terms of social cohesion to shut libraries, and ultimately ‘saves’ so little money, which would then have to be spent shoring up the knock-on effects on the community.

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            2. Short sighted is a good way of describing the attitude. I keep arguing with the council that they are cutting essential services while continuing to fund ‘nice to have’ things like free wifi for visitors to Barry Island or free ipads for all councillors

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  1. I am trying very hard to be good about shopping–no going near bookshops for a while and not clicking on online sale things–luckily the titles I want are not on sale, and the lists from the local amazon here these days seem to have plenty of exam preparatory material on top which helps me pretend the entire list will be the same 🙂

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    1. The mind games we willingly play with ourselves, Mallika, and the fallacies we deliberately subscribe to! Ah well, I see them as emanations from creative, artistic brains, that’s a fully justified way of looking at this conundrum, isn’t it?

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        1. No, I was very good, just one book — in a Waterstone’s sale — by an acquaintance on Arthurian placenames in Wales which I’ve been keen to get ever since I knew it had been published. Well, I was wanting to be supportive, nothing to do with any suggestion that I am obsessive on certain topics…

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  2. That’s a really tough resolve, Chris! I’ve managed for three months at a time, which was a good experience – but long enough for me! Good luck, and don’t feel too bad if you fall off the wagon.

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    1. Thanks for modelling restraint, Lory! Luckily any residual feelings of guilt imbibed from childhood have dispersed so it’s just a sense of achievement to see how long I’ll last — and I’ll continue to haunt bookshops to test that resolve!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sandra, I’ll accept any luck that’s on offer. (And the resolution doesn’t include books received as gifts, naturally: I was given the latest Pullman as a belated Christmas present a couple of days ago.)

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        1. I did watch it, Sandra, and I thought the script, production and acting both moving and faithful to the spirit of the trilogy as far as it went. We felt really bereft when the last episode ended. I caught the fourth of five instalments of the radio reading of The Secret Commonwealth in the car, and now can’t wait to read the whole thing for myself! (Except I’ll have to wait, I’ve three books on the go already and a fourth which I want to complete before the end of January! So much for not challenging myself…)

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          1. I still have the final two episodes to catch up on, having been pulled away by the necessities of preparing for a houseful over Christmas. I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen so far. For reasons lost in obscurity, I have never got on with Pullman’s writing. I tried and gave up very quickly. I’m now very keen to read the books for myself, but like you I have far too many books on the go right now. My tentative plan for the year is barely off the starting blocks which means I shall hopefully slot his books in at some point in 2020. Famous last words!

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            1. He’s a passionate man, but his writing (and his tweets) can come over as cold and hard, even angry. I think that factual side to his writing can (and no doubt has) put many readers off, but he is capable of poetic descriptions which are simultaneously subtle and incisive, and there is often an immediacy which I admire.

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  3. Lol! I have a general rule that if my “to be read” pile next to my bed starts getting in the way of me opening my wardrobe I stop buying and read until I can open it again (The fact that I have another “to be read” pile in the living room is irrelevant!)

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      1. There’s no more room on my shelves 😊 . I was trying to put away some finished books just after Christmas and couldn’t get them in edgewise! I’m now thinking tentatively of some more shelves for fiction but I don’t know where to put them. I will go through my books first and see if these are any I can bear to lose. I recently did the fiction section and only gave 2 books to charity. I think I might have to make another fiction section in the living room, which is a pain because that room is supposed to be non-fiction!

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    1. I’ve tried, and discovered I just can’t. Our son gave me a Kindle five or so years ago and apart from a collection of short stories penned by a friend I never completed any of the books I’d downloaded: the slim device has sat unloved on a shelf since we moved house in 2014.

      Even though I’m on my phone a lot — I even compose all my blog posts almost exclusively on it now — I am a sensualist when it comes to narratives and relish smell, feel, appearance, even the scent of physical books. And the space they take up on the shelves of course: they’re warm and comforting in the way an ereader or smartphone can never be.

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      1. I don’t love reading on a device, but if I am impatient to get hold of a book I resort to it. I do love a book in my hand but between us we are beginning to feel oppressed by them. Music teaching books, economics books, Chinese texts…all now surplus to requirements and needing to be disposed of.

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        1. I can understand the impatience! As for oppressiveness, I empathise: walls can look naked without pictures or books, but the worry comes with imbalance — I confess to being slightly depressed by untidy piles of reading matter stacking up from inefficiency and laziness on my part. There’s the casual scatter of books, artfully placed, and there’s mess!

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          1. I’m a convert to audiobooks. It’s a completely different experience. Just listening to Orwell’s Road To Wigan Pier and getting much more from it than I ever did before.

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  4. I wish you luck in your endeavor! I’ve been making an unscientific effort on my part in recent years to read what I own and not acquire quite so freely. I’ve generally managed roughly to read at least two books I own for every new book brought in (and no, library books do not count!). I wish the ratio were higher but it is a tricky balance for us book lovers to maintain.

    It’s a little like dieting…sometimes I just get the urge to binge and library sales make that indulgence very easy.

    And I do agree with your comment above, I love the physicality of my books. I like admiring them, handling them, etc.. They really do furnish a room!

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    1. I’m not a fan of Marie Kendo’s extreme decluttering but I do approve your method of trying to limit new acquisitions, Ruthiella: ideally I’d like to rehome more than just one book for each fresh one I obtain, but alas I’m a bit of a magpie where literature is concerned, yes, even a bit of a binger! But frankly even I realise my book purchasing has got out of hand. Small steps…

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  5. Pingback: Readers will… ahem, buy books? | Silvia Cachia

  6. piotrek

    A terrifying challenge… I already have one Amazon package coming, I started limiting my acquisitions last year, but it’s been long enough since the last order and I had a few books on my list, waiting quite a long time 😉
    Still, I’ve only bought 56 books in 2019, while getting rid of around 200, and this year I’d love to go under 50…
    Good luck with your plan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You discarded 200?! That’s very impressive, Piotrek, but that of course depends on your baseline of books actually shelved. I’ve at least 1500, not much by your standards I rather think, but if I managed your rate of attrition I’d be well pleased!

      Liked by 1 person

          1. piotrek

            All of the above, actually… friends, Polish Ebay-equivalent, our local library system, and I actually had a box full of books out for a few months, most found new owners, I even saw one offered for sale on a local market 😉

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Ha ha ha! I laughed when I saw this because there isn’t a person reading your post who hasn’t overconsumed books and doesn’t battle the exact same problem (unless one of your readers owns a castle, of course). It’s a praiseworthy endeavour and I wish you well… and be pleased with yourself however long it lasts…

    I am currently kicking myself because I went to dig out my copy of Hannah Kent’s Burial Rights only to remember I had recently purged it to a charity shop in a burst of guilt at all the books creeping across the study floor at me (it IS a small floor, I tell myself). Bah!

    But I might try taking on your resolution too… I bought a book online a couple of days ago and for the life of me I can’t remember what it was so clearly a break must be had.

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    1. It’s Day Nine and I’ve managed so far very well, Helen, so hoping it’s not a Nine Day Wonder of a resolution! Mind you, I have wandered into the odd shop with books on the shelves, just to check there’s nothing I’m missing of course…
      Your experience ordering online is familiar — many the time’s when I’ve leapt excitedly on a much wanted volume only to find, when I got home, that I’d already leapt excitedly on another copy of the self-same book at some stage in the recent past. It’s a sign of something, I’m sure!

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      1. I’ve done that too! And I have to wonder how many (unread!) copies of The Unfortunate Traveller any home requires. (Why that book I cannot say.)

        Good for you, anyway!

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        1. I don’t mind spending the odd quid at a charity shop for a title I’d forgotten I already had, Helen, but I do resent it where a brand new book is concerned!

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  8. Well good luck with this! I did a similar thing a few years ago and managed 3 months which I was dead chuffed about. But then went and ruined it by buying even more books than I would have done in a normal period…….

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    1. Hah! We’ll see. I should have enough unread books and those to reread to last me another decade at least, even at the rate of five or so dozen titles a year.

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