Part 1: Heartbroken Environmentalist
Some time ago I started to delve into the world of books on Instagram, where I see so many people happily posting the stacks of new books they just bought. Shiny, brand new books.
As an environmentalist, it hurts my heart. I have always had this inner conflict when buying new things in general. This is why I don’t do it often and find incredible joy in searching second-hand store bookshelves.
We live in a society of overproduction, overconsumption, and the constant need for new things to stay relevant and fill some holes that can not be filled by buying stuff. Readers may say they are better than that because books are different from the newest smartphone or trendy clothes. They contain knowledge … blablabla. They are still things that most use for only the time they are read and then put on a shelf to gather dust. If they are even read first.
That’s just the snobby version of fast fashion. And we really need forests. Not saying no new books at all, but there must be a middle ground.
Pictured is the outcome of a visit to Uuskasutuskeskus (Reuse Centre). Books, I would probably never have discovered in a bookstore (except for Matt Haig maybe). A quick note about them:
- The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber I bought, let’s be honest, because of the cover. It was not my cup of tea. Too much religious stuff and not really enough depth in the characters for my taste.
- The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe has become one of my all-time favourite books!
- The Humans by Matt Haig was probably the most obvious one to buy because I have read his work before and liked this one just as much.
- Goldilocks by Laura Lam was nothing too special for me, but still a captivating sci-fi book by an author I did not know and will keep my eyes open for in the future.
Part 2: There is a way!
There are so many great ways to reduce new book buying and be happy in the process – even if you are not into browsing libraries. Ask friends to lend you their favourite books, shop second-hand, discover what your family has at home, and find a book exchange group or page.
Some of my all-time favourites were lent to me by friends or came from the Reuse Centre.
I guess I buy about one brand-new book a month or a bit less. Depending on how many books come out that I have been waiting for.
I do buy new books as well, but only:
- Additions to series I am desperate to read (always waiting a year longer to buy the smaller-sized paperback, and the wait for the last book in The Expanse series is killing me)
- Books by less popular authors that I will probably never find in a second-hand bookstore or on a book exchange page.
- Non-fiction that I need for work.
At any given moment I own about 250 to 300 books, of which a quarter are new ones. All new books I buy, I read within the week. Usually starting the same day I bought them.
Also, of course, I love browsing bookstores every now and then and I try to support independent stores.
There is a wonderful initiative in Estonia – Raamatuvahetus, where books are exchanged through a website all over the country.
Pictured are: 20 books I rated 5 stars on Goodreads in 2021. The ones I bought second-hand or got from Raamatuvahetus are on the right, and new ones on the left. The piles are the same height because the new ones I bought knowing I will love them and the used ones are absolutely wonderful discoveries that I would not have noticed in a regular bookstore.
Part 3: Love and appreciation of the old.
I love second-hand books, and these are the reasons why:
- As mentioned – our planet is fucked up. We produce way too much stuff and use it for way to short of a time span. It feels good not to consume new things if it is not necessary.
- I love to discover used books from totally random second-hand stores that happen to have a book corner. There I will go crazy. I mean 50 cents for a book, give me five, please!
- Also, those are the places to discover books you may never have found.
- Notes and underlined sentences by the previous owner of a book give it a whole other layer of meaning. I love it. I once, for example, found a book on anxiety that had a bunch of notes that expressed the hatred of the previous reader towards the book. Anxious notes in a book about taming the beast called anxiety.
- Things you find in used books – mostly interesting bookmarks and quite a few transportation tickets.
- The joy of sending the same book on another round.It was cheap, it gave you something new, but you have no trouble giving it away.
- Every second-hand book comes with a story of how you discovered it 🙂
- The absolutely pure joy of finding a book you have wanted to read in perfect shape in a random place and super cheap!
Pictured is the way too-high stack with most of my second-hand and book exchange discoveries that were waiting to be read in 2021. Some I have read. A few are still waiting. Some (read and unread) I have given away or are sold here. Hopefully, you will find you in some of the books I did not get around to reading or read, and left some notes in 😉