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This Is (Not) What You Came For

A photograph of Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake - I left with just this book, the one I'd wanted

There have been many times when I’ve gone into a shop and left with a different book than the one I went in to buy. It’s a common situation; one of two things happen: 1) the book you went in to buy isn’t in stock and you see another book whether through browsing or because you’re looking at your wishlist items or – a reader’s personal favourite? – you’ve just seen it for the first time, right then, and make a random purchase; 2) you get the book you went in for as well as a few others you may have remembered you wanted or picked up on the fly.

It’s a situation that will happen at a library, too, but of course the library factor means it’s easier – it’s free, you’re kind of ‘meant’ to take a few books, and if you’re a bit impulsive it’s fine. You might not have ever known of the book if you hadn’t got carried away and doing so can yield gems. And add to the reading load.

However, whilst I’ve done it many times, I’ve not done it recently. I’m well aware I’ve enough books that, were I to not receive any more, would keep me going for a year and a half. (I was surprised to find my book count was at the lower end of the scale.) I’m also more focused on which books I want rather than acting on a whim, which isn’t much fun but is needed at the moment. I surprised Alice last year when I only picked up three books in the book heaven that is Brighton; it’s true I’ve not been acting like an avid reader lately!

But it’s something that can bring a lot of joy even if that’s often dependent on the random book choice being good. There’s something about picking up a random book, which I’ve spoken about before. And there’s just a different feeling when you go in to get a particular book and then leave than when you’re browsing with the idea of letting your browse show you what you can get. A feeling that incorporates the feeling that you’re using the bookshop properly, if that makes sense. The library, also – especially the library, perhaps, considering the way so many are shutting down.

This has become a musings piece – there’s not much you can go on about the initial concept without spinning away from it – so over to you: how often do you let whim affect your time in bookshops and libraries and do you ever feel you’re adding needlessly to your to-be-read pile?



December 7, 2016, 4:13 am

I love bookstores and I love Amazon and I find it difficult to depart either with just one book. But I am capable of just window shopping. I think that ‘wish list’ option at Amazon has made that easier.

I really don’t worry about adding to my TBR pile. I do it because I want to and I’m optimistic I’ll get to everything eventually.

Lisbeth @ The Content Reader

December 7, 2016, 9:03 am

Well, I often find far too many books that I want to read, when browsing around a book shop. I am aware of the numbers on my TBR shelves, so try to be restrictive. Sometimes…alas, not very successfully. Libraries are good! I think they do not mind when you borrow a lot of books. You can always re-borrow! Summary: when it comes to books I find it difficult to be restrictive. Happy Reading 2017!


December 8, 2016, 5:13 pm

I have found that buying books means the kiss of death because no matter how much I want to read them they get pushed aside because there is no due date attached to them. So I have almost stopped buying books and get them from the library. My library requests and sometimes deliberate but very often made on a sudden whim because of a blog or book review or interview I heard on the radio. At least if I don’t manage to read them by the due date I don’t feel guilty having them sit around forever :)

April Munday

December 9, 2016, 11:29 am

I track books bought and read in a year on Goodreads and this year I bought more books than I read, so I have a problem.

I’ve always been a buyer rather than a borrower of books, although I borrowed when I couldn’t afford to buy. It helped that there was a library at the bottom of our road for most of my childhood, but all of my pocket money went on books.

I do know that I’ve got a problem and limit myself when I go into Waterstones (the only bookshop left in walking distance). I only look in the history section and don’t always buy a book (or three). But those Thursday evenings at Notes will be my undoing.

Laurie @ RelevantObscurity

December 9, 2016, 8:21 pm

I have a wonderful city library where I go to almost every Friday to get purposely “whimed.” :) I mostly choose my nonfiction from the ‘just released’ shelves where I spend a happy Saturday lapping them up.

I admit that unless I am researching a specific topic where I would be looking for books on that subject, I look forward to whatever my library board brings to the shelves.


December 22, 2016, 2:39 pm

Kelly: I think the key to getting to books is to prioritise… and I say that whilst totally aware I’m no good at doing that myself.

Lisbeth: Hehe! Yes, libraries want you to borrow lots; it’s down to you to remember to keep to your TBR unless you want to add to it – again, I’m rubbish at that!

Stefanie: Yes to that. There is a lot of good in libraries and scheduled reviews in that way – thinking of libraries here in the long waiting list context, where you can’t borrow it again for a bit. That’s true – you have to give the library book back, it can’t sit aroud, though you can at least get a sense, from having it there, as to whether it’s a book you’d like to return to.

April: That’s an excellent idea, tracking books bought and read. I borrowed a lot of books in childhood, a lot less so now because of that renovation. That history section is pretty good, though I miss the basement with the staircase, you know the one. Even more history there. *Decides keeping quiet about those Thursdays is probably the best thing…*

Laurie: That’s fab! Do you find it easier to borrow books for longer from the non-fiction section?



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