Thursday, March 27, 2008

Buy Just One Book Year

I broke the Buy Nothing rules this week and bought a book. Although it wasn’t technically breaking the rules, because I knew before I started the Buy Nothing Year that I would buy one book, because I had a coupon from the local, independent bookstore for $13.95 (the average price of the last 10 books I bought), which is money you just can’t throw away. I saw this book reviewed in a magazine and thought that it would be a good choice for my book purchase—something educational, that the whole family might enjoy, that might be hard to find in the library system, that you might want to have around as a reference. And I’ve always wanted to know what insects make all those buzzy little noises all summer long.

This week was also parent-teacher conferences at M’s school, the week that the library holds its twice-yearly Scholastic book fair. While I totally support the library’s efforts to raise money and expand its collection, I don’t really care for the book fair. The Scholastic books, while containing some classics, are overwhelmingly commercial, with many toy-, movie-, or TV-based books and racks of posters, erasers, toys and other not-exacly-book-like items. At the first book fair when M was in kindergarten, I bought a book for each kid, because I love books. At the next one, I just bought a book for M. At the fair in November, M and I negotiated a deal where we each paid for half of a Bone graphic novel, and C bought him a book on dragons. This week, I didn’t even enter the library when I went to M’s conference.

But yesterday morning, he asked me if he could check out his wallet (after I found out he had it at school, with $63 inside, I started to keep it on a high shelf during the week and allow him to “check it out” when he needs it) so he could take some money to buy books. He took $20 and bought another Bone book and two Captain Underpants books. This morning he asked for more money so he could buy two more books—another Captain Underpants and a how to draw Justice League characters book. I offered to give him an advance on his $1 allowance, plus another dollar and suggested he ask C for an advance on his half of the allowance. With that and his $2 change, he would be able to choose one of the books to buy. I also mentioned the possibility of finding one of the books at the library or at a used book store. He showed me the new book, with the smooth, shiny cover, “I only want books that look like that.”

I’m delighted that M has decided to use his cash to buy books, instead of cheap plastic toys. Last fall he spent all his money on Matchbox pop-up sets that he rarely plays with (but prevents his brothers from playing with at all costs). The books are an improvement, in my opinion. But still…there’s that sense of amassing stuff, without valuing what you have that still pervades (read the two Captain Underpants you have, then worry about getting the next one…). Of course I don’t have a leg to stand on, with shelves and shelves of books I’ve read once, or I mean to read someday. Returning to the fold of the library has been liberating in many ways…I can greedily read as many books as I can squeeze in during my limited down-time, without having to pay for them or find shelf space. But I do have to do it within the library’s time limit, and some books I want to read, I just can’t get, even through interlibrary loan. And then there’s The Songs of Insects, which is the only new book I will buy in a 12-month period, and it’s really silly, because, having listened to only half of the CD so far and glanced through the book, all of the crickets sound the same or markedly similar, and I’m not entirely sure how you tell a grasshopper, from a katydid, from a cricket (these, apparently, are the families of singing insects, along with cicadas).

I have visions of exploring the pages of huge, clear insect photos with the kids, and racing home after we hear a chirr in the grass, if summer ever returns, and putting on the CD to figure out which bug it is. Maybe it will give us all a greater appreciation for nature. Although I’ve bought yoga books before, in the hopes that they’ll make me do more yoga, and meditation books with the hope that they’ll make me meditate, or cookbooks, hoping they’ll cause me to cook delicious meals, when really only actually doing yoga will get me doing yoga, or meditating will make me meditate or cooking will get me cooking. And only getting out in nature, looking at and listening to the bugs will get us in touch with nature.


  1. Books are definitely my #1 buying weakness. If I were to attempt a 'buy nothing' year (which I think I am far away from right now), the book thing would be tough. I do, however, feel virtuous when I use the library,

  2. Speaking of books, I'd love to send you my copy of Road Map to Holland. Just send me an email. I'm okaybyme at gmail dot com


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