Category Archives: No More Books

A photo of my bookshelves

Why I Got Rid of My Books

I’ve been getting rid of my books. Phew. It feels good to get that off my chest. But let me explain.

Books have always been more than the paper and ink they’re made of. Each one was a vessel for the story or information within. So I was greedy for books, hoarding them like Smaug’s treasure. I loved books, treasured them, rereading them and treating them like they were my own, my love, my precious. I’m mixing Middle Earth metaphors here, but the principle is in there somewhere. I loved books, and I couldn’t get enough of them.

Ebooks have changed all that.

Books have almost become a nuisance to me. Reading a paperback means carting it around everywhere I go. I invariably forget it one day and, rather than go without reading, I get my grubby mitts on the ebook, either by buying it from Amazon or borrowing it from my local library. Of course, this means I later have to rummage through the paperback to find the point that I got to. This repeats for a day or two until I give up and just read the ebook.

So, to return to my Smaug metaphor, I no longer slept on my hoard of treasure. My loot was going dusty and unloved. So I took the plunge. I got rid of my books. The only ones I’ve kept are those I just can’t let go of: reference volumes I’m still using, books with cover art that I like, and books with sentimental value.

I used to have a thousand books. Now I have a fraction of that number. My shelves look great; I’ve got room to display my books properly, so I can see the cover art I love so much. And I’m not hoarding all those stories anymore. Instead I’ve shared the wealth so that other people can enjoy it.

If you’re throwing holy water at your screen and ordering me an exorcist, don’t worry; I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of my books entirely. And, to prove my love for books is still real, here are my top ten physical books.

  1. Ender’s Game – this Orion edition was a gift from my Aunt Judi, and I went on to enjoy all three of the follow-ups (all of which I’ve kept).
  2. Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Quest – although I have the ebook editions, I’ve kept the first two Fitz trilogies purely for the gorgeous cover art by John Howe.
  3. Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice (and the sequels) – aside from the fact that they’re really good books, there’s something about the cover art I really like.
  4. Katharine Briggs’ Encyclopedia of Fairies – if you’ve read any of the Fair Folk series, you might know how many different fay it features, and they nearly all have their genesis in this fantastic book!
  5. Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Sandman’ series – I reread this recently and found it a little pretentious, but it still tells a marvelous story with beautiful art and it showed me that comics can be so much more than people in spandex hitting each other.
  6. Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife – this is one of the few books that somehow feels like it should be read in paper form.
  7. Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves – and this is one of the few books that can only be read in paper form. Seriously, it just would not work as an ebook.
  8. Timothy Zahn’s ‘Thrawn’ trilogy and Michael A. Stackpole’s ‘X-Wing’ series – these books have to be read in paper form because the publisher hasn’t bothered to create ebooks (and I have a soft spot for these Star Wars novels!)
  9. J R R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings – weird, given that I’ve never read the third book and I’m not even a big fan of the writing. But a self-respecting fantasy author needs a copy on his shelves. And I’ve actually got two now; one with John Howe’s beautiful cover art, and a hardback edition.
  10. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens – not because the paperback is especially pretty, not because I wouldn’t be happy to read the ebook, but because ebooks still struggle when it comes to footnotes; a sign that, as good as they are, ebooks aren’t perfect yet!

Ebooks have made the day-to-day process of reading easy and convenient. But a beautiful paperback or a gorgeous hardback can still turn my head. As great as ebooks are, there’ll always be a special place in my heart for physical books.

Why I Need to Stop Buying Books (Again)

I blame Ryan Colucci.

I’ve had a terrible weekend. In anticipation of a potential move, we’ve dedicated ourselves to a clear-out. And, as the only thing I really own is my book collection, that’s where I focused my efforts. But that wasn’t the terrible part.

Whilst rooting through my books I found Harbor Moon by Ryan Colucci et al. It was on the bottom shelf, out of sight and out of mind, and I’d forgotten about it. I didn’t want to put it back. It was about time I read it.

“I know,” says I. “I’ll put all my unread books on one shelf. That way there’ll all be in one place. They won’t get forgotten that way.” Except it wasn’t one shelf. Or two. I’m embarrassed to say it was five. Five shelves of unread books.

I’ve always known there are two types of book-buyers: readers and collectors. I always thought I was the former, but seeing almost an entire bookcase full of books I hadn’t read made me doubt myself. The sight of them was something of an accusation. All these books were made to be read and here I was keeping them prisoner, able only to show their spines. To be honest, the sight of them depressed me a little.

So it is that I’m resurrecting No More Books for 2014.

The idea is as simple as it was in 2012: to stop acquiring any new books until you’ve read some of the books you already own. There are only three golden rules to No More Books:

No buying.

No borrowing.

No rereading.

And only two exceptions:

Gifts – It’s rude to turn down a gift so this is okay. But no asking for books or getting a friend to buy one for you and calling it a gift. That’s cheating.

Research – If a book is absolutely needed for research purposes then a temporary pass may be granted by your personal NMB2014 committee. This committee is usually a somewhat patient and exasperated individual; family, friends, spouse, etc.

The only difference from 2012 is that, this time, you get to decide when it ends. You can take control of my life using the widget below. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work; you can head over to my Facebook page to cast your vote there!

If you’re suffering a similar plight, I’d love to hear from you. Are you a reader or a collector? Do you have too many unread books? And would you suggest joining me in Book-Buying Rehab? I wouldn’t say no to some company. Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

Year in Review: Books of 2012

With 2013 around the corner and that Mayan nonsense finally disproven once and for all, it’s time to look back at 2012. Of course, just as my review of 2011 was hardly timely, being unable to purchase new books means this is more a list of good books you’ve probably already heard of. But you should still read them. Here’s the best of No More Books 2012 (in no particular order):

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Purchased purely because of all the fuss being made over the series and read purely so I could watch said series, I must say I did really enjoy this. I found myself tearing through it. Martin manages to create an enormous and grounded world without needing to refer to maps or requiring you to memorise a thousand place names. It’s a remarkable feat. He draws characters well, too. I found myself very attached to a number of them (although perhaps not as many as he’d hoped; there’s dozens of viewpoint characters!)

It is very dark, however. The good guys never seem able to catch a break. That said, I’m not entirely certain who the good guys are.

Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer

This is the non-fiction I dream about. This is a book so fascinating, so endlessly interesting, that for weeks after finishing it I was talking about it to anyone who would listen. Parasites seem so uncommon in the Western world yet not only is this a mistaken belief but they have also had a much greater effect on us then we’d like to believe. Zimmer even puts forward a good argument to suggest that parasites helped create sex!

It’ll make your skin itch like crazy but, if you’re at all into science, you have to read this book.

Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb

I’m a big fan of Hobb’s Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies but I was unsure about this one. With different characters and a different setting, would I still enjoy her work?

I should never have doubted her. Hobb writes compelling characters and that’s what keeps you reading. Hero or villain, you want the characters to achieve their goals and you suffer when they don’t get them. And you suffer a lot, because Hobb seems to delight in torturing her characters. And it’s brilliantly entertaining.

The Woman In Black by Susan Hill

This is a marvellous story in the same vein as The Turn of the Screw. Just like James’ novel, Woman in Black is short and without filler, offering only a building tension that doesn’t explode into cheap imagery or easy scares. Instead it leaves you unsettled, even after you’ve put it down. It stays with you for a long time; the best sign possible for a ghost story.

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

I didn’t see the twist coming. There, I said it. I appear to be the only one but, even if I had predicted the ending, that wouldn’t stop me recommending this novel. Watson managed to write a touching novel that’s also a master class in the slow-build, the tension rising slowly but surely until I was tearing through the pages, desperate to get to the end.

So those are my top books of 2012. What were yours? Leave a comment and let me know.

Lessons From No More Books 2012

They said I’d never make it. Ten months without buying, borrowing or otherwise acquiring any new books? Popular opinion had me snapping and going on an Amazon binge within weeks. That or turning into a drooling fool (more so, that is).

But it’s almost here. The end of No More Books 2012. It’s not been easy. Nor has it been fun. And with my list of books to buy longer than it’s ever been, some people might be asking why I bothered. I asked myself that question many times but I believe it’s a good idea for any bookaholic. Here’s what No More Books has taught me:

1. Use Your Library.

Like most bookaholics, I buy books in the belief that I’ll read them one day. Of course, one day is only rarely today. Until that happens, you’re building up a library with only one member who never steps foot inside. But No More Books forced me to dust off that library card and wander the shelves.

2. There’s Too Many Of Them.

That said, I told myself 2013 would see the library almost exhausted. I was wrong. It won’t make a dent. And, as any character who says “there’s too many of them” is invariably caught and killed, expect my books to devour me any minute.

3. Who Needs New Books?

Why does someone with a burgeoning library of unread books need new ones anyway? No More Books has made me realise that, a lot of the time, buying books comes more from a collector’s mindset than anything else. And whilst owning books gives me pleasure, it’s a hollow joy if I’ll never have time to read them.

4. Kill The Impulse Buy.

It’s easy to rationalise impulse buying a book because society tells us that books are good. They’re educational, increase literacy and all that jazz. Society wants me to buy a book. How can I refuse?

But I’m not made of money and impulse buys can often become paperweights. No More Books stamps out the impulse to buy first and think later. Hopefully that habit will last and make me a more discerning shopper.

5. Discerning Shoppers Save Money.

In theory, anyway. I may or may not have significantly contributed to my DVD collection instead.

Think you’ll give No More Books a try? Or have these been the ravings of a madman? Let me know what you think in the comments.

No More Books 2012: Update

So I’m four months into No More Books 2012. Four months into a ten month stint in which I can neither buy nor borrow any books in an effort to read some of the ones I’ve got. I won’t lie, the first month was easy. But it’s getting harder now and giving up sounds all too tempting. Thus far I have resisted the following siren’s calls:

The Painted Man by Peter V Brett for £2. A friend of mine talks this book up no end, and I’d wanted to read it even before he started encouraging me. For £2 I’d have paid for it before I realised I’d picked it up.

Jamie’s Great Britain for £10. I’m not a big fan of celebrity chefs but I have a lot of time for Jamie Oliver, and this book is the source of the Empire Roast Chicken, which is my new favourite dish. It’s easy to make, tastes delicious, and it impresses the hell out of anyone you make it for.

The Concise Human Body Book for £5. I had a flick through and it looks like the reference book I’ve been after since I began writing. Knowledge of the human body, how it works and how it can go wrong seems pretty handy when you’re writing about human bodies.

I also spent an hour in a Waterstones which was bizarrely exciting and relaxing at the same time. I’m starting to think that I may have a problem. But I haven’t bought a single book since March, so I’m probably okay. For now.

The Most Important Books of the Year

It has begun: No More Books 2012. I can’t buy any books until 1st January 2013. So I’ve had the past two weeks to buy all the books I’ll buy this year. How did I do?

Pretty well, actually. I felt stocking up would undermine the result I’m hoping to achieve (to wit, reading the backlog of books I’ve built up). So I’ve only bought three books in that time. Three books in two weeks: it’s a personal best!

They were:

In Her Name: Empire by Michael R. Hicks. This looks like a good SF romp with lots of action. I picked it up because it was free, to be honest, but I’m looking forward to reading it.

Don’t Fear The Reaper by Michelle Muto. This was recommended to me by Airicka Phoenix on Twitter. A great title, a great cover and a great premise, Don’t Fear The Reaper is a dark paranormal young adult book that I can’t wait to read.

Last but not least is Charlotte Bronte’s World of Death by Robert Keefe. This is a book I found towards the end of my dissertation but didn’t have time to read. I’ve wanted it for ages and the thought of not being able to buy it for ten months was just not acceptable.

So that’s what I bought with my last two weeks of book-buying freedom. I’m sure it says something about me. I’m just not sure what.

Why I Shall Stop Buying Books

We book lovers are a funny lot. Most people buy a book because they want to read it. They might even take it home and read it that evening. But book lovers, or a lot of them, don’t do that. We’re collectors. We take it home and put it on the shelf. We’ll read it later.

There’s something satisfying about buying a book. Browsing the shelves (real and virtual), looking at the covers, reading the blurbs and the first few pages. Picking the books you’ll take home is almost like picking a new pet.

But this has led to a large number of books on the shelves that have never been read. Dozens. Dozens of dozens. That’s just too many. Time for action!

I hereby instigate No More Books 2012! From March 1st until December 31st I solemnly swear not to buy a single book. For that time I shall read only the books I’ve bought but never read.

There are a few rules, of course, namely:

• gifts are okay; it would just be rude to refuse a gift;
• no rereading books I’ve read before;
• when a book purchase is vital to research for a novel and cannot be delayed, an exemption may be granted by the NMB2012 committee (namely my patient girlfriend);
• borrowing books is cheating; the purpose is to read the backlog of books I already own.


Want to know how I got on? Check out the updates below:

The Most Important Books of the Year

No More Books 2012 Update

Lessons From No More Books 2012

Review of the Books of No More Books 2012

Am I a genius or a madman? Or simply misguided? Am I setting myself up for a spot on the evening news as “Man has breakdown in Waterstones”?