Zero Spending

Bookshelves upon bookshelves when we had the painters in.

Overlapping & sagging laminate bookshelves.

Like Susan Hill, the author of Howards End Is on the Landing, I should spend a year reading only books I own.

I like the idea of zero spending.

Well, perhaps an iced coffee here, a paperback there.

Here’s the thing.

In London I got in the habit of using credit cards instead of money.  The relationship of the credit card to money is like the relationship of the e-book to the book.  What’s real and what’s not? Who knows? How many books did I buy?  I tucked my receipts in a folder and decided to calculate it later. Turns out I only spent $400 on books, including shipping.

High five!

But I have continued absent-mindedly to use my cards in the U.S.

I thought I had an instinctive feeling for low spending.

And then I got this month’s bills.  Between Amazon and Barnes and Noble…

If you have Amazon Prime, you know the temptation of shopping at Amazon.  Two-day free shipping.  When I absolutely must have Volume I of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, I order it from Amazon.

There is also the temptation of buying on the Nook.  There you are–you want to read Peyton Place when you have insomnia–so you click on Buy, and you have it.

All right.

I CAN’T spend so much money.

I have to turn off the money-spending thing.

I’m not getting rid of my cards.

There are other options.  I have read a surprising number of books in our huge home library (“Please let’s just open a bookstore,” my husband says), but there are hundreds I haven’t gotten around to.

Then there’s the public library if you’re not too fussy.  Ours is not the best,  but you can check out what I call a “library” read–one of the  latest books that won’t be the latest in six months.

Some people worry about privacy at libraries.  Records of internet searches, etc.  Now that we know about the NSA, who cares?  Well, we do care.   One librarian I know rudely tried to define a friend’s character by the books she checked out. “Mainly mysteries,”  she said scornfully.  (For all she knows, this person Is BUYING most of her books, like us.)

So let’s just say not all librarians have taken a vow of silence.

Some librarians are passionate about civil liberties, others will sell out their patrons.   I wish they were all like the small-town librarian in Alice Hoffman’s novel, The Ice Queen.

The Ames public library is excellent about protecting your privacy: for years they have put the books on reserve in envelopes.

It’s not that I check out anything outlandish.  Right now I have Jorge Amado’s Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, but what if that’s a controversial book?  South American, hm?  Could be, right?

One thing I like very much about my cousin the librarian is that she never reveals what the patrons are reading (except me:  she gets a kick out of posting on Facebook when I reread Villette.   “She is reading the V book again.”).

I plan to limit myself to buying only a book a week for the rest of the summer.

I’m avoiding book reviews and reading the trashy book news instead.

Yes, some of it really IS trashy.

Perhaps if I never read any book reviews or book news…