The budget summer reading guide

The budget summer reading guide: how to read summer's hottest books without breaking the bank

Bookworm problems: if you want to read summer’s hot new books, it gets really expensive, really fast. New hardcovers run $18-$30 and even new ebooks are in the $10-$12 range, which means I can blow my summer book budget by the time school lets out.

That’s not gonna work. Here’s what to do instead:

1. Borrow.

I don’t buy a ton of books, to save room in the budget and on my bookshelves, so I love to borrow—from friends, from the library, from the Kindle Lending Library (with my Amazon prime membership).

Here are 27 books you can borrow for free from the Kindle lending library. (Pro: no waiting lists. Cons: limit one book per month, must have a Kindle and Amazon prime to use.)

Borrowing has its drawbacks, and this is the most painful: I am #88 in line for All the Light We Cannot See, #35 for The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, and #343 for The Invention of Wings (which, thankfully, I already bought, read, and gave away in the 5-Book Summer Reading Guide, but I forgot to delete my request).

2. Buy used.

Hit your local used bookstore (especially if you have old books to trade) or buy used online. Even Amazon has many nearly-new books available used. The shipping is more expensive, but it’s still worth it, especially if you order a few titles and combine shipping.

3. Try something new.

I love Audible.com and their iPhone app. Audible gets you started with a free book, which is how I got hooked. Try Audible now  and get that hot summer title with the mile-long waiting list at the library. (And you don’t have to get a membership: just keep your eye on their daily deals, which usually run $2-$5, and buy them a la carte.)

I’m also interested in Oyster, which winningly bills itself as “Netflix for books.” Your first month is free. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ll get there.

4. Read the classics.

Because of lapsed copyrights, classic ebooks are often free or dirt cheap. (When you pay 99¢ for Pride and Prejudice, you’re paying for better formatting.)

Books worth looking into: Emma, the Anne of Green Gables collection, Wives and DaughtersThe Wind in the Willows, and many, many more.

4. Watch the sales.

Individual ebooks (and sometimes, hardcovers and paperbacks) go on sale all the time, often for just one day. I share the ones I find on facebook and twitter, and occasionally here on the blog.

(You don’t need a Kindle to read these ebooks: download the appropriate Kindle app from Amazon and you’re good to go.)

Great titles on sale right now that would make great summer reads (with prices subject to change at any time):

Nonfiction:

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes, by Shauna Niequist. ($3.79) A featured foodie memoir in this year’s summer reading guide and one of my favorite books of 2013.

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World, by Tsh Oxenreider. ($2.99) Part memoir, part travelogue, part practical guide, this collection of personal essays will delight fans of Tsh’s popular blog.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life, by Donald Miller. ($2.99) I recommend this memoir—which earned a spot in the 2012 summer reading guideall the time. More thoughts on it right here

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain. ($2.99) Don’t let the title put you off: Quiet does not equal boring. Cain’s a master storyteller: this could easily be beach reading. Delightful for all personality types, but a must-read for introverts.

Fiction:

• The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion. ($1.99) Surprising, delightful, and one of my favorites. I loved it enough to put it in the 5-Book Summer Reading Guide, and to download it on to my husband’s iPad when he needed an airplane read last week. Now that’s high praise.

Parnassus on Wheels, Christopher Morley. (99¢) It’s cheap because it’s a classic. This short pick from the 5-Book Summer Reading Guide will charm any book lover. It’s very much in the spirit of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, a previous summer reading pick and the book I can’t stop recommending.

The Good Luck of Right Now, Matthew Quick. ($1.99) Warning: this latest from the author of The Silver Linings Playbook (yep, it’s in the 2014 summer reading guide, and it’s only $4.99 right now) is the only book on this list I haven’t read—yet. But I will. Especially at under two bucks.

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson. ($4.99) You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. I thought the concept was fascinating, and included it in last year’s summer reading guide.

How do you save money on summer reading? Share your trusted tips in comments!

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Comments

  1. says

    #343??? Wow. I can’t even imagine. Our library system is pretty small, so even when I’m really far down the list, I’m like seven or eight or something.

    Sometimes, knowing your local bookstore’s sales can be helpful, too. We have a Christian bookstore that is always running bargain racks, sometimes even with really popular titles – I got A Million Miles for $3 that way.

  2. says

    Great tips, and great book suggestions!

    I have a little tip to share too: I keep a private “Wish List” going on my Amazon account, with all the Kindle Edition books I’d like to read. Then once a week or so (or more, depending on whenever I’m looking for a new good book), I go in and sort them by price: low to high.

    This way, I can always see if there is something I’ve been wanting to read that’s gone on sale, because it’s easy to sort through those under $5 really easily.

  3. says

    I’m a borrower, not a buyer too. I try to put new books on hold as soon as I hear of them, but there’s so many that often I’m far down on the list as well. I recently discovered a way to make sure I’m number one, which may work for others in their own library systems. If there’s a new title that isn’t in my library system yet, there’s a link on their website to ‘suggest a title for purchase’. If my library decides to purchase it, I automatically become the #1 hold spot. This has worked several times for me–I’m sure that the books I suggest my library would have ended up purchasing anyway, but by suggesting them early, I get to read them fairly close to their release date, for free! Hopefully other libraries out there have a similar system.

    • says

      What an absolutely brilliant idea, Ana! Our library has that link too, but for some silly reason, I’ve never used it.

      Now that I know there’s a way I might get my hands on the copy first, I’m going to give it a try!

  4. says

    I borrow most of my books these days too. Running out of bookshelf space made it necessary. Or I get them cheap for my Kindle. I enjoy borrowing from the library on my Kindle too. Sadly, Me Before You just went off my Kindle (loan expired) and I’m only 80% done :( But at least there is never an overdue fee.

    Thanks for the link to Tsh’s book! I’ve been wanting it and I didn’t realize how inexpensive it is on Kindle!

  5. says

    I use the library a ton, and since there are two library systems here (one a block from work and the other closer to home) that each have interlibrary privileges with hundreds of other libraries, there is a good chance I can get what I’m looking for.

    Both of these libraries will also consider buying a book on recommendation. As with Ana’s experience, one of the libraries puts me first in line with a library hold when it arrives. The other is even more convenient: they have the bookseller ship it directly to my house and then I take it to the library when I’ve finished so they can process it into their collection.

    It’s the best budgeted summer reading I’ve found yet!

    Oh, and for those who would like to read Jane Austen’s published and unpublished wo0rks for free, here’s the link to all six novels, her unfinished novels, and her juvenilia (which is utterly ha-ha-larious!): Jane Austen’s writings at The Republic of Pemberley website.

    Cheers,
    Tim

    • says

      Tim, this is blowing my mind and turning me green with envy: TWO library systems? And they ship new purchases directly to your house? I’m moving to California.

      • says

        Did I mention that our swimming pool is also at a nice 80+ degrees right now? Poolside reading with free books. What could be better?

  6. says

    I would recommend Paperback Swap (paperbackswap.com) as a great place to get cheap books.

    You list the books that you have and want to get rid of. Then when someone requests one of your books, you wrap it up and pay for shipping. Because it’s a book, it can be shipped as Media Mail, lowering the shipping cost.

    Paperback Swap offers you a service where you can purchase the postage at the time of printing out the address mailer. Then you don’t have to make a trip to the post office. Just simply put the book out with your regular mail and the mail carrier will pick it up.

    When you request a book from someone else, it costs you nothing.

      • Janice says

        Yes…I use paperback swap all the time. I don’t buy many books for myself because I really just want to keep books that I LOVE. PBS is a great way to cycle through titles that I am through with. Plus it has a wish list feature, so if something is really popular and not available, I can be in line for when one becomes available for swapping. The wish list works great for kids’ books…especially when mine find a library book that they just can’t live without. Or books that I want/need for our homeschool topics. Another advantage – I have been able to find obscure and out-of-print titles a few times for my husband.

  7. sarah says

    Thanks for the tips, lists and links! I clicked through to purchase several of these books immediately. I’m a book borrower who is a forgetful book returner and therefore a frequent late-fee payer, so when I can purchase books for so little, it all evens out. :)

    Thank you! Now if only I had some time to read…

    • says

      I never thought of it like that. But late fees of 25 cents/day do make 99 cent or $1.99 ebooks look like an even better deal!

  8. Maaike says

    You might check out bookbub.com. I get a daily email from them offering free or very inexpensive (1.99 – .99) ebooks, and you can tweak it to suit your reading preferences. I’ve been loving them – it’s been a great way to try out some not so well known authors too!

  9. Heather says

    I used to live in LA and some of the newer releases I was #5OO or higher on the hold list at the library. One time I was 8OO and something! Now I’m living in a much smaller town and there seems not be a wait at all for books, which is really nice. They also have this great system where they will send you a book via Amazon Prime to your house that they don’t have in stock. After you read it, you bring it to the library and they add it to their book collection (although you are limited to one book a month, it’s still great!]. I just ordered The Remedy from them. I also buy a lot of my used books from Thriftbooks.com because they seem to have a lot of good deals! Thanks for the links on the other books that Kindle is selling for cheap :]

  10. says

    Thank you so much for mentioning these books! I have been wanting to read Notes from a blue bike for a while now but couldn’t stomach the $12.99 kindle price. $2.99 is a steal! Just downloaded it.

    I was number 40 on the library waiting list for The Invention of Wings. I would be so disheartened to be over 300! It is sort of sad how excited I get to see the number going down….

  11. says

    I am an avid library checker-outer. I keep a running (read: long) google doc of books that I want to read. If I come across a book at a store that I want to read I take a picture of it and add it to my list later. I also add books that I hear reviews of on NPR, read a review online, or have someone recommend to me. Then I request some from the library and/or interlibrary loan. Sometimes it takes a few weeks (months for Orange is the New Black) but I get the book and I am so excited when it comes in! If I am waiting a long time for one book I browse other less popular books on my list and check those out in the meantime. I also ask for books for my birthday & Christmas from my list (yes, we are all adults and my family still emails out Christmas wish lists) and I find great deals on thriftbooks.com

  12. Susanne says

    I am a big book buyer. I just love owning books! I love our half-price bookstores here in Texas and find tons of new books for $1-3. The other place I buy books at is thriftbooks.com. Just the other day I was browsing at a new bookstore, took several pictures of books I wanted to buy ( they were all over $15) went on thriftbooks.com and ordered three of them for a total of $10-12! They were in almost bra d new condition and I couldn’t be happier!

  13. Anjanette says

    So many great ideas in this post and the comments– thanks!

    Anne, do you also participate in an advance reader program? You mentioned that LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell was on your nightstand in a previous post and I am envious! I loved her debut book for adults (ATTACHMENTS) as much as her YA books. I had the opportunity to meet her at a signing over the winter and she is lovely too.

    • says

      I’m glad to hear she’s lovely in person (though I’m not surprised!) Publishers send me some advance copies, but Landline came from a blog reader who knew I was itching to read it. God bless the internet. :)

  14. Elizabeth says

    Netgalley is free. Sign up and you can read advanced reading copies of all your favourite authors months before they are released. I still buy books because I work in an independent bookshop and we need to support them to keep them open. Even at full price books are worth every penny!

    • Anjanette says

      Thanks for the tip, Elizabeth! We love our local bookstores– besides the great recommendations from booksellers, our family has been able to meet dozens of authors courtesy of our wonderful local indies. The only downside is that I frequently can’t resist splurging on signed and personalized hardcovers!

  15. says

    With the Audible trial, do you just cancel it? And it’ll still let you buy audiobooks? Because $30/month is kind of steep!

    • says

      You can cancel the monthly membership and still buy a la carte. Or at least that’s working for me! My membership is “on hold” but I frequently buy the daily deals.

  16. says

    Thank you so much to introducing me to Christopher Morley! I learned of Parnassus on Wheels from your 5-Book Summer Reading Guide. I checked it out from my local library system and HAD to quickly follow it up with The Haunted Bookshop! I love, love, love these books!

    I now am the proud owner of Parnassus on Wheels and plan to own The Haunted Bookshop also when I find a reasonably priced copy of it! I’m looking forward to reading your other picks from the summer reading guide!

    Again, thank you!

    • says

      I haven’t read The Haunted Bookshop yet but I’ve been meaning to get there. Thanks for the nudge—I’m glad to hear it’s a good one!

  17. says

    It’s like you telepathically knew I had the Summer Reading Guide, your book pin boards, Amazon, and my library account open all at the same time one night, trying to decide what to borrow/order/check out! Haha! A few days ago I got Eleanor and Park (oh!) in hard copy at the library, and Lauren Graham’s book (Someday, Someday, Maybe) became available digitally at the library.

    Bought Tsh’s book via this post yesterday, and I am going to download the Steven Pressfield book at Audible. Jennifer Fulwiler recommended that one, too! I think my husband might like it as well.

    Great post!

  18. says

    Great tips! Our library also has a “Friends of the Library Bookstore” and I find great deals there. Yesterday, I picked up “Cutting for Stone,” “The Middle Place,” “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” and “The Things We Carried” all for $2. They typically don’t have many brand new books but there are plenty of books from the past few years that I’ve missed or like to reread. Plus, my kids usually pick out a book or two and we’re still out of there for under $5.

  19. says

    I LOVE when you mention the Kindle sales. I just bought Parnassus, and I was about to get Bread and Wine but was wondering if it may be better in hardcover—I tried to get a peek at the book on Amazon but couldn’t tell if there were pictures with the recipes? (If so, I’d want to see them in full color!)

  20. SarahP says

    If you borrow an e-book from a library and it is about to expire, disconnect from your wireless and you will be able to finish reading it. As soon as you reconnect it will disappear.

  21. Dorothy K. says

    I did not read all the posts, so this may be repetitious, sorry. Anyway, sign up for http://www.paperbackswap.com to list your unwanted books (paper or hard back) and request books from other people’s shelves. I use it all the time, so I have a wishlist of books I’m looking for. Bestsellers usually have a long list of copies available after many people have purchased them and read them.

  22. Carolyn says

    If you have a kindle make sure to sign up for the kindle daily deals emails. They have good deals on a lot of different books. I’ve actually discovered a few authors that I love now through daily deals.

  23. says

    Thank you for sharing the deals you find! That’s how I’ve bought several books – just got A Million Miles which I have been wanting to read since before it came out.

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