My Parnassus Books haul (or how I decide what to buy and what to borrow).

My Parnassus Books haul (or how I decide what to buy and what to borrow).

As you may have seen on Instagram, my family and I finally made it to Parnassus Books, a thriving independent bookstore in Nashville. (For the full story on the bookstore, read Ann Patchett’s fabulous piece in The Atlantic. Worth your time.)

Most years when we’re heading home we barrel through Nashville on I-65, not even stopping for gas. But this year we were determined to enjoy the journey instead of endure it, so we planned a leisurely stop for lunch and plenty of bookstore browsing.

It was well worth it. It’s a great little bookstore—and at 2500 square feet, it is little—but it was packed with good books and people who love them. (When we stopped by, it was also full of Bee Gees fans and disco balls, because drummer Dennis Bryon was giving a reading and signing his book You Should Be Dancing.)

We browsed, we got recommendations, we snacked on the cheese and crackers from the book signing. When we left an hour later, we walked out with a stack of six books (plus one glitter diary). I mentioned this on Instagram, and was hit with questions: Why buy those particular books there? How do you decide what to buy and what to borrow?

It’s a good question. I read a ton, but I buy only a small percentage of the books I read. My default setting is to borrow: I only want to own books I love (think Marie Kondo); I hate clutter—and books can easily become clutter.

(After attending a session at BEA about the power of libraries, I’m even more convinced that I’m doing books and their particular authors a service by lending or giving the books I don’t want to keep forever to other readers. Authors want to be read. And if I loan a book to a friend who didn’t have to buy it, she could spread the words to ten more friends who might.)

“Buy or borrow?” is a question I get all the time. One version of my answer is here: I buy books I’ll return to again and again, books I want to mark up, books I want reliable, easy access to, and books that will help my kids become lifelong readers.

As for “why these 6 books?”—I’ll break it down for you:

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling. All four kids are currently obsessed with Harry Potter (they were previously reading borrowed versions from Oyster), all four will read this, and one child wanted to read it immediately, on the last leg of our car trip. When it comes to bookstore purchases, timing matters.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Same as above. (It was a blessedly quiet car ride.)

Mo’Ne Davis: Remember My Name, by Mo’Ne Davis. Davis was the first female to pitch in the Little League World Series, which Jack follows closely. This was his pick. (He read half of it in the car on the way home. Again, timing.)

Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin. This was Sarah’s pick (with a nudge from me and the resident children’s expert). She also read it in the car.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande. I would have preferred to borrow this one first, but I requested it from my library six months ago and I’m still number 100-something on the waiting list. It helps that everyone I talk to about this book tells me it’s fabulous.

We All Looked Up, Tommy Wallach. I’d never heard of this YA novel (“technically YA, but it’s for everyone” according to one employee) before I plucked it off the staff-recommended shelves, but as I carried it around the store, 3 different employees told me it was a good pick. My copy is autographed, which is fun.

I don’t usually buy six books at a time unless it’s Christmas. We bought these because the timing was right: we happened to be on a road trip, but “good timing” can also look like a new release I’m itching to read, a birthday, or a case of finding the right book at the right time. At my local indie, I’ve learned that they tend to put out hot new releases the weekend before (unless they’re contractually obligated not to) and when I’m impatiently waiting for a new title, five days early is good timing indeed.

We bought books the kids were excited about reading right then, because we want them to love reading.

I often buy—instead of borrow—to support author and blogger friends, but that wasn’t the case with any of these.

We also bought these to support Parnassus in particular and indies everywhere: I’m grateful for the beautiful store with its wood floors, tall ceilings, and clean bathrooms. (Again, road trip.) I’m appreciative of the welcoming, brightly lit children’s section that gives my kids warm fuzzy feelings about reading.

I love the opportunity to get reading recommendations from helpful employees who sell books like it’s their job, because it is.

Good spaces and good people aren’t cheap, and so we buy independent—not always, but often—when we’re at home and when we’re on the road, because we value what they do and our purchases help them do it.

Yesterday on facebook I asked what the last book you bought was, and it was so much fun to scroll through your responses.

In comments, would you tell us what the last book you bought was, and also WHY, because it’s so interesting to hear the bookish details. I’d also love to hear how YOU decide what to buy and what to borrow. 

How I decide what to buy and what to borrow. Great tips for bookworms.

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130 comments

  1. Kayris says:

    I’m reading the Gawande book now and it’s amazing.

    I’m a big library person too and only buy books I know I’ll want to read again. Sometimes I buy books to replace ones that have fallen apart from repeated rereading.

    The last time we went to the bookstore, it was to get math workbooks for summer work. I also bought a book for each kid from a series they like (Ranger In Time, about a time traveling golden retriever, for my 8 year old daughter. And the shark attack book from the I Survived series for my 10 year old son. Which is way below his reading level but he was interested because of the recent shark activity on the east coast.). And I bought myself two slow cooker cookbooks from the bargain table and The Phantom Tollbooth, which is one of my most favorite books ever.

    My daughter also purchased two books on her own. Quidditch Through The Ages and Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. As she has decided to be Hermione for Halloween, these are perfect!

  2. Jamie says:

    Looks like you had great success!

    I try not to buy many books, simply because they’re so easy to collect and so hard to part with… and there’s only so much space to store them in!

    My most recent purchase was The Paleo Foodie Cookbook. I drooled my way through the copy I got out of the library, and knew that it would be the perfect book to cook my way through this winter when there’s more time and desire to spend cold, dark afternoons indulgently in the kitchen playing with a healthy but divine tasting new recipe.

    The deciding factor was that I had a few dollars left on an amazon gift card, and they were offering a used copy in great condition for less then $10 (including shipping). I can’t wait for it to get here! Now I get the double pleasure of being happy not only at the time of purchase, but when it arrives in the mail. : )

  3. Kim says:

    This is a great post. I used to buy tons of books, but I’ve become a lot more thoughtful about what I choose. The last 3 books I purchased were the Word Cloud Classics edition of Emma, because I want to slowly replace my old thrift editions of classics with beautiful ones, Black Chalk by Christopher Yates because I’ve wanted to read it and it’s not available at my local libraries, and Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen – purchased specifically to support the indie bookstore near our vacation spot in the Outer Banks.

  4. Rebecca says:

    My method is very similar: am I going to read it again? Am I supporting someone by buying this?

    We bought our latest haul at a tiny little independent bookstore we found in our town (which is dominated by Hastings and a lone B&N). The current owner bought it because he couldn’t stand to see it close. I don’t know if it will survive, but we’ve been patrons and we spread the word (if any of you live near Amarillo TX it’s called the Bookshelf and its on Western). I bought some Barbara Michaels, who also wrote as Elizabeth Peters, and is one of my favorite authors. I re-read through them frequently.

    My daughter acquired the Ramona series and now we’re working on getting all of Calvin and Hobbes. It’s fun hearing her giggle through the books😊

    • SoCalLynn says:

      My daughter loved Calvin and Hobbes, too! I think she has almost all of the collection. She will still, now at 16, get them out sometimes and laugh over them. The humor is timeless!

  5. Alicia Greaux says:

    I’m always reading a few books at a time so tend to buy longer books so I don’t have to worry about library renewals (denied if someone has it on hold). Like I bought the Outlander series for sure! And books that I LOVE I will buy for my Happy Shelf. 🙂

  6. Kathleen says:

    I just bought my son the entire Heroes of Olympus series on half.com. He’s been asking for it for a while – he loved reading it the first time and really wants to re-read it again (and again). We’ve also had to buy new copies of a few of the Harry Potter books because they got so used and loved and were falling apart. My latest book purchases were Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and a book of Mary Oliver poems. Your blog has inspired me to use the library more. I was reading a lot on my Kindle for a while but I’ve been enjoying a return to real books lately.

  7. Liesl says:

    I recently ordered Summer at the Little Beach Street Bakery and The Shakespeare Curse from Amazon. I loved the first book for Summer (from your summer guide), and the cover that I love is only available in the UK, so I bought it used from the UK. For Curse, when I was vacationing in England last year, we walked into a little thrift store in Stratford, and I found a book called “The Shakespeare Secret”. I snatched it up and read it on vacation and loved it. I later discovered that it’s published in the US under the name “Interred with their Bones”… and that I had it on audiobook and had yet to listen to it! Well I discovered their was a sequel to the book, but I wanted to UK version rather than the US version (again, different titles), so I had to order on Amazon since it’s not available in libraries here. Well – that was long-winded! But I do put a lot of thought into buying books rather than borrowing 🙂

  8. Brenda Klassen says:

    The last book I purchased was, “Max best friend. Hero. Marine” by Jennifer Li Shotz. It was a birthday gift for one of my sons. Since I am a Public Librarian, most of my reading material comes from the Library. If I love the book, then I will purchase a personal copy. If I know an author personally, go to an author signing, or need a book for a class, then they get purchased.

  9. Elizabeth Brink says:

    I just bought two books at the same time: 1) The Road to Character by David Brooks for my book club in the fall, and 2) Dear Enemy by Jean Webster, which I read from my parents’ library while visiting and found my own didn’t have. Thus, I had to buy because I loved it!

    I can’t resist the used books at my local bookstore. If they’re $5 and under, I’ll buy a book I’ve been wanting to read even if I haven’t read it. The library is definitely my go-to for books, though.

  10. Katie says:

    The last book I bought was The Martian. My (non-reader, mechanical engineer) husband and I went to Jurassic World on a mini-vacation to Duluth, MN and we saw the trailer for The Martian movie. I told him my bookish friends were raving about it and he said maybe he’d like to give it a shot. He gobbled it up in 3 days. So glad we bought it!

  11. Mimi says:

    So much fun to hear about your trip to Parnassus, my local indie bookstore. I also borrow most of the books I read from the library. It’s so convenient to receive an email that a book from my waiting list is ready and immediately download it to my kindle. The last book I bought (other than college textbooks for my son and daughter from used books on Amazon) was a gift for my mother – Dead Wake by Erik Larson, a great read.

  12. Melanie says:

    The last book I purchased was Wild in the Hollow by Amber Haines. I’ve read her blog for years and I knew that her book would definitely be a buy for me. Why? Because she writes so beautifully of being broken and how God meets us right in the middle of our mess. I read it in one sitting.
    I also love this post for the thoughts it’s provoking with me. I buy and borrow, and really have no rhyme or reason. If I have extra money in hand and there is a bookstore near I can never resist buying a book I’ve heard great reviews about and it is always a daunting task because I want to buy ALL the books! One of the best feelings for me is walking out of a book store with a sack full. It’s not the same with a Kindle purchase.
    Every book I buy though I never get rid of, that’s why a lot of thought has always gone into one I actually purchase, and my house is overrun with books. Which I do love, but has started to feel cluttered. I have just begun recently to loan them out and that is something I never would have done in the past, but I keep track of those and am waiting patiently for them to be returned! Ha!
    I almost never read a book more than once, but I have held onto mine in hopes one day my children will take interest in reading more and I want them to be able to have a collection of what I consider fine books to do so.

  13. The last book I bought was a pre-order of Carry On. I bought it because I love Rainbow Rowell, and I’m pretty sure I’ll want to read this book more than once. I bought the hard cover instead of the Kindle version because I am hoping to get it autographed at NerdCon: Stories.

    I usually buy books by authors I love or ones in series that I know I’ll read over and over. I almost always buy Kindle versions though because then they don’t take up space. I try to get them when they’re on sale – often found from your deals page.

  14. SoCalLynn says:

    The last *new* books I bought were Kisses for Katie, The Opposite of Loneliness, and The Silver Star (by Jeannette Walls) They are still waiting to be read. I bought several used books at the library in the next town over while I was waiting for my daughter and her friend. Crossing to Safety, which has the most unique book plate in it that compelled me to Google the name. I thought it might be someone attached to the college in town and jackpot! what an interesting person! He passed away 6 years ago and his obituary tells of a fascinating, adventurous life, including running for office against Richard Nixon, twice, one election which earned Nixon the nickname “Tricky Dick”. I wonder why he felt compelled to put a personalized and very pricey-looking book plate in a paperback book?

  15. Dawn says:

    My most recent purchase was a hardback anniversary edition of “Charlotte’s Web.” My 4yo girl and I are reading it together at bedtime and it’s her first chapter book. It will also go in my library of keepsake books for myself and for at least one more generation to come. Charlotte’s Web qualifies for me!

  16. Patti Cory says:

    My reasons for buying and borrowing are the same as yours, Anne. We have very limited space. I often buy used and then donate or lend. There have been some purchases that I wish I had kept because I often re-read. I’m of the theory that most books are better the second time unless they weren’t very good the first time. I have mixed feelings about e-books. I like my Kindle because it saves money and space but I feel something is lost is reading electronically. I have a few digital books that are on my list to purchase as a hard copy, mostly from your recommendations.

    • Anne says:

      “I’m of the theory that most books are better the second time unless they weren’t very good the first time.”

      I like this theory. 🙂

  17. Leigh Kramer says:

    After I finished Being Mortal, I immediately knew it was worth owning so good call on that one! I buy to support independent book stores and author friends but I also buy books I’m relatively sure I’ll want to own or which I’ll want to underline and scribble in. I do try to borrow books first 99% of the time- I can usually tell early on if it’ll be worth getting my own copy. But can you imagine how much we’d spend if we bought all the books we read each year?!

  18. Samantha D says:

    Any recommendations for indie bookstores in Chicago? We moved here a few months ago and I’d love to find some great little bookstores to frequent.

    • Anne says:

      I don’t know what’s in the heart of the city these days, but I do love Unabridged Books, right on Broadway in Lakeview East, a few miles north of the city center.

  19. Renee says:

    My boys and I had a kind of spontaneous adventure up to Powell’s bookstore in Portland this week. It was so fun! My oldest (7) was in awe of being “surrounded by books”. The boys ended up picking 2 books each. My 4 year old just picks based on covers & my 7 year old picked a couple of easy chapter books based on my/staff suggestion & font size. I got Chu’s first day of School & couldn’t find anything else “special enough” to get until I saw the 10th Armand Gamache book on the Staff Picks shelf. I had just gotten 8&9 at the library, so the timing was excellent! Can’t wait to go back & hope we can make it to Parnassus one day!

  20. Amanda says:

    My most recent purchase was from the library used book sale–ten books for $1.60 (I can’t let myself go often!). I got a couple Anne books I was missing, among others.

    I buy for many of your reasons–especially books that will help my kids love reading. I always had tons of access to books as a child, and sometimes I found something great by picking up a book out of sheer boredom (once my library books and favorites were read through). I also tend to buy nonfiction more readily than fiction, because it’s more of a reference (I have a weakness for science books). I end up buying religious or theological works preferentially as well, jut because my library system never has any of those titles.

    • Anne says:

      I try to keep a lot of books on hand—ones we own and ones we borrow—so my kids will have the opportunity to pick up a great book out of sheer boredom. 🙂

  21. Amanda says:

    Big Little lies because I just finished What Alice Forgot and loved it. Definitely a timing-inspired purchase it was just released in paperback. I purchase for many of the same reasons as you, but I have one other. Sometimes the experience of going to a bookstore and selecting a book and being the first to crack it open when I curl up to read it later is a little magical. Or letting my kids pick a book that will be theirs to keep. I’m a bit of a bookstore junkie, but it does have to be a book I think is worth keeping around to revisit. Also if you like to read in the tub it is much safer with books that don’t have to be returned 🙂

  22. Emily Sears says:

    I responded on Facebook too, but the last book I bought was The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry in paperback from Amazon. I bought it because it was only $5 (including shipping), so I figured if I didn’t like it, it wasn’t a huge loss of money. I also figured it was highly unlikely that my library would ever get it.

    99.9% of the time though, I get books from my local library because I’m a MLS student so I should support libraries. Plus, since I’m a grad student, I don’t have a lot of extra money. Like you though, I do buy books that I LOVED and want to mark up. But it’s very rare for me to buy a book I haven’t read already.

  23. Ciera S. says:

    Great post! I buy a lot of books, usually because it’s something I’ve already read and know I want to re-read OR because it’s by an author that I already know I love. While I still use my library every month, I love buying books because being able to look at full bookshelves in my home and have my future children feel that we have our own “little library” is important to me.

  24. Jill W says:

    I go through cycles of buying and borrowing. Now I am in the same place as you, though – I only buy it if I want to keep it, so it is normally a reference type book (raising lifelong learners was the last, parenting-type books, etc). I don’t buy fiction, haven’t for years (unless I can get it used AND want to mess with putting it on paperbackswap after I am finished reading it.) I really only buy off of amazon, ebay, homeschool classifieds, or abebooks, used.

    My sister in law and I just bought the magic of tidying up (new!) for both of us to share, and she is bringing it tomorrow, yay! I can’t wait to get rid of at least half of my stuff!

    Also, we just moved and have no bookshelves here…so all of our books are still in boxes and I go down and just look at them and really really want those bookshelves to get built, quickly, so I can enjoy my books again!

  25. Kelly says:

    I have always wanted to go to Parnassus Books! Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors. I get most books from the library, and only buy if A) I know I’ll read it over and over, B) I can’t get it from the library and am absolutely desperate to read it, or C) When I feel I deserve a random “treat.” I picked up two books at my local bookstore a couple weeks ago: The Rosie Project (category A, I had already read it and loved it, and also it was the current pick for my book club) and Hands-Free Mama (category B, my small town library doesn’t have it).

  26. Danae says:

    The last book I bought was completely on impulse – Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl. I love turning to cookbooks or food literature when I need creative inspiration.

    I almost exclusively use our library network for my reading, whether print, ebook, or audiobook. I tend to go to bookstores less frequently and often just browse to add titles to my to-read list. However, I just love the luxurious feeling of purchasing a book simply because it jumped off the shelf at me. Thank goodness I am more disciplined with my grocery shopping!

    • Anne says:

      Have you read Reichl’s yet? I loved that one?

      “However, I just love the luxurious feeling of purchasing a book simply because it jumped off the shelf at me. Thank goodness I am more disciplined with my grocery shopping!”

      I’m chuckling at this. Yes and yes!

  27. Heather says:

    I’ve bought a lot of ebooks from your Kindle deals :). If the price is $2 or under I can justify it. The actual hard copies of books that I have recently purchased are homeschool books that I know we will be returning to throughout the year and it would just be easier to have them instead of always having to renew them or check them out. I do try and get used copies. I think that I’m going to have to go buy Go Set A Watchman because our book club just picked that book and the wait list at the library is ridiculous! A couple of books that I recently bought for homeschool (& myself) are Farm Anatomy & Nature Anatomy by Julie Rothman.

    • Anne says:

      I realized in reading this that we do the same thing: we buy a lot of homeschool books so they can stay on the shelves all year, and I buy when the wait list is ridiculous.

  28. Melissa Osigian says:

    Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman because I love her blog and know this book is one that I will highlight and reread.

  29. Kim says:

    What do I buy? Books by favorite authors. Books that come highly recommended by a trusted source. Books as gifts (my kids, and now my grandkids, get books every Christmas).
    My book budget is almost non-existent so it’s necessary to borrow whenever possible — which has been more difficult since moving overseas where the local library is a joke (and nothing in English). I resisted getting a Kindle for years but finally realized it made the most sense in my current situation. I still tend to buy hard copies of particular favorites whenever we’re in the states and bring back with me.
    I know ex-pats living in other countries all have their “most missed” things (not talking people here, but things), and for me that would definitely be the public library system and bookstores. Although I weeded through my personal library before moving overseas, getting rid of about 1400 books, I did bring almost 700 with me and have added another 50 or so in the last few years. Good books rate priority space in our luggage 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Your numbers blow my mind (but maybe they wouldn’t if I ever counted up my own books?) Glad to hear you have a space for good books in your ex-pat life.

      • Kim says:

        Actually I don’t have the room 🙂 We did at first, when we rented a bigger house. But then we bought property with a tiny (395 square foot) unfinished casita that finished and moved into. Meanwhile we moved all our bookshelves and books out to the “family” house (owned by my husband’s family) which is a couple hours away. Each time we go out I rotate books, so I always have some on hand to re-read (most recently “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” and “Shepherds Abiding” by Jan Karon). I have a small bookshelf in the casita which also serves as storage for DVDs, games, etc. And I depend on my Kindle a lot more now. Currently reading “For The Love” out loud to my hubby and looking forward to Jan Karon’s next book which I pre-ordered for the Kindle 🙂 My husband and I like to read together and the last book we read was “Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life around the Table with Recipes”.

        • Candida says:

          I love how many books you still have after purging! And I have to say I would be eating up the books in other languages too, even though I can’t speak anything fluently. I never considered in depth public libraries in other places but this has me thinking now. I wonder which countries have the best systems.. do they all use Dewey?? Thanks for getting me thinking. I also might go count my books. I have considered that before but now I wonder exactly how many DO we have?

          • Kim says:

            We have seen nicer libraries in other towns; it appears to depend on each city’s priorities. Where we live the focus is on tourism to the exclusion of almost all else. As for reading in this language, I do some but not much because it is HARD WORK. I was 50 when we moved overseas and I began learning the language and after 7 years I’ve come to terms with the fact that, while I will continue to see gradual improvement, I will probably never be fluent enough to read novels or anything in-depth. As for what system they use to catalogue the books, that’s a good question! I’ll have to ask my language tutor.

    • Ariel says:

      Luckily I found a public library when I spent a summer in Ireland as an undergrad–I think I still have my Kildare County library card somewhere. 🙂

  30. Dana says:

    Last week on our vacation we stopped at a used indie bookstore in Asheville ( one of my favorite bookstores). I bought Brush up Your Shakespeare and a copy of Twelfth Night because my fall reading plan is to delve into Shakespeare in a big way. Over the summer I have been collecting used copies of the plays and also some supporting books and commentaries about the Bard. I am planning on reading the comedies first. I buy things I want to re-read or mark up and I try to buy used books when I can. If not I buy most of my books from our local indie shop. Lately I have been reading a lot of current fiction from the library. If I wait until it has been out a month or so I can get a copy easily. My TBR pile is so vast I don’t mind or notice the wait. I do impulse buy occasionally if a book catches my eye. I do love literary serendipity, which lurks on both library and bookstore shelves!

  31. Tessa says:

    The last book I bought was “Type Talk” by Otto Kroeger and Janet M. Thuesen. I was beginning to study MBTI in greater depth, so I wanted a guide I could use to learn more and later be able to refer back to if I had questions. However, I haven’t actually read it yet because so many other books were already on my list for the summer.

  32. Lindsey says:

    I buy different books for different reasons. My last kindle purchase was a preorder of Sheila Gregoire’s “Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage” because I wanted to read it as soon as it came out and support the author. Normally however, I like books better then kindles. So my last true books have been a few board books and a classic for my boys (Make Way For Ducklings), a self- help for me ( Juggling Twins by Meghan Regan-Loomis) and purely for fun, several volumes of the Garden Gate magazine bound in book form. I usually only buy books I will love for myself and that I have already read once or twice, or books that are hard to find. For example, I recently bought The Story of the Meeker Massacre by Fred Werner because that book was really hard to find and I wanted the information, but I bought Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamille because I truly love her writing.

    • SarahL says:

      We listened to Winn Dixie in the car with my 6, 8, and 10 year olds. I loved it at least as much as they did, maybe more. CS Lewis says that a kids book that can only be enjoyed by kids is not a good book at all. Di Camillo writes wonderful books!

  33. Faith R says:

    Requesting some of these for my kiddos right now! I also request/borrow almost everything I read too!! If I find myself requesting it again then I know it’s time to buy it – or if it’s a new Christian release I usually end up buying it because I want to support the author and don’t want to wait for a year to get it from my library!

  34. sarah says:

    I get most of our books from the library in order to avoid going broke, but there are times I will buy a book brand-new. The last one I purchased was The Pit and No Other Stories by Jordan Rothacker. The reasons were numerous. He is a local author (with whom I am acquainted), I purchased it from a local indie bookstore, and the author was there to sign it. Also, I heard some of it at his reading, and I find that listening to the author read his or her work is powerful, and almost always makes me want to read the rest of it. In my head, I then hear it with the same inflections the author uses, and that gives me a thrill.

    Prior to that purchase, I bought the most recent Babymouse book for my youngest reader (again from the local indie store). My daughter is seven and has only recently took off as an independent reader, so when I saw that we couldn’t yet place a hold at the library on the latest installment of these funny little graphic novels, I didn’t bat an eye at buying it for her. Right now, encouraging her reading is more important than whether I feel like spending $10 on a book. Incidentally, she has read it three times since I purchased it, so I feel we have long gotten our money’s worth.

    I am impressed that you did not buy You Should Be Dancing. That book will probably never make by TBR list, but I would have been powerless to resist purchasing it if I happened to walk into a store where a member of the Bee Gees was signing his book. Powerless, I tell you, especially if there were opportunity to get him to sign it. And I don’t even like disco.

  35. Cassie says:

    I almost always borrow from the library. However, I am still completely grateful for my Oh She Glows Cookbook splurge, and plan on buying her second coming out next year.

  36. Byrd says:

    Ooh, what an interesting question!! The last two books I bought (purchased at the same time, in late March) were Pioneer Girl and The Dangers of Dating a Rebound Vampire.

    The first one was purchased with a gift card that my aunt sent for Christmas, when Pioneer Girl was hopelessly backordered. I’m a huge LIW fan, so this was an obvious choice, and a keeper.

    But I also preordered The Dangers of Dating a Rebound Vampire by Molly Harper as a special treat to myself. I had some tough stuff coming up and the release date was timed so that it would be a special treat. Molly Harper is a favorite author of mine; her books are really funny and pure escapism. I shared the book with a friend once I was done with it. (As for this particular book though, if you’re interested in trying the author, I’d recommend you start somewhere else in her backlist – such as And One Last Thing if you like contemporary romance and/or chick-lit, or How To Flirt with a Naked Werewolf if you’re more into paranormal romance).

    This discussion has me realizing it’s been a long time since I’ve bought a book for myself – maybe it is time!!

  37. Zoey says:

    The last book I bought: Americanah, because of your lovely summer recommendation
    I love this post because this is an issue that I’ve thought about often. Here’s how I currently decide what to buy:
    My first thought when looking for a book to read is to find and request at my local library. In college thus was easy due to the insane size of their collection but now that I’ve graduated it’s harder to find some copies (I was #32 in line for Americanah).
    So my next choice is to call around and buy from a used book store (we have some local, indie used book stores in my city). However, sometimes I still can’t find what I’m looking for (usually this happens with newer releases or really hit items).
    That’s when I visit my favorite local indie bookstores. The one I go to (Brazos in Houston) has the best customer service. Once I was looking for a new release that they didn’t carry and they offered to order a copy just for me.
    Now I know I could go on Amazon and save money but since I don’t buy new books often I like to take the time to support my local store instead.

    Now my cheat to getting many books I like at prices that I can afford without guilt is by always check my local thrift stores when shopping. I’ve found several books that I have borrowed, read and loved that I can now easily add to my collection.
    There’s my advice. I hope it helps.

  38. Jen says:

    The last book I bought was Ready Player One. I bought it after browsing the “favorites” shelf in your card catalog. 🙂 This book kept “showing up” in my life. I’d hear someone talking about it, see a review of it, see someone reading it, see it through bookstore windows. I kept resisting it until I read your review. It pulled me in from page one, like you said. It’s a fun read so far–thanks!
    I buy most of my reading materials on Kindle. The main reasons for this are convenience, portability and clutter control. Amazon just makes it so darn easy, which means most of my monthly “play” money goes to books this way. However, I LOVE real books and miss the feel of them in my had, the turning of the pages, the smell, as Amanda described it above, that magical moment of cracking it open for the first time. For this reason I try to buy one book a month at our lovely local bookstore. I love bookstore day and look forward to it like Christmas morning!
    I buy a lot of “real” books for my son because I want him to have that magical book experience. He and I also love to frequent our local library and come home with piles of books to read together.
    This was such a fun question! Thanks Anne!!

    • Anne says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed RP1! When we were just at the beach it seemed like all the women were reading RP1 and all the women were reading The Rumor. 🙂

  39. Sarah k says:

    As I write this, my husband and I are trying to decide whether or not to take a job in Nashville. Maybe I should put Parnassus Books in the “pros” column!

  40. I am a middle school reading teacher who wants to have a big classroom library for my students. I collect books from everywhere! I tend to buy books that I know kids love but our school library only has one copy of, books that will entice readers who may resist reading, or books that our school library doesn’t have. I recently bought a YA graphic novel (“Awkward”). It’s been checked out twice already and it’s only the fourth day of school!

  41. Jordan says:

    The last book I bought was Quiet : The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain based off of several trusted friends recommendations. I live in a rural area so sometimes what I buy I can’t get from the local library (and vise versa) – and I have an on going list of books I’ve gotten from the library multiple times that I’ll eventually need to own because they’re just that good (The Diviners by Libba Bray for example)

  42. My most recent book purchase was a huge Usborne order – mainly non-fiction for the kids. I’m looking forward to “How Things Are Made” and “The History of Inventions” for my science and engineering brains.

    For me, I plan to buy Simply Tuesday – today! I listened to her first chapter, and I have to drop everything and read this first. I’m buying one for a friend too. Your buy local plug prompted me to call our downtown bookstore and check their inventory first – thanks!

    I’m curious how you organize your personal library, Anne. I wrote a post today about setting up our home school library (we just moved into our house in July and we home educate). Books equal breathing around here, but I’m with you that books can become clutter too – especially when it isn’t needed nor loved. (I don’t often share links when I comment, but here’s the post I’m referring too http://www.thehomelearner.com/day-21-building-a-better-home-school-library-b2s-31days/ – I understand if you delete it, or “no-follow.”)

    I’m also curious what you do when you decide to get rid of books you no longer want to own. Donate? Sell? Swap? Do you have an efficient system of getting them into good hands quickly?

    I’d love to know. 🙂 Thanks for another great post!

  43. Erin says:

    If there’s an independent bookstore nearby when we’re on a trip, we will often stop by and pick up a book or two as souvenirs of our travels. So, way back in May, when we were in Kansas City one weekend for a wedding, we stopped at Rainy Day Books to browse. I couldn’t find any that I wanted to own that visit (plenty to add to my library list, though), but we did buy “1 Is One” and “Moo, Baa, La La La” for our little girls. It’s fun to pull those books off the shelf and remember all the fun we had on that trip.

    • Shauna says:

      How fun! Books are the perfect souvenir. 🙂 I almost donated one of my old book a couple of years ago but, upon opening it, saw the Shakespeare & Co. stamp in it and remembered that I bought it in Paris in my early 20s. I want to be more intentional about doing the same for my kids.

  44. Amy Lanier says:

    I just bought My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman on audio. School is starting, I’m a high school librarian, things are crazy right now, and the ONLY thing saving me are long walks with good stories. I don’t know why THIS book (I haven’t even read A Man Called Ove yet), except that the description intrigued me because I had a hilarious Granny whom I loved dearly, and also the reviews were good. I normally try to only listen to classics or high literary fiction via Audible, which is also probably why I haven’t gotten addicted to audiobooks thus far. I think I’ve figured out that I do better listening to less complicated stories that are told with British accents (just finished a Bridget Jones, which I loved, too).

    • Anne says:

      I also love listening to less complicated stories narrated with British accent. (Although I did like Middlemarch on audio, which isn’t exactly uncomplicated.)

  45. I used to buy all of my books and ran out of room. I share them or donate them to the library. I now seem to only buy cookbooks and or special books like Being Mortal. I thought I lost my mini iPad and was frantic to read, so my kind husband bought me a kindle. Several months later I found my iPad. Now I have two reading devices. What do you like about your kindle?

    • Anne says:

      I don’t have any special loyalty to my Kindle—I just like having any ereader that fits in my purse, especially for airplanes or vacation.

  46. Shauna says:

    My buying/borrowing rules are virtually identical to yours. However, I have been buying more books lately (that I normally wouldn’t buy) at the used book sales at the library for about $1 each. I’ll read them and then donate them.

    My most recent purchase at a used bookstore is The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris, The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton, and Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux. I bought them because I’m interested in the Episcopal and Catholic churches.

    My six-year-old daughter is learning to read, so I’m starting to think harder about what books to buy/keep. Some of our books will be inappropriate for her to read for years (example: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote), so I might need to donate (or hide!) some books that I would normally keep.

  47. liz n. says:

    Last three books I bought, because I bought them at the same time: “The Black Country” by Alex Grecian, “Handmade Style,” by Anna Graham, and “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman because my copy has been read to pieces. Literally.

  48. Laura says:

    I buy tons of books because our library has an awesome sale each month ( but they are used) which are then trade, sell, or give away. I also take out a lot of books from the library. When I purchase a book new it’s usually for reference, a favorite, classics etc. The last ones were A well-trained mind and Emma -Alexander McCall Smith was coming to town! I do feel convicted to purchase the next ones at our local independent store. It’s hard when Amazon beats their prices by so much

    • Anne says:

      I bought Emma when Alexander McCall Smith came to MY town, too. 🙂 He came here on the second day of his book tour and I wanted to make sure I’d read at least part of the book before I heard him speak about it!

  49. Melanie says:

    I don’t often buy books and I almost never buy brand new books, but I recently purchased The Road to Character by David Brooks because after reading about five pages of my library copy I knew I needed a copy to mark up myself. It hasn’t been out long enough for there to be many used copies for sale, so I bought it brand new.

    I love buying used books from little independent bookstores when I travel. It’s the best souvenir. I bought Code Name Verity and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close from Tattered Cover in Denver, a book of Winnie the Pooh stories from a little shop in Richmond, VA and All Creatures Great and Small from a shop in Concord, MA.

  50. Ariel says:

    I totally understand you about the timing. A couple of years ago I lowkey wanted to read Fangirl, but had decided to wait until it was out in paperback. Then one morning (I remember it was November because I was doing NaNoWriMo. I think it may have also been the same day as a local book festival I went to in the afternoon) I decided it was time to read it immediately, so I went to Barnes & Noble, bought the book and a chai from the Starbucks inside, and sat down to read. It was a really nice break from both schoolwork and my writing.

    I definitely buy more books than I borrow. I default to buy, though I usually wait for paperback (except for a few). That does not mean I keep all of them, though. I only keep books I want to re-read; the others I trade in to a local used book store. I’m borrowing more this year, though, between trying to do my reading challenge and the fact that I’ve recently discovered the convenience of interlibrary loan.

  51. Michelle Owings-Christian says:

    The last two books I purchased were “Obsession in Death” by J.D. Robb and “The Lost Treasure of the Templars” by James Becker. I was on a road trip and had an evening in the hotel ahead of me and about 5 hours in the car the next day, and I was on the last chapter of the book I was reading. I bought “Obsession in Death” because I love that series and I saw it. I chose “The Lost Treasure of the Templars” because of the title and the blurb. I was not sorry. The only thing that I was sorry about is that this is the first of a new series — so it will be quite some while before I get to meet these characters again. I am hoping to be able to get some of the OTHER books he has written, because I liked his style.

    Lately, I have been getting free e-books for my tablet. I have neurological issues that make holding a book, even a paperback book, painful at times. The Tablet is much lighter and I can read it in the dark (if I have insomnia and my husband is sleeping). It also has a cover which folds into a stand, so I can rest it on a table or on my chest and don’t have to hold it — just turn the pages. Free is vital to me just now, since money is as tight as it has ever been. (My public library and I have had an argument about a set of books that they say I have not returned, and I KNOW I DID. It was on a list in my calendar that I crossed off. I put them in the outside book drop, and I think someone stole them. Anyway, they want me to pay them $100 before I can take out a book. Not happening. So free books for Kindle or in pdf are my go-to choices right now.) I really like physical books, however it is becoming clear that I can’t use them very often.

  52. Paula says:

    I have a similar approach to buying/borrowing books. I read a LOT of books and my daughter and I pretty much always have 2 or 3 books each from the library. I try to borrow as much as I can because with the amount we read, I could never afford to buy all those books and I’m trying to minimize and streamline our lives, so don’t need to be adding more books to find space for all the time.

    I will buy classic books. I love classics and have reread many, and have an even longer list that I haven’t read yet, but want to. I’m also more likely to buy something non-fiction that I know I will refer to again. I don’t really buy cookbooks, though. I just pared back my cookbook collection and only kept those I use all the time. I tend to get a lot of recipes online anyway. And I frequently borrow cookbooks from the library and copy down the recipes I want. Usually only tends to be a few recipes at most anyway, so no need to have the whole book taking up space for that. I will also buy books from authors I want to support or whose books I’ve always loved and don’t want to wait on the library waiting list for. If it’s not a book I’ll probably reread, I will trade it in at my local used book store. I will also check in at the used bookstore when I’m planning on reading a longer book, so I don’t have to worry about getting it back to the library on time.

  53. SarahL says:

    The last two book I purchased were Ivanhoe and Don Quixote; both are being read in my online book groups. My Ivanhoe copy is truly drool-worthy — oversized hardcover, embossed covers front and back, in a slipcase, with thick, smooth, white pages and beautiful color illustrations! The last book I purchased in-store were The Penderwicks (for the 8 yo) and The Mysterious Benedict Society (for the 10 yo). Both were purchased at The Tattered Cover, which—after reading about it for years as one of the best indie bookstores—I happened to stumble across when we pulled off the highway for a bathroom break. Kismet! I picked those particular titles because they were both the first in a series the kids haven’t tried (and they read A LOT, so it’s not always easy to find new options); I plan on stopping for the next books the next time we drive down that way. Most of the books I buy are for our homeschool curriculum (which is literature-based). That’s a great measuring-stick, because they are all either classics or obscure treasures. I also love buying books on road trips, because they are ever after associated with the fun of that journey. And popular lit for me that I find for cheap. And biographies. And educational philosophy. And… And… And… ☺️

    • SarahL says:

      I forgot the truly last book I bought — a lovely B&N leatherbound copy of The Complete Beatrix Potter for my daughter’s 6th birthday. She just opened it tonight, and was giddy over it. 😍📖😁

      • SarahL says:

        Our homeschool curriculum, Ambleside Online, has a forum. Several groups of moms are reading through the upper years’ books and discussing them, partly to get ready for when our kids read them, mostly for our own enjoyment. 😉

  54. Michele says:

    The last book I bought I ordered from Amazon.com. I ordered “Listening Valley” by D.E. Stevenson as a gift because it is back in print. I would classify her books as cozy fiction. My mom loved her books and now I enjoy them.
    My daughters and I will check out independent bookstores when we go out of town for her gymnastics meets. We have discovered some wonderful stores and at least one of us always finds something we’ve been looking for.

  55. Liza says:

    I went to half price books two days ago. I had a coupon and was looking specifically for Narnua books. (I had previously replaced my one volume with individual books but was missing a couple.) I found one of the books I was missing. I also found a collection of Grimm’s fairy takes illustrated by Arthur Rackham(!!) and a complete collection of Hans Christen Anderson’s fairy tales. Both were in excellent condition. I got Arabian Nights from the Classic Starts series for my son and Hollow City by Ransom Riggs for me. I wasn’t planning on buying Hollow City, but since I have the first book in the series, and a friend pre-ordered the third book as my birthday gift, I figured I needed the second. Since it was in like-new condition and only $8 or so, I got it.

    I’ve actually used the library more the past few years. I think I bought too many books that turned out to be terrible. Now I’ll buy a book only if I know I like it. Which means reading it first. If the price and timing are right, I don’t mind buying a book I’m not sure about, but I’m much more careful about when and what I buy.

  56. s says:

    I borrow a huge majority of our books and magazines from the library. In fact, I was on who’s for Great Kitchens of the Midwest (I think that is the title?), but grabbed it at the (chain) bookstore and then 2 days later received the hold pick up notice from Thierry so I exchanged my book purchase (I had not even opened the book since I was finishing another). I did end up purchasing a few this past week- Jen Hatmaker’s latest, as well as Counting By 7, and an AP book for my daughter. My next book club meeting is in 2 weeks and I really do MIT want to buy the book…but I am still on hold at the library…I may need to bite the dang bullet and buy it…rats!

  57. Linda D. says:

    When I was younger and single with a lot more disposable income, I bought lots of books, but I simply can’t afford to do it anymore with two children to spend on. When I do buy books, they are usually something I’ve already read and know I will refer to often; Gretchen Rubin’s books are great examples. Because I don’t buy books often, when I receive a gift card to our WONDERFUL local indie, Avid Bookshop, I agonize over how to spend it, sometimes for months, before I do. We also have a terrific local library so I can find almost anything I want there.

  58. Lee Bowers says:

    The last book I purchased was Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Stone. I was in Louisville visiting family and purchased it at Carmichaels. Love that bookstore. When I went in I was just going to look around. But, the book just fell into my hands and I bought it. I remembered reading about it on your blog. I am loving it. I have no idea how it is going to end. Thanks for the info.
    I buy books so I can pass them along. Nothing pleases me more than talking about a good book with a good friend.

  59. Jamie says:

    The Harbinger <– book club pick not readily avail in local library
    Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting by in America <–book club pick not readily avail in library
    Daring Greatly <–borrowed from library in spring and wanted so badly to savor and mark it up, just now getting around to purchasing (because we are all avid readers – and we homeschool 9th and 4k- so book are overflowing around here)
    All purchased in local book store.
    The purchase made just prior to these were
    Go Set A Watchman <– want so badly for my son to read, but keeping it from him until he has read To Kill a Mocking Bird (well, he has read it, but it is part of our curriculum..so I want us to get past any papers etc). So looking forward to the discussion of the two.
    The Theif Lord <– gift
    Dragon Rider <– gift

  60. Marcy says:

    Mostly it’s based on how confident I am that I’ll like or love it. Often I buy books by authors I’ve loved in the past, or books I’ve read before and want to reread.

    But my last purchase was none of those. It was Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. I was at Powell’s Books in Portland and wanted to give myself a treat. (They’re doing so well, they hardly need my support, I think.) But I also really enjoy reading books on my Kindle, and some of the tempting books I saw make more sense to me to read that way. Then I saw Nimona, a graphic novel I’ve heard recommended several times. I don’t want to read a graphic novel on my Kindle. Perfect! I sat down to wait for my sis-in-law to finish browsing (also because I’m 32 weeks pregnant and was tired), started reading, and laughed several times right away. Warm, fuzzy feelings. Perfect! I bought it, sat down, read some more. 🙂

  61. Kristina M. says:

    There are two books that I’ve really wanted to buy lately. The first is Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. I borrowed it from the library and LOVED it, I think about it all the time and wished that I could reference it. The second is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I use to the first (American) edition of every Harry Potter. Then I moved 1,000 miles away and somehow managed to lose only that book, which by the way is my favorite in the series. Figures. Anyways, I’m holding out on HP GoF until I find a first edition at the Goodwill or a used book store. Wish me luck.

  62. Mary Alice says:

    The last book I bought was the Marie Kondo book because I was 700+ on the waiting list. Very glad I bought it. I have one wall in my sons old room covered in book shelves and one stand alone shelf for children’s books. If they are full no new book comes in unless one goes out.
    One grandson, who is a bibliophile too, gets a gift card to the bookstore for his birthday and then we go together. It takes us about an hour or so to discuss the pros and cons of his choices. Then we make our purchases and get hamburgers and milkshakes while we read and discuss what we bought. I hope he never out grows this.

  63. Marilyn Bronson says:

    My most recent purchase was a pre-order of the new Louise Penny book “The Nature of the Beast.” Our local indie, McIntyre’s Books near Chapel Hill, is hosting her world release of this latest Inspector Gamache mystery later this month. McIntyre’s is a wonderful bookstore with awesome employees and a warm, homelike atmosphere. Thanks for all your inspiration and reading lists from which I have gleaned some gems.

  64. Laurel says:

    I purchase books for exactly the same reasons you stated, including indulging in some rather impulse purchases when on vacation just so I can enjoy something right away while I am relaxing. If I purchase novels that I enjoy but won’t read again, I try to pass them on to others who I think will enjoy them too.

    The last book I purchased was The Highly Intuitive Child which you recommended. I attempted to get it at my local library but they didn’t have a copy, and I’m likely to re-read as this is something I will be engaged with for a while.

  65. Jen D says:

    I just bought Jen Hatmaker’s newest book, “For the Love”. I bought it mostly because I love her and this is the 3rd of her books that I own/read.

  66. Heather says:

    When I was single I had a huge number of books and was always willing to buy more. I moved a lot in those days and was teased endlessly at the number of boxes of books I drug from place to place! Now that I am married with two wee children space is at a premium, and, even before reading Marie Kondo I knew something had to change. There simply was not room for another bookshelf! Now I am much more strategic in my purchase/ borrow choices. I only keep books that I know I want to read over and over, and only buy books that have a similar staying power. The only exception is my library’s annual used book sale! (I am a sucker for cheap books 😀- and it almost feels like borrowing as I will probably donate them back when I am done!). Whether I am purchasing or borrowing I am also picky about which books I read digitally vs hard copy vs audio. They are such different experiences and some books demand to be held and savored!

  67. LadyWoman says:

    My family often stopped at bookstores on vacation. Partly because they were fun, partly because we were voracious readers. I still remember specific books: Mr. Popper’s Penguins bought on a trip to Monterey, Nancy Drew The Search for the Silver Persian in New Mexico.

    The last book I bought was Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans because I adore her. For the past few years to save money/space I only buy books I’ve read before and will read again unless (1) it’s by one of a small handful of favorite authors, or (2) it’s next in a series I’m thoroughly enjoying. Once in a great while I’ll buy a book I’m unfamiliar with, and funnily enough this is often on vacation! A few years ago during a trip to New Orleans I bought Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and now I own/love the whole trilogy.

  68. donna says:

    Absolutely loved this post, Anne! Earlier this year, I found myself buying books that I would end up selling to the used bookstore as soon as I finished reading them. So I finally got a library card.
    Since then, I only buy books I am sure I will keep returning to.
    Books I’ve bought recently:
    Louise Penny’s Inspector Armand Gamache series box set. I ran out and bought it after burning through ‘Still Life’.
    Also just bought ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir because the library wait list is a mile long. I’ll be reading this one in the fall.

    I plan on buying the new one from Todd Henry ‘Louder
    Than Words’ and reading it in the fall as well.

    Happy reading!

  69. Kari Ann says:

    I am in Nashville in a couple weeks for work and am planning a visit to Parnassus Books. I am really looking forward to it!

  70. Sarah A says:

    I clicked through to this post from today’s Kindle deals where you mention “We All Looked Up” as a book you had bought at Parnassus. I haven’t read that book, but I AM reading The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley (also a Kindle deal), sequel to Parnassus on Wheels. I love that there’s a book store named after those classic stories! I am on the west coast, but if I ever make it to Nashville, Parnassus will be on my list of places to stop! (Incidentally, the only time I ever stayed overnight in Nashville, I spent the evening reading at a Barnes and Noble. Wish I’d known about Parnassus back then!)

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