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The Assembled Atheneum

January 1, 2014

Happy New Year! I’ll miss 2013: it was a truly special year for me. And I do love odd numbers. But this upcoming year holds much promise, which I will be discussing on Sunday. For today, I thought I’d look back at the books I acquired in 2013! Considering I enjoy building my hypothetical bookcase in my atheneum posts, it seemed interesting to see how that compares to my actual buying habits.

This is the first year I’ve had any disposable income, so it’s the first year in ages I’ve bought books. I ended up using Better World Books as my source, for both their ethics and prices. This year I spent $69.55 on 25 books. I also received 21 books as gifts, most from my mother who used my wish list to also order from Better World Books.
Starting with my books…aside from the Spanish pocket dictionary and Ecuador guidebook (which won’t count in the following analyses), all of these are either by favourite authors or natural history books (you can click on the picture to enlarge it and see the titles). They’re about evenly divided between novels (no short stories or poetry) and nonfiction, between international and US/UK authors, and, excepting the natural history books, between authors of colour and white authors. Of the 23 books, 13 are ones I’ve read before and 10 are new to me; if I take out the natural history books, the ratio becomes even more skewed at 12:6. I prefer to stock my shelves with books and authors I know I can depend on! All of the ones I’ve already read are obviously books I’ve adored.

Overall, I think this stack accurately reflects my current reading habits and interests, except for the lack of classics, because I put those on my Nook instead. It was dictated in part by which books were available as trade paperbacks and counted for the sales Better World Books hosts, but I have so many favourite authors that I still had plenty of options! I haven’t yet read any of the new-to-me books I got, because I’m saving them for after I move (my new library system doesn’t have the same generous holds and interlibrary loan policies as my current one, so I imagine I’ll be looking to my own shelves a bit more), but I feel confident recommending any of the books in the picture if they catch your eye.


And here are the presents! There are 3 crafting books at the bottom (1 knitting, 2 sewing), and the rest also divide quite evenly between nonfiction and fiction, with a poetry collection for good measure (the Atwood). 8 are books I’ve read before and am happy to have easy access to for rereading, and there are 5 natural history books! Lots of international authors; in fact, only the Byatt and Gaiman are US/UK fiction. Of course those home base authors are much more heavily represented in the nonfiction. As above, except for the natural history books, these represent some of my very favourite authors and titles, so I definitely recommend everything in the picture!

Today or tomorrow I’ll add these piles to my actual bookcases, working things in here and there. I think I own between 200 and 300 books, so together these represent a big addition, and it will be interesting to see how my bookshelves evolve with them. I mentioned ages ago that, as I stopped buying books, my shelves were a bit frozen in time, reflecting an earlier reading self. Now, I’d happily say they’re becoming truer to who I am as a reader today. I’m not sure if I’ll have a lot of disposable income in the upcoming year ($70 seems like so much money!), but I plan to visit some library sales at least, and I’m sure I’ll treat myself to a package or two from Better World Books.

Oh! I almost forgot ebooks! Of course I added bunches of free classics, and used my fabulous library for most of the other ebooks I read, but I also bought 2 ebooks before I went to Ecuador, so that when the library ebooks expired (3 weeks) I’d have something other than classics to read. I ended up selecting The Bill McKibben Reader (by one of my favourite authors, this collection offered a lot of pages for not a lot of money) and Pilgrim on the Great Bird Continent by Lyanda Lynn Haupt (this was very topical, as I was exploring multiple ecosystems in a country with one of the most diverse bird populations on the planet). I read both during my trip, loved both, and am happy that I’ll be able to reread them easily in the future. I currently have a small gift card, enough for 1 ebook, and I’m sure I want to buy a Susanna Kearsley novel, but I haven’t decided yet if I should save it for her new release or get one of the ones I’ve already read and loved. I only own The Winter Sea, which I bought a couple of years ago during a publisher special for only $2. I prefer having her works as ebooks, since they’re comfort reading for me, and when I’m too sick to hold an ordinary book, I can still read ebooks.

I’m curious, for those readers who also buy books, if you buy with a plan or at whim, and if your buying reflects your reading tastes or is somehow skewed. I now have more books on natural history than any other specific nonfiction topic, despite only beginning to get interested in it! And of course, let me know if we share any favourite authors. :)

43 Comments leave one →
  1. January 1, 2014 5:34 pm

    Well, I buy books… I actually have a method… During the year it is mostly pre-orders. My pre-orders are new books in series, books by favourite authors, etc. Then, I will typically buy maybe one book a month that I found about thanks to blogging. (In 2013 this was Eleanor & Park, The Night Film, etc.) Then for my birthday and Christmas I do ‘catch-up’. I typically get gift cards so I either grab a few books I missed from series, for example at Christmas time I discovered I forgot to get the new Derek Landy book this year, or work on completing collections of favourite authors, this Christmas I went with Charlotte Gray. Then I will also add a few books I really wanted and just never splurged on, like Chris Hadfield’s book, for example. This Christmas I was lucky enough to get more than I budged for in gift cards, so I bought books from Best of lists that appealed to me. December/January are always my big splurges of the year. They always have been… And, it is not my money so it’s all good. As to the second hand store… I TRY to only work on getting books off my various lists, but if I find something that appeals to me I will splurge a bit more than I will with new books. I only buy books there if I have credit after all. This was very long-winded. Sorry! haha

    I had never even heard of the bookstore you shopped from before. That’s awesome that you have started to be able to add to your shelves. I hope you get a few more treasures in 2014.

    • January 1, 2014 5:57 pm

      Oh I loved your detailed description! You’ve got a great process down. :D

      I learned about Better World Books from Amy (Amy Reads, so she’s Canadian) last fall. They have free international shipping, but I suspect it would take awhile (their free US shipping takes way longer than other online purchases and doesn’t include a tracking number).

  2. January 1, 2014 6:05 pm

    I buy books but it’s almost always used books from either online sources or a used bookstore in my town. I do buy ebooks, typically newer books I am desperate for read or book club books I can’t get at the library (cheaper than buying brand-new print books of course). I usually buy books I’ve wanted to read forever if they’re super cheap and/or books I can’t get at my library.

    • January 5, 2014 5:31 pm

      Some of the ebooks seem the same price as new books now! Although I guess they’re still cheaper than hardcovers.

  3. January 1, 2014 6:53 pm

    Most my books are second hand from charity shops looks like a great selection of books eve

    • January 5, 2014 5:31 pm

      Thnx Stu! I need to start checking out the book sections of my thrift stores. :)

  4. January 1, 2014 7:57 pm

    I usually have some credits in my Bookmooch account, so I always check there for books I am interested in. Mostly I shop the local library sales several times a year (more than one library in my area) for authors I like and for impulse purchases. I’m trying to use the library more, but when I get quite impatient to read something I resort to eBay or Amazon.

    I also check Project Gutenberg, especially for the classics in ebook format.

    I’m going to look into Better World Books.

    • January 5, 2014 5:32 pm

      Oh I used to do bookmooch: it was such fun! :)

      Do you know about They compile free ebooks from lots of sites, including Project Gutenberg.

  5. January 1, 2014 9:05 pm

    Everyime I go shopping I usually make a point to stop by a bookstore with the intent to buy something which interests me, of course. But I don’t always find something I like.

    • January 5, 2014 5:32 pm

      That would be a nice way to get through the less pleasant aspects of shopping!

  6. January 2, 2014 5:52 am

    I definitely buy books, but I also get books from the library and receive review books. Basically, tho, I just have too many books. :)

    • January 5, 2014 5:32 pm

      Lol! I’ve stopped accepting review copies, which helps, but my library stacks are sometimes out of control!

  7. January 2, 2014 8:07 am

    Isn’t it lovely to get books! Your book towers look impressive.
    Book Dilettante

  8. January 2, 2014 8:12 am

    This was such fun to read, Eva! I’m not sure I could ever make any kind of sense of my book buying habits, and I’m sort of envious of how great a job you do at really only getting books that you love, or will likely love. I’m way too big a sucker for dirt-cheap books at the library sales. :P And not that I’m wishing away time, but I can’t wait until October–you are so going to the Penfield Library book sale with us! :D And any of the other county library sales, for that matter, of course. :)

    • January 5, 2014 5:34 pm

      Debi, I can’t wait until October too! That sounds like fun. :D I need to start letting myself go to library sales again; I stopped when I decided I didn’t need any more books, but now I feel like a few more wouldn’t hurt (and my new bookcase lets me stack books on both sides so I have a lot more space). hehe

  9. January 2, 2014 9:01 am

    I love that you received a copy of A Sand County Almanac. I’ve been meaning to buy that one. I studied it in high school and adored it.

    I buy books based on my current tastes. Right now they are biographies (Classic film related ones especially), 20th century American history and Latino culture (mostly non-fiction but some fiction).

  10. aartichapati permalink
    January 2, 2014 10:34 am

    I bought way fewer books this year than in prior years. I think because I am using the library much more. Sometimes the library can be SO SLOW, but I have enough on my shelves to keep me busy until those books come in. Usually.

    • January 5, 2014 5:34 pm

      It’s interesting how everyone talks about how slow the library is, when I consider it fast! I guess because it’s been my only source for so long? And I don’t read a ton of just released books.

      • aartichapati permalink
        January 5, 2014 8:04 pm

        I think it is more to do with how understaffed the CPL is and how the union rules do not allow volunteers to do a lot of the work they do at other libraries. Such as reshelving.

  11. January 2, 2014 11:04 am

    That’s a great pile of books. Glad to see you getting Border Passage which is a favorite of mine. Also Eck’s book on Encountering God.

    Yes, I buy books. Almost all of them used and under $5. I keep my wishlist current and check Better World Books and Paperback Swap regularly. When I see something I have been wanting cheap, I pick it up. I use swap credits for many of the books I buy. If you are interested in any of the books I have reviewed, they may appear on my list of books available for swap. I seldom buy newly published books, except for a few ebooks that I am particularly eager to read. I also received review copies, both hard copy and ebooks. Some ebooks aren’t really mine since they disappear after 3 months, but reviewing them has introducted me to a few real gems.

    Thanks for the plug for Better World Books. They are a wonderful source for a much wider selection of books than I see in bookstores or libraries. I have gotten many of the Global Women of Color books I have been reading. Many are under $4.

    • January 5, 2014 5:36 pm

      I love Border Passage & Encountering God too! That’s good to know you’re on Paperback Swap: I might join up when I move and start reading more of my own books and less of the library’s. Except I did a big cull a few years ago & the only books on my shelves now are ones I want forever! hehe BWB is a great source for sure. Have you figured out how to get the stickers off though?

  12. January 2, 2014 11:47 am

    In college and grad school, I bought books quite randomly, without any thought to building a collection. I just bought them if they looked interesting or were by an author I wanted to try. I’ve stopped doing that because now I’m more interesting in building a collection. I have a very small collection of books at the moment – less than 50 – and one of my goals for 2014 is to donate the books I have that I didn’t like or probably wouldn’t reread, and start collecting nice editions of the books I’ve loved and would reread. I’m also trying to figure out if I should completely replace the editions of books that I’ve read and loved. Lots to sort out – it will be a gradual process.

    • January 5, 2014 5:37 pm

      I did the the more random buying when I was younger too (and had more disposable income, ironically). Wow: I don’t think I’ve ever been down to less than 50 though! That sounds like a lovely goal for 2014: I like to hang on to the physical copy I’ve read, because it’s imbued with memories. And I prefer trade paperbacks as being more arthritis/fibro friendly, so I don’t get many nice editions. But the handful that I have are certainly beautiful!

  13. January 2, 2014 1:38 pm

    I’m one of those librarians who relaxes after a hard week at work by going for a browsing spree in my favorite book store. So, yes, I do buy books. :)

    Wishing you a very happy reading year 2014, Eva!

    • January 5, 2014 5:38 pm

      Tiina, if I had a regular job & income, I’m sure I’d relax via book sprees too! :)

  14. January 2, 2014 3:29 pm

    Happy New Year, Eva! I have tried to keep track of my book purchases but I usually give up after a couple of months. My buying tends to be all over the place and just because I buy a book doesn’t mean I end up reading it right away. Hmm, should probably work on that! Anyway, here’s hoping this is another special year for you!

    • January 5, 2014 5:38 pm

      Happy New Year Iliana! I was lucky: since I only bought from Better World Books I could just log in to my account & see immediately the books I’d gotten. No tracking required! hehe

  15. January 2, 2014 8:53 pm

    I try to keep my book buying to a minimum because I dread moving them from place to place. I used to buy way more than I read, but lately I’ve been asking myself, “Do I have another book like this that I haven’t read?” and usually the answer is yes. If I buy something, like this summer when I bought a lot of Shakespeare, in cheap used copies that I might not get attached to, I try to make sure I read it right away. I’m lucky in having a lot of good bookstores around and I haven’t had to buy anything online for a couple of years.

    The one thing I’ve noticed about my buying habits is that I tend to make a kind of exception for reference books and similar books because they aren’t the sort of thing you read all at once anyway. I’ve recently gotten some Oxford Companions and a Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Field guides too, so I’m interested to see that you’re getting into natural history! Always enjoy your posts and happy new year!

    • January 5, 2014 5:40 pm

      Fair enough! I’m planning a move in a few months & I’m definitely not looking forward to boxing them, carrying the boxes, unboxing them, but for me it’s worth it, as I don’t move terribly often and grew up moving every few years so am a little bit used to it.

      I’ve yet to buy any straight up field guides, as the move will bring me to a new region! But once I’m settled, I do intend to get a few.

  16. January 2, 2014 10:31 pm

    Just saying hello. I am behind on blog reading and just making my way through posts. Excited to read more and catch up on what you have been doing!

    • January 5, 2014 5:40 pm

      Hi! I’m terribly behind too, but it’s good to hear from you. :)

  17. January 3, 2014 8:15 am

    Happy New Year, Eva! Hope your year is filled with lots of wonderful new books and many beautiful reading moments!

    Loved the books that you got recently! Nice to see a few A.S.Byatt novels there :) She is one of my favourite writers. It was also nice to see ‘The Hakawati’. I remember when I first started reading your blog posts, one of the first books you had recommended was ‘The Hakawati’. I remember you gushing about it in your review. It is a book that I want to read. I haven’t got to it yet, but I hope to one of these days. Enjoy reading your new books! Happy reading!

    • January 5, 2014 5:40 pm

      Aww, thnx Vishy! The Hakawati is fabulous: I hope you get to it. And Byatt is one of my favourites too. :D

      • January 5, 2014 10:20 pm

        Looking forward to getting ‘The Hakawati’ soon, Eva. Thanks a lot for recommending it.

  18. January 3, 2014 11:13 am

    Good to see more people using BetterWorld Books :) I’ve been buying all my class texts from them and think it’s such a good cause!

    • January 5, 2014 5:41 pm

      For sure! I wish they’d been around when I was looking for college books.

  19. January 4, 2014 5:48 pm

    That was really interesting to read. I also have Tender Morsels, Od Magic and The Ocean at the End of the Lane on my own TBR pile.
    I read exclusively on my Kindle so my pile of books to read is not as obvious as yours but it’s still massive. I buy on a whim, whatever sounds good (after lots of research and of reading extracts, this is the perk of the ereader)

    • January 5, 2014 5:42 pm

      I’m glad you liked it Ruby! Having read Tender Morsels & Ocean etc., they’re both fabulous and should move up your TBR pile. ;)

  20. January 5, 2014 4:31 pm

    I didn’t know about Better World Books, but that looks great! Have you used them a lot? How reliable is their shipping? Slow is okay, but do the books reliably reach you & not get lost? (I’ve had some bad experiences with Book Depository not delivering books I asked them to mail.) And also, do the stickers on the spines come off pretty easily?

    • January 5, 2014 5:30 pm

      I think I’ve ordered 6 times from them & my mom has ordered twice. Our books have always arrived, though not quickly (I think it usually takes a couple of weeks), and there’s no tracking number. Once I had a problem with a book I’d ordered not being in the condition it was described (the first one I ever ordered from them actually) & they were very cheerful/apologetic and did an immediate refund, so their customer service is fab.

      That being said, the stickers on the spine are a problem. :( They don’t come off easily, which is why I haven’t removed most of them yet. I even emailed BWB to see their recommendation & they said they have a hard time keeping them on in the warehouse but that rubbing alcohol should work. I haven’t tried that yet, because it seems like it would ruin the spine. The Twitterverse suggested Goo Gone, but I haven’t tried it yet (a bottle is like $5.50! Although it’s a fairly big bottle so assuming it doesn’t expire it should be useful for many future book purchases too.). I think I’m going to buy some, because the stickers drive me nuts (I actually meant to mention them in the post). I don’t understand why they don’t use the same type of stickers other bookstores do that peel off easily.

    • January 5, 2014 10:27 pm

      Update: I tried using rubbing alcohol and it didn’t ruin the spine. So I can pull off what comes of the sticker, than scrub the rest off with the alcohol, and it works. But I wouldn’t call it an easy process!

  21. January 5, 2014 7:44 pm

    I love Better World Books and always try to use them when I order paperbacks, which is usually when I can’t find something at the library (South Riding by Winifred Holtby and Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons are recent examples). I will also buy absolutely anything by Diana Wynne Jones (although I’m almost done with that collection, so sad that there will be no more). Otherwise, I try to stick to buying books that I already know and love. Lately I am buying books from the Folio Society (secondhand) because they are the most beautiful editions around. The latest of these are The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim and Shirley by Charlotte Bronte.

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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