Between 2015 to 2016, I moved from a two-bedroom house with a roommate into a teeny tiny apartment (only 350 sq. feet, closet-sized here in Texas). Extra furniture was the first to go. Then clothes, decorations, and finally: books. Over 150 of them.
My mother always described me as a “voracious reader” growing up, and my parents happily encouraged my book-buying habit. Of all the vices, surely stocking up on learning materials was one of the least harmful, right? As I’d gotten older, I’d become especially indulgent in buying anything that looked remotely interesting: feminist discourse; fat, weathered tomes on myth and religion; biographies on anyone and everyone. A quality afternoon spent at Half Price Books or Goodwill could net me as many as 10 new additions to my bookshelves. And there were some books I couldn’t pass up, even if I’d tried. My collection included duplicates of dictionaries, several Italian language guides, and about 4 copies of Wuthering Heights (I’m a Heathcliff sympathizer, okay?). I’d also never been strong enough to say goodbye to the dozens of books accrued in my time as an English major at The University of Texas. Dusty spines, their musty smell, and Post-It flagged pages remind me of simpler times: afternoons spent reading on the quad, when my biggest worry was due dates of term papers coinciding.
But moving into an apartment smaller than most people’s kitchen didn’t allow for over 200 books, not unless I was planning on trading them out for my bed. Faced with the task of editing my beloved collection, I began to play hard ball: Why did I even need all these books?
Glancing over the titles, it occurred to me that many of the books represented someone I wanted to become. I wanted to be someone who’d read that book… even though, years later, I still hadn’t even attempted to meet that person. There were books on growing produce, when I’d never had space for a garden; books in French, when I could barely hold a conversation in Italian. These books represented Well-Read Kayla, when actuality, I was just Well-Prepared Kayla. I might be able to pull a book off the shelf for any passing fancy, but I couldn’t pluck extra time to read out of thin air.
Over various garage sales, donations, and gifts to friends, my collection dwindled to less than 50 titles, all beloved (some even to the point of losing their spines). I began to lean heavily on the library, where I could check out new books with the same caprice that I’d previously swiped my credit card. Still, I wasn’t reading as much as I wanted to.
The sheer number of books in my personal library hadn't been my downfall, after all. It was more the philosophy of the thing: reading had become something I *had* to do, something I *should* do (especially as a dutiful English alum). I resolved to only read for joy, and dove into researching the best way to do just that. You can find a lot of great stuff by Googling “how to read more,” by the way, but Austin Kleon’s guide is my personal favorite.
I vowed to follow Austin's rules as closely as I could. I wanted to keep a book with me, always, and have more flexibility in my choices. One suggestion that didn't make Kleon's list but made many others was this: buy an e-reader.
The decision took several days, and a lot of convincing myself. It wasn't that the price was outrageous (Amazon offers a $28 pay-by-month option, if you don't want to drop the $$ all at once), it was guilt. Choosing an e-reader meant that I was giving up on delightful, tactile books. Books with smells and the satisfaction of turning the page. Of hugging a finished book to your chest as a quiet thank-you once you'd finished!
But once I'd received my Kindle (Paperwhite), it was clear: if you want to read more, the only way to succeed is to choose a system that actually works for you. The Kindle was easy to load up with books, either from Amazon or (free!) from the library (one of many reasons I'm a huge fan). I could save my place, highlight passages I wanted to keep handy, and most importantly: carry hundreds of books in my purse every. single. day.
Suddenly, I was a READER. I read in line to vote, while eating my lunch, waiting for my yoga class to begin. In the few months that I've had my Kindle, I've finished more books than I did in all of 2017 (four, with four more in progress), and I've cut down on my book budget. It may feel like a bit of a betrayal... but I'm not gonna lie: if the point of owning books is to read them, for me, it took getting rid of my books to rediscover their purpose.