Buy or Borrow? 3 Questions I Use to Decide

Buy or Borrow?

The book lovers I know can generally be divided into two camps: those that love buying books and those that prefer to borrow them. Those camps are further fractioned into those that love their e-readers and those that think the experience of reading is lessened without the heft of a book and the feel of pages to turn. In theory, I am firmly in camp 1B: I fantasize about a home library full of beautiful books. (Preferably with a rolling ladder, of course.) In practice, I read a fair number of e-books and borrow more books than I buy. When it comes to deciding whether to head to the library or the bookstore, to box it up or donate it when we move, here are 3 questions I use to to make the decision:

Would this make a good book for my children to find on a lazy summer afternoon? I have distinct memories of sitting in front of our bookshelves as a preteen reading book jackets looking for something to pass the afternoon. Paperback versions of great middle grade and YA novels are regularly for sale at library sales for a couple bucks, so I’m slowly accumulating a nice collection for the day my kids do the same thing. I know parents who keep sliced fruit and veggies in the fridge to encourage better snacking; this is one way I’m encouraging better reading.

Am I going to read this book again? Any book worth a second read or that I can see myself choosing for book club has earned a spot on my shelves. Other books I feel confident buying (and keeping) include the next book(s) in a series I’m enjoying, new books from authors I love, and books I fell in love with in college. The chances that I will systematically work my way through classics of Spanish and Italian literature are slim at this point, but I can’t bear to part with the option to do just that.

Would this make a good read for a houseguest? Even if I don’t see myself reading the book again, I might hang onto it for the sake of future houseguests. My mom kept a shelf of presents for last-minute birthday parties when I was a kid. A good friend of mine buys Christmas presents on sale in the summer. Although I am much more likely to be found waiting impatiently in line at Target 5 minutes before the birthday party (or wedding reception or bridal shower) starts, I do intentionally collect books for potential visitors. The anti-clutters among you are probably wincing, but having a shelf or two of books I can confidently hand to a friend or family member brings me joy.

I would love to hear where you fall: buy or borrow? What makes a book worth the space (and for those of you with a move looming, the weight)?


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