So, first things first, The List has now been updated to show exactly what I finished (F), what I’m currently reading (C), what I started but haven’t picked up for while (S) and also which ones I’ve chosen not to finish (DNF). It will remain static from this point on as I want it to remain a record of what I did over the course of the challenge rather than a perpetual record of my TBR pile.
First and foremost, I really did enjoy the challenge. I will admit that I did pre-order a few books in the last couple of months so I didn’t quite make it to the end of a whole year without ordering a new book, however I’m giving myself a pass since all of them had November release dates so I neither received nor paid for them during the challenge and they didn’t divert me from my purpose of focusing on my TBR pile. That aside, I’ve found the focus having a list gave me was generally helpful in making reading decisions but often that decision became “I don’t want to read any of these so what shall I re-read instead”. This was especially true when my health took a downturn and I had very limited bandwidth for new anything.
Now that the challenge is over and I’ve taken the time to sit back and review what happened I can genuinely say the biggest benefit hasn’t been the reduction in my TBR pile, it’s been what I’ve learn’t about what I really want to read vs what I think I should be reading and how that tied into what was purchased but left unread. My old book buying habits were not really serving me well and this challenge really highlighted what I need to change if I don’t want the number of unread books I own to increase in perpetutity.
Reading stats first, for I do love crunching some numbers! Overall I read 135 books during the twelve months of the challenge. Of those only 52 came from The List, all the rest were re-reads. However at the time the challenge ended I had DNF’d an additional 31 books from the list and was actively reading 10 others. There were also another 17 that had been started and although I’d put them to one side I have reviewed them all and definitley intend to finish them at some point. Overall that gives me a total of 110 books from The List that I have picked up and made decisions about which, although not quite 50% of what I started with, is enough that I feel that the challenge has made a significant different to the TBR pile and thus achieved my initial aim for it.
One thing I haven’t yet spent any time looking at is which books I turned to for re-reads. This is something that I definitely want to look at and possible talk about on here but I think that analysis belongs in a separate post/s since it’s tangengential to the challenge.
In terms of what the challenge has taught me about me purchasing habits, the main one is about which type of book gets left unread for longest after purchase. My physical library is large – I’m lucky enough to have the house space for quite a few well filled shelves – yet I had twice as many digital books on The List as I did physical copies. Of those digital books about a third were audio and the rest were e-books but, most importantly, every single one of the 31 books I DNF’d was digital*, including 5 audiobooks. Clearly my fear of missing out on new books was far less easy to control when I was just clicking on a purchase button and didn’t have to physically find space for the new book. I did wonder if the pandemic had skewed the results because I couldn’t physically go to a book shop for most of 2020 and 2021 but when I delved into the purchase dates for all the unread books my purchase patterns hadn’t really shifted between 2018 and when I started the challenge. So it really was all down to the ‘new, shiny, exciting’ mentality and not having to think more about them
Now the challenge is over I follow a very strict e- book policy, built on habits I gained during the challenge. E-books are never bought the first time I see them but instead put on a wish list. That list is reviewed roughly once a month when I remove any I am no longer interest in reading and then see which of them I can borrow from the library. Only after that option has been exhausted do I buy those I am most eager to read and only those that I can afford from my (really quite meagre because there is not a lot of money to go round at the moment) book buying budget. This means I get to push a button when I see something I want which gives me the ‘new, shiny, exciting’ rush but prevents rash purchases. I have also learnt that 2 for 1 sales are only worth looking at if they contain more than one book from my wish list!
In the most recent post I made about the challenge, where I summed up the last two months, I said I would share the twelve books from the challenge I enjoyed the most. Since I do like to keep my promises here is the list and each one is linked to the post where I talk in more detail about that particular book:
- Burning the Books by Richard Overton
- Hunger Pangs: True Love Bites by Joy Demorra
- The Five by Hallie Rubenhold
- Wintering by Katherine May
- A Spell in the Wild by Alice Tarbuck
- Notebook by Tom Cox
- Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow
- Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
- Winter by Ali Smith
- The Thirteenth Letter by Diane Setterfield
- The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid
- Ghostways by Stanley Donwood, Robert MacFarlane and Dan
As for what I am going to do now that the challenge is over … keep reading anything and everything but take much more care over what I’m buying. I’m making a conscious effort to use my local library more for books I’m not certain about, making much better use of wish lists and trying to ensure that my what I do buy gets read fairly close to when I buy it. I have no idea if I’ll ever get to the point where my TBR list is less than 10 books but it’s certainly something I’m going to try to work towards.
And so here we are, at the last paragraph in the last post about my Year of Reading Frugally. I do hope my posts about this personal challenge have been interesting and, if nothing else, have provided a few recommendations for books that you hadn’t already heard about elsewhere. As always, if you’ve read any of the books I finished over the course of the challenge or have any thoughts about it I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
*I’d like to make it very clear that NONE of the e-books or audiobooks I DNF’d were returned for a refund. Apart from the fact that I don’t have to put them on a shelf, to me digital copies of books are exactly the same as physical ones in that once you’ve bought them they’re yours and if you don’t like them that’s your problem but you can’t get your money back. Bookshops are not libraries and neither is Amazon or Audible, treating them as such only damages the authors and means you’re less likely to be able to buy their work in the future. I don’t care if Amazon policy allows the return of e-books and audio files you’ve bought at any point you still shouldn’t do it because it isn’t Amazon taking the hit, they’re deducting the full cost of the refund from the author. It’s unfair practice and it’s wrong. If you don’t want to pay for a book then either borrow it from a library or a friend but for the love of all things don’t steal from authors just because Amazon say you can!