My Book Addiction is Getting Out of Control

by James Wallace Harris, Saturday, January 28, 2017

toomanybooksI wrote, “Hi, I’m a Book Addict” for Book Riot hoping the act of writing would exorcise my demon. It hasn’t. Below is a list of books I’ve bought this month. It’s about a year’s worth of reading since I read a book a week. I’m buying 10-12 books for every one I read, which I know sounds insane, but doesn’t stop me.

I’ve annotated the list with my rationalization for buying the book. I know I’m being impractical. I know I’m wasting money. It gives me pleasure to shop for books, especially to find bargains, but those are not reasonable justifications. This compulsive behavior does reveal a pathological need to “own” knowledge. Because my memory is failing, owning a book, especially an old favorite, is a way of keeping it in memory. My new memory is my iPhone, which has become my real auxiliary memory. I guess it’s an external brain, making me a tiny bit of a cyborg.

This list of books reflects what I want to know. Pathetically, not by study, but by acquisition.

Access to cheap books is the main cause of my addiction. Most of the books below cost me just a $1.99. Used books, either from my library’s used bookstore or average around $4. Here are the daily newsletters I get that announce bargain books:

I’ve hyperlinked some titles to show why the book is worth reading. If you want to maintain your place in the list, just right-click and select open in new window to read the annotation.

  1. Dimension of Miracles by Robert Sheckley – read twice, want to keep for memory
  2. Draw Lab for Mixed Media Artists by Carla Sonheim – to inspire me to draw
  3. Time is the Simplest Thing by Clifford D. Simak – collecting Simak on the cheap
  4. 10-Minute Digital Declutter by S. J. Scott – love books about minimalizing
  5. 10-Minute Declutter by S. J. Scott – love books about minimalizing
  6. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson – classic I’ve always wanted to read
  7. On the Road by Jack Kerouac – read many times wanted a copy for my iPhone
  8. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn – always wanted to read
  9. The Social Organism by Oliver Luckett – about social media
  10. The Grid by Gretchen Bakke – about our aging power grid
  11. Revolution from Within by Gloria Steinem – interesting feminist take
  12. In the Darkroom Susan Faludi – one of the best books of 2016
  13. Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez – start ups at Silicon Valley
  14. Never a Dull Moment by David Hepworth – rock music of 1971
  15. Kill ‘Em and Leave by James McBride – James Brown
  16. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly – best books of 2016
  17. Schaum’s Outline of Mathematica by Eugene Don – to use with Mathematic on my Raspberry Pi
  18. Schaum’s Outline of PreCalculus by Fred Safier – I’m dreaming big
  19. Complete Book of Home Inspection by Norman Becker – should keep an eye on my  house
  20. How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton M. Christensen – how to measure success in life
  21. College Algebra DeMYSTIFieD by Rhonda Huettenmueller – my dream of relearning math
  22. Pre-Calculus DeMYSTIFieD by Rhonda Huettenmueller – my dream of relearning math
  23. How to Diagnose and Fix Everything Electronic by Michael Geier – I want to learn about electronics
  24. Practical Electronics for Inventors by Paul Scherz – I want to learn about electronics
  25. Schaum’s Outline of Linear Algebra by Seymour Lipschutz – my dream of relearning math
  26. Schaum’s Outline of Precalculus by Fred Safier – my dream of relearning math
  27. Why We Read Fiction by Lisa Zunshine (ebook and audio) – why do we read fiction?
  28. Altamont by Joel Selvin – the evil twin of Woodstock
  29. Summary of Analysis of Hidden Figures by Worth Books – wanted to see how a book is summarized
  30. The Wizard of Menlo Park by Randall E. Stross – bio of Edison
  31. Visual Intelligence by Amy E. Herman – to improve my powers of observation
  32. Extreme Focus by Dominic Mann – want to improve my concentration
  33. Time for the Stars by Robert A. Heinlein – old favorite to keep on iPhone
  34. The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes – great science history
  35. Wonderful Town by David Remnick – New York as viewed by the New Yorker
  36. Time and Again by Clifford D. Simak – collection Simak on the cheap
  37. Console Wars by Blake J. Harris – love tech history
  38. Island by Aldous Huxley (ebook and audio) – admire Huxley and always wanted to read it
  39. The Best American Short Stories 2016 – love this series, get them cheap once a year
  40. The Best American Essays 2016 – love this series, get them cheap once a year
  41. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016 – love this series, get them cheap once a year
  42. The Best American Travel Writing 2016 – love this series, get them cheap once a year
  43. The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016 – love this series, get them cheap once a year
  44. The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt – books to read because of Trump
  45. A Case of Conscience by James Blish – classic of science fiction I want to keep on iPhone
  46. The Second Golden Age of Science Fiction Megapack by Mark Clifton – first Hugo winning novel for 99 cents
  47. The More of Less – by Joshua Becker – love books on minimalism, might help with this book problem
  48. The Hollywood History of the World by George MacDonald Fraser – I’m writing essay on Hollywood’s treatment of history
  49. The  New Painting by Charles Moffert – I’m fascinated by the Impressionists
  50. On Rereading by Patricia Meyer Spacks – writing article about rereading
  51. Composing Digital Music for Dummies – I’d love to learn to use digital music programs
  52. The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – read library copy wanted one for me
  53. Mind Tools by Rudy Rucker – my kind of book
  54. I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong – another top 2016 book
  55. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
  56. The Big Picture by Sean Carroll


6 thoughts on “My Book Addiction is Getting Out of Control”

  1. Wow. And I thought I was a freakin’ bookworm. You exceed me by a mile, and the breadth of your interests go far beyond my horizons. That said, I find your interests to be a great way to broaden my own. I’ve bookmarked a number of your titles listed, and in fact have ordered a couple just based on it. As for cheap Simak stuff, I’m way ahead of you. “Time is the Simplest Thing” was one of the igniters of my interest in serious adult Science Fiction. Resurrected Press is one of the few places that the old masters of Sci-Fi can be found.

    I’ve gotten several of the titles listed, some that I’ll have to dig up to re-read. After 35 years in the Electric Utility business, I’m looking forward to reading The Grid by Bakke – and you can rest comfortably knowing that I will have a few comments on it, pro or con should you be interested.
    I’m going to skip the math – I barely made it through Trig and pre-Calculus. It turns out that I’m one of those males who is better than average on math, but bent towards the other side of life – no, not that side, but towards language, concepts, and of all things: English grammar.

    I kicked ass in word-based stuff in HS and college. Something that confused me for a while in working for a large electric utility. I truly enjoyed the hard physical work (Lineman anyone?), as well as maintenance and construction of electrical substations. Until I found out how useful non-technical knowledge could be in a Tech environment. Not to mention a serious work ethic and keen interest in learning. But that was then.

    My reading has been all over the map – Geology, history, archeology, biology, anthropology, and easy-access science to begin with. I’ll pimp for a newsletter here – Science News, something I’ve been reading since I was a teenager. I’ve tried the deeper and official periodicals – Science, Nature, Scientific American, etc. And I found them to be, well, too self-serving for my level of interest. Besides, I can always research deeper when a SciNews article tickles my fancy.

    I can’t say if it makes a difference, but I’d be willing to bet that an open mind (with a few acknowledged filters) is a handy thing to have when confronting the world. Science Fiction (such an unwieldy and limiting term) is the most important thing that has prepared my mind for dealing with the world we live in. All that “real” science I’ve been reading hasn’t changed my mind on that point at all.
    I apologize for the length of this post. It won’t happen again…for a while.

    1. No, write as much as you want. I love getting feedback, especially to hear what people my age are doing. My uncle was a lineman. I’m like you. I was better than average in math, but I didn’t stick with it. I wanted to be a scientist but didn’t work hard enough at it. I started out in computers in college, and then switched to English. I wanted to go to library school, but when the time came moving to be near an MLS school wasn’t practical. So I went into working with computers at a university. It was satisfying, but I still wish I had been a scientist. I just read Hidden Figures about three black women getting jobs at NACA (precursor to NASA) in the 1940s and 1950s, and it’s amazing how hard they worked to get those jobs. I never made 1% of their effort.

      I wonder how many Clifford Simak fans are out there. I’m glad they are reprinting his stuff. I wonder if any younger readers are getting into him.

  2. Like you, I find good books at incredibly cheap prices irresistible! Reportedly, AMAZON is going to do away with one cent books, but I’m not sure that will stop me. Free (or almost free) ebooks are also irresistible. Most of the local used bookstores have gone out of business. But I still check out the Salvation Army and Goodwill thrift stores and find great books for a pittance. Library Book Sales are also wonderful: I got to fill a shopping bag with books for $3! Yet, you’re right about accumulating far more books than one can ever read. I have over 20,000 books (and growing), yet even if I read a book a day (which is a challenge even in Retirement) I’d have to live way over a 100 to get through all the books in this house. Where is the anti-aging technology???

    1. We’re like Henry Bemis with all his books piled up to read and then he breaks his glasses. We have piles of books to read, but even with all our time free, we don’t have enough time.

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