I allowed myself a guilty pleasure yesterday afternoon.
That said, ‘guilty pleasure’ is a complete misnomer because I don’t feel a shred of remorse about it. Rather, I felt an overwhelming sense of adulation: roaming around a bookshop, on my own, having given myself permission to leave the shop with one — just one — newly purchased tome.
I have said before that music is as necessary as oxygen to me. Similarly, on my list of life’s necessities, books are akin to food: they are my nourishment and my sustenance. Even The Bloke often refers to me as the hungriest bookworm he has ever met. And, as with what I eat, there are times when I am not at all fussy about what I am reading, times when I am very strict with myself about what I may or may not read, and times when only a certain book will do.
So, as you may well imagine, my trip to the bookshop yesterday was like visiting a literary smoragasbord: picking up a book here and a book there, flicking through the first couple of pages, sampling this author’s words and that publisher’s blurb, feasting on the myriad covers, on the handwritten staff recommendations, on the glory of the printed word. And it was there, standing among all those shelves of shining volumes, my nostrils full of the unmistakable scent of new books, that I realised something. Yes — here it is, the confession of a Thrifty Fictionista: I want as much book for my buck as possible.
Banal as it is, it’s true. Even when I’m in the process of being swept up and away by the sight and smell of so many glorious books, I’ve got one eye firmly fixed on the price tag. If I’m going to buy a book — one that will hold its own on my already overloaded shelves — it needs to be worth it. In a world where my library space is also being inexorably usurped by my children’s expanding collection of Lego bricks and other toys, I need to feel confident that I will be willing to defend my literary purchase against the onslaught of small plastic figures, minuscule puzzle pieces and apparently self-multiplying coloured pencils and pens. It doesn’t need to be a book that has won a major award, topped the best-seller lists or even received critical acclaim, but it does need to be a work of quality. Perhaps it’s a snippet of dialogue that attracts me, or an impression of a particular place or historical time, or a particularly well-crafted description or turn of phrase. But it does need to get me in.
And my book of choice not only has to be a quality tome, it has to last. It needs to keep me occupied for days, not hours — and being a notoriously fast reader, this sometimes poses a problem for me. That said, yesterday it proved to be instructive: I seriously considered purchasing a riot of a read by an Australian author whose work I love, but whose trademark fast-paced narratives and twisting plots take me only a few hours to devour. They’re fantastic escapes, but ones that I am far more likely to borrow from the library. Let’s face it, you can only be surprised by an ending once, and quite apart from that, this Thrifty Fictionista had a reasonably good inkling that she could pick up a brand new copy far cheaper online than she could in store…
So just what did I emerge from the bookstore with? Which volume managed to reel me in, and satisfy both the frugal and decadent sides of my nature — the one that doesn’t want to pay too much as well as the one that wants to wallow in a good book for hours? Well, I ended up with three books in one: Haruki Murakam’s 1Q84 trilogy. I’m 250 pages into it already and it has me hooked, and I went to bed feeling almost smug last night, knowing that I still have over 1,000 pages and many happy hours reading ahead of me. And, if you must know, the Murakami omnibus was five dollars cheaper than the other book I was tempted by, so this Thrifty Fictionista is counting that as a win!
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