A Guide To Book-Buying

If you’re living in Malaysia, then that time of the year is coming. The Big Bad Wolf Book Festival is beginning in a few days — Which means, if you’re like me, then you’re gonna be stuffing yourself with lots of coffee, head to the sale after midnight, and probably spend half of the remaining day catching up on sleep — Not to forget the massive discounts, of course.

And oh, there’s a chance that you’re gonna end up with some books that you’ll probably never read.

But forget book festivals for a moment there. Sometimes you stumble upon a book in a bookstore and you heard from “some people” that it’s good — Only to discover that it’s not worth your time and money. If only you knew more about that book you wouldn’t have bought it.

Well that’s your fault.

Here are some strategies that you can use in getting good books :


Check Out Recommendations :

I’d often look at the figures I admire (including close friends and teachers/mentors) and try to find out about the books that played important roles in shaping who they are. To name a few as examples, Ryan Holiday got me started on reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Seth Godin’s canon on marketing and plenty of biographies. John Steinbeck got me started on William Faulkner. Bob Dylan got me started on T.S. Eliot and Jack Kerouac’s poems and novels.

They don’t have to be famous or whatever, as long as they’re people whose opinions you value and respect.

It’s also useful to flip through the bibliography section at the back of a book that you really like, and pick one book from it as your next read. Plus, you get to widen your knowledge base this way.


Do Some Research

Another important thing to do would be to read some reviews by other people who have read the book (My favorite place to go is Amazon, if not Goodreads). No doubt you’ll find some really good to really bad comments about the book — That’s alright, their opinions don’t have to be yours, because you haven’t read the book. But the reason to do this is so that you’ll have an idea of what you expect to get from reading it, and therefore make a decision if it’s gonna be worth a try.


Look For The Best Places To Buy

If I think a book is available in my campus library, that’s where I’d look for it first. If the book is good and I’d like to own a personal copy of it (So I can dirty it with notes etc.), I’ll buy it.

Before you do, a good thing to do would be to visit websites of bookstores and compare their prices. I’m not sure if you care much about this step, but I do. Because more often than not, there would be huge discounts on Book Depository than if I were to buy in local stores. It’s a bit of a wait to get your books delivered (It’s a UK company), but I personally don’t mind.

Other than that, to avoid buying on impulse, I hardly ever buy a new release in the market, unless it’s from an author that I really love — This year I pre-ordered Robert Greene’s Laws of Human Nature and received some pretty cool bonuses from it — And hey, how often does that happen.


Book Festivals

I’m not saying that I don’t love book festivals. I do. It’s even like a yearly tradition for me. But year after year, the amount of books I buy there seem to decrease or at least stay more or less the same.

When you see that many books on deathly discounts, it’s normal to feel like “If I don’t buy this now, I’m gonna be at loss, because I’m gonna be spending more money later on books that I could have bought now at huge discounts). But in actuality, you’re wasting money in the present, because you’re buying books that you won’t read.

So one thing to keep in mind is to not trick yourself into buying books that you plan to read. Instead buy only the ones that you’re very, very excited to read.

Also, you can set a budget — If your total price exceeds say, 50 bucks, then whether you want to or not, you’re gonna have to let some books go.

Lastly, if you look at your library, or anybody else’s for that matter, you might be able to call it an “anti-library” — As Nassim Taleb coined —  A library containing some books that were not read. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. From the unread books, an anti-library reminds you of how much knowledge you still don’t have.

But that doesn’t mean anyone is encouraging you to build on your anti-library. Spend and buy responsibly, and while you can, avoid making decisions that you’ll come to regret.

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