However, I must admit that in July I broke down and bought a new book. It was a very unique book that I had 0% chance of finding at a garage sale. I paid $10 for the Kindle ebook, Early Retirement Extreme by Jacob Lund Fisker. You can read my review and why I didn't think I got my money's worth over at Goodreads.
In the meantime, I'll restate WHY my bookshelf-only reading challenge is a great idea, and how it is still possible to get a great education with free or cheap books.
Save $120+ Per Year
If you are a voracious reader, you probably spend a lot of money on books. Books are like your candy. When a new one comes out, you just have to have it. After I got my Kindle several years ago, I was spending about $10 a month (that's only ONE book people!) on ebooks alone, not including other used books that I bought on Amazon. It was just so easy to click and buy. It wasn't so easy to finish reading a book before I found more books that I just had to have. It came to the point where collecting books was more my hobby than actually reading them.
Now I'm at the point where I'm starting to chip away at my book collection. My goal this year was to read and then donate or sell one book per month. Out of my 263 real books and 60 Kindle books (yep, I just counted), I've been able to finish and review eight this year. Not a bad start, really. Hopefully before Christmas I'll be able to finish reading and review a couple more. If I read 12 books per year, my collection should last at least 26 years.
The Good News- More Books for Less Money
The good news is that going on a Bookshelf-Only Reading challenge (even for 26 years) is not as hard as you think. Here were my rules:
1. No buying books on Amazon or other bookstores (high-value books found for free or very cheap at garage sales may be exceptions). A good rule for garage sale books is to not pay more than $1.
2. Try to read one book every month from your current collection.
3. Post a review on Goodreads.
4. Sell or donate the book so someone else can enjoy it.
Even if you don't shop at bookstores, there are plenty of VERY affordable books at thrift stores and garage sales. In 2015 I bought probably 15 books at garage sales, thrift stores and library book sales. In addition, I was also given some books. I also downloaded at least ten free books on to my Kindle.
You can see that even if I NEVER buy a book from Amazon (or any bookstore) again, I won't run out of new reading material. At this rate, I'm still more a book collector than a book reader. But simply cutting out bookstores and Amazon purchases has allowed me to spend far less on this habit. It's like a coffee addict who stops going to coffee shops. He's still a coffee addict- just a richer one.
Free Books are Just As Good
After you've read so many books, you'll find out that really, there is nothing new under the sun. In almost every area except technology, information remains the same. Reading a history book from 1890 will provide almost the same story about George Washington as a history book from 1930 or 2005. Most authors and publishers are great at repackaging and marketing information. Cooking techniques, marriage advice, herbal medicine- none of it really changes. And if there is truly something new out there, it is probably available for free on the internet.
What does this mean for us? Simply that any book written in the last century is probably just as good as most written last week. And many books in the public domain (anything pre- 1923) are available online for free.
One of the funniest things is when frugal people buy the latest and greatest homeschool curriculum for their 5-year-olds. Really, guys? You're teaching a kid to read! People have been doing this for ages, before education was cool. Dick and Jane will work just as well as BOB books or any other boutique learning fad. At a yard sale recently I picked some curriculum I hope to use for my kids, should we be blessed to have any. It is a 50-year-old children's book called "Our Wonderful World". It has easy and hard words. It is illustrated by some of my favorite artists, including Garth Williams, who drew pictures for Laura Ingalls Wilder. It has stories about plants, seeds, birds, fish, boats, and farmers. It has charts of different kinds of crabs, the solar system, and how to carry and fold a United States flag. Of course somebody tore off the front and back covers of the book, but no 5-year-old is going to know the difference. This one book (along with some refrigerator magnets and other assorted toys and games) will serve as English, Reading, Geography, History, and Science for preschool and some of elementary school.