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by : Ray
Published 27 September 2007

My struggle to overcome the CBBS (Compulsive Book-Buyer’s Syndrome)

I have suffered for many years from this expensive, very time-consuming and rather frustrating affliction (the CBBS), whereby instead of just getting down to attacking the big pile of unread books that have been endlessly accumulating on my desk and bookshelves and floor space, I go out and buy yet more books - books that look interesting or that I have read about or heard about or that have been recommended to me or that are by one of the innumerable past or present authors that I would like to discover or know better - with the laudable but almost laughable illusion that at some undetermined future date I will get around to “doing” them.

No bookstore is devoid of a large number of these objects of desire that make me suddenly feel overcome with an urge to possess them immediately so as to have them on hand when required at some vaguely defined point in future time. But the obvious solution of just looking the other way when passing by a bookstore show-window is no longer effective in these on-line-ordering days, when thousands if not millions of these enticing goodies are not only available at a click, but purchasable 24 hours a day and on Sundays too!

So I am pleased to say that I have developed a methodology that has proved effective in enabling me at long last to get on top of the problem; i.e. - to achieve not only the long-desired objective of seriously reducing the backlog of ardently-desired-but-unread books that have been accumulating chez moi, but also to get down to the main kernel of my reading strategy, namely to once and for all start reading some of the great authors and works that I have somehow never yet managed to get around to (I’m ashamed to go into further details about the quite awesome gaps in my literary culture ...).

Here is the 6-point methodology that I strongly recommend to my fellow CBBS sufferers:

  1. On Jan. 1 of each year, make vows to:
    • Not buy any new books until you have finished the unread ones on your bookshelf [1]
    • Read any new book bought within a month.
  2. Note the title, author, editor, no. of pages and date bought of every book purchased in a Books Bought Register (BBR - see the attached model) as soon as each purchase is made.
  3. Whenever you have finished reading one of the above books (i.e. - those bought since Jan. 1 of the current year), note the date in the Date Read column for the entry for the book in the BBR.
  4. Don’t even think about reading anything other than books with a blank Date Read in the BBR [2]
  5. Keep remembering (especially when walking by bookstores or looking at Fnac or Amazon screens) that you are a weak, ignoble failure incapable of keeping even the simplest of resolutions if there are any unread BBR entries with a Date Purchased more than a month old [3].
  6. When every single entry in the BBR has a Date Read entry, you can either go out and buy a new book (to assuage the pent-up urges of the CBBS), or better still dig into one of the many unread marvels already on your bookshelf that you so carefully chose one day some time back.

In my particular case, although it did take me nine months and I must admit a whole pile of new books purchased (37! [4]), I am pleased and even proud to have managed to have gotten through to the last final step in this process, as documented in the attachment.

It’s all a downhill ride from here on!

After viewing the attachment, click on the arrow at the top left-hand corner of the navigator screen to return.

Books Bought Register

Attachments

Notes

[1nothing new here, this is something many of us do every New Year, but it is a necessary starter.

[2this prevents you from reading any of those wonderful books sitting on your bookshelf that you really, really do want to read, so it is a powerful incentive to stop adding to the blasted BBR.

[3this will tend to help you resist better the frequent previously-almost-irresistible impulses to make new purchases.

[4an incredibly high number considering the 100-plus unread books that look forlornly down on me from my bookshelf every day.