When I started re-thinking my life in light of all the planetary challenges (environmental and social), one of the first things I started to do was…buying books!
I’m used to address challenges with my head: researching, digging into topics, talking and writing about them, sharing, are my ways of understanding, but they are also ways to detach and delay embodying and owning our emotions as well as the potential for real and lasting change.
I have not dozens but hundreds of books at home: books about the challenges (climate change, peak resources, social injustice, oppression, etc.) as well as about the solutions: from permaculture to food preservation, to natural building and ecopsychology.
Unless I live past 100 years, I won’t ever have the time to read (and apply) all what those books have to offer…
This, as I’ve learn from others, is a common issue: because we live in a consumerist society, we think we can “buy” our way through the Great Unraveling as well as the Great Turning…and in this way, we not only clutter our homes: we clutter our heads, hearts and souls with “information”, “ideas” and “opinions” and we successfully avoid facing the issue and making a decision about it that allows us to own and embody whatever it has for us.
That is why one of my biggest “choices” was to slow down on buying more books and to focus on creating and sharing.
On one hand, I wanted to leverage on my ability to read and understand (not everyone has the time, patience and ability or interest to read and dig into things) and to research, write and share ideas and information (again, not everybody may like or want or be able to do this).
So here are some ideas I’ve explored that may work for you:
I commit to stop buying more books: this is a huge one for me, so I thought on having some “exceptions” that would align with the Great Turning:
I would only buy books when absolutely needed for a training I’m taking and not available through the library or friends.
I would only buy books as a gift for someone I love and who loves books as well.
When possible (and needed) I will buy used books or get them from a library or friends
If I need to buy, I will make my best to buy from authors and small, regenerative and committed publishers, and as local as possible, even if this cost a bit higher
I also commit to “do something” with the books I read. Even when reading is both a personal pleasure and “need” for me, I want the book to have a life beyond being “consumed” by my reading (and I’m sure authors would appreciate this).
Here are some things I’ve been doing and others that I will incorporate to my book challenges:
Whenever possible, exchange a review for a book. Not only we can get the book for “free”, and many times in paperless format (i.e. avoid unnecessary use of paper); we can also make the author a service, as a review may get them promotion and encouraging people to read and adopt their ideas. This is what I’m doing with the new Samuel Alexander’s book “Degrowth in the suburbs”. I’m reading it (for free, thank you Samuel!) and will post a review on my networks!
Whenever possible, offer to translate the book (I haven’t done this yet, but I did the translation of “Crash on Demand” for David Holmgren into Spanish, and that allowed me to expand my network and get more serious about degrowth and retrofitting as well as applied permaculture.
When you finish a book, offer it to your community. For now, I have low profile with this one, but I plan to talk to my neighbours and co-workers and see if we can build a little free library so we can add books and share/exchange with others! (Here are some plans and ideas: https://littlefreelibrary.org/build/ )
Start giving unread (and read) books as gifts!: Yes, people may look at you as someone who is cheap, who cares? You can challenge this by 1) Selecting who you can gift with old books (some will really appreciate it), 2) incorporate a dedicated book or card, explaining your selection (personalized!) and 3) wrapping the book with a nice scarf, napkin, cloth-bag or handkerchief, if possible of your own making, so they receive two gifts in one and 4) Consider gifting them to places and people who really need them, such as schools, senior homes, hospitals, orphanages, and so on.
Writing realistic and thoughtful reviews for others to make informed decisions: this also makes the book more “alive” in you and stays for longer…
Donate old books to local libraries and other charity organizations
Sell them at your community garage sale: they will for sure make for a good conversation with neighbours!
Offer your home as a neighbourhood library: open house for people to come and see the books they may want to read and as a excuse to invite them for a tea and bring anything they ay want to exchange (or just their presence!)