Reading without spending

Reading is one of the great joys of my life, but I spend very little on it. This is part of my practice of “radical frugality,” which I’ve written about  on this blog. See

I have read 27 books so far this year, and have spent only $2.50 on them. Most have come from Amherst’s excellent Jones Library, where I can not only browse its vast collection but also request any book at a library in Western Mass. I’m currently reading Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Invention of Wings,” about pre-Civil War South Carolina. I’ve read six books this year in the “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” series.

IMG_20140622_085525434_HDRWe also enjoy using the book shed at Amherst’s recycling center. The last time I went there, I picked up three Anne Perry mysteries that Betsy sped through, and an 860-page, Pulitzer-winning history of the Civil War era that I’m plowing through. Amherst is a place where people discard many good books, and it’s fun to find them and not have to pay anything. Most of the books on our shelves come from there.

The only money I spent on those 27 books were $2 for one on the making of “Casablanca.” which I bought at a book sale on the town common, and 50 cents for a novel at a church fair.

I also spend a lot of time reading newspapers, which I worked on for 40 years. I read most of the stories about Amherst in the Gazette and Bulletin (which comprised 32 of those years), but have felt no need to get a digital or paper subscription. I simply go to and note some key words from stories I’m interested in and then google them.

The one big exception to my frugality about reading is the New York Times, a newspaper I’ve always thought set the standard for excellence. I pay $15 a month for a digital subscription, and enjoy reading it after my early-morning novel-reading. I’ve heard there are ways to get the Times online for free, but haven’t felt motivated to seek them out.

Sometimes, I question spending $15 a month on the Times and wonder whether it’s worth it. Then I come across something that’s so original, so important, that I conclude I have to allow myself this one reading indulgence. Today, that was the op-ed piece on climate disruption by Henry Paulson, who was secretary of the treasury during the 2008 financial collapse: A Republican, Paulson advocates a tax on carbon and draws parallels between the financial collapse and climate disruption.

I have a tablet, but have no interest in e-books. I like the aesthetics of holding a hardcover book in my hands, and don’t see any point in spending $9.99 for one when I can get the real thing from my library for free.


One thought on “Reading without spending

  1. Pingback: A simple living index | Adventures in the good life

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