Over the years, I have developed a real passion for bookstores. They are some of my favorite places to just spend time in. Whenever I visit a new town or city, one of the first things I do is try to find the cool, hole-in-the-wall bookstore. Like this place in Morristown, NJ I discovered, literally called Old Book Shop. I enjoy just looking around the stores, the smell of new and used books, reading the synopses, the cover art, and of course buying a few to take home. I would usually take pictures of some more I wanted to buy later. I have at least 100 photos on my phone of books I want to read at some point.
Every time I’d visit a bookstore (which was about once a month), I’d buy about two to three books. And keep in mind, I would only read about one or two per month at the most. They started piling up. I couldn’t keep up with them all! But I just loved them so much. I even liked the way they looked sitting on the bookshelf in my house. They’re conversation starters when we have people over and I’ll lend them out here and there. I probably spent about $500 on books in 2016. I don’t necessarily regret that, because if you’re going to spend money on anything, it might as well be books from an awesome local bookstore. However, with my goals of financial independence, I discovered a shocking alternative.
The Local Public Library.
I forgot about those things too. They’re giant buildings filled with books. And the craziest part? They’re FREE. And I felt silly thinking about all the money I had spent on books in the past few years. I always get a craving to just hold a NEW book. Sure, I had about 3 years worth of unread books sitting on my bookshelf, but it’s the thrill of the hunt, the endless possibilities. So much to learn, so little time.
So I developed a new hobby. My wife and I walk to the library. It’s about a 15 minute walk from our house to the library on the main street in town. We get a really nice walk in, usually in the early evening or a morning on the weekend. We get to spend some peaceful quality time together. Then we’d browse around for about 30 minutes or so (the best part in my opinion), and stroll back home with new books in hand.
But WAIT, there’s more.
Most libraries participate in some kind of inter-library loan system so you can request books that your local library may not own. This means through the few dozen libraries in my county library system here in NJ (https://www.bccls.org/), I have access to almost any book I could possibly imagine (I have yet to not find something I’ve been looking for). You usually have to wait a few days while it gets delivered, but I get an email notification when it’s ready to pick up.
Did you know that public libraries also have movies? Yes, that’s right. FREE movies. Rent them, bring them back in 7 days, free of charge.
We’re not done yet.
The library system in my area also participates in a program so you can download free ebooks to your kindle or other reader device (including iphones / ipads if you’re into that). If you visit your local library’s website, it’s likely they participate in one of these as well. The one my library uses is Cloud Library. The only drawback is a time limit and limited numbers of available copies, just like if you were at the physical library.
And of course, if you’re so inclined to spend money on books, I know the library appreciates a donation every now and then.
Go check out your local library for a literal lifetime’s worth of free entertainment.